Anal Gland and Sac Problems in Dogs

We all know about skunks’ anal glands that have evolved as weapons of defense to spray and confuse/disorient predators. Dogs also have anal glands which may play a role in territorial marking and social communication by scent with other dogs passing by as secretion coats the feces as the dog defecates.

Chronic anal gland and sac problems in dogs can have multiple causes and simply having the anal sacks manually squeezed out periodically can bring temporary relief when there is impaction (blocking of the duct) but can cause some damage, inflammation and persistence of the problem. Dogs will often scoot on their butts to relieve the irritation and will sometimes remove the blockage in the process. Also, only too often the sacs empty where the dog is lying leading to a stinky sofa or carpet (best removed with enzyme cleaners like Nature’s Miracle).

Anal gland and sac problems can be associated with food allergy/intolerance as to corn, soy and beef so you may want to look at the ingredients in the foods you are giving your dog. Often what is in the manufactured food is not always indicated on the label so you may want to try my home prepared dog food posted on my website

Dogs need to be physically active especially before and between meals (but not immediately after eating). Less active dogs tend to have irregular bowel movements and are often constipated which can interfere with the normal emptying of the anal sack contents when the dog defecates. A good, semi-firm stool will do the job. Also, dog foods with low fiber content and/or high fat content can lead to chronically loose stools which do not help empty out the anal sacks. Chronic inflammatory bowel disease and other gut microbiome disorders can be coupled, therefore, with impacted anal gland sacks. I therefore advise giving dogs 1 tablespoon per 30-40 lb body weight of unsweetened shredded coconut in their food daily.

Anal sacs can become inflamed (sacculitis) and abscessed, calling for antibiotics and analgesics. A general anesthetic and flushing out of the anal sacks may be advised. In some instances these scent organs can become cancerous so anal sack and gland removal is needed. This is not without the risk of anal sphincter damage and subsequent fecal incontinence. Anal gland furunculosis, where infection breaks through causing fistulas that can track into the rectum, is another complication .Anal furunculosis occurs most commonly in middle aged or old aged German shepherd dogs.

In the final analysis once anal gland problems are recognized their immediate attention is called for beyond periodic manual squeezing by a veterinarian or dog groomer.

A recent survey in the U.K. 9 by veterinarians D.G. O’Neill and associates, (Veterinary Record, 2431 July 2021) found high susceptibility to non-cancerous anal sac problems in Cockapoos, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and brachycephalic breeds (which I attribute mainly to low activity levels in these poor dogs like popular Pugs and French bulldogs who have such difficulty breathing). Obese dogs were also more prone to anal sac issues. An overall incidence 4.4 percent of the U.K. dog population surveyed had some anal sac issue, 78.6 per cent having impaction, 12.2 per cent having sacculitis and 8.9 per cent abscesses.