Dogs of all breeds and of any age may encounter anal sac problems. The anal sacs, often mistakenly called "glands," are two round organs located on each side of the anus (at the 4 and 8 o'clock positions). They secrete powerful, bad-smelling material that apparently is used to give other dogs mating and territorial information. Every time the dog defecates, is scared or overexcited, some of this material is deposited. Anal sacs can be the source of a variety of problems. For example, they can become infected with bacteria, a condition referred to as anal sacculitis. They can also become impacted or overfilled, which can lead to acute discomfort and infection. Finally, anal sacs can be penetrated by foreign bodies or develop tumors.
Multiple factors may play a major role in the development of anal sac disease, including constipation; infrequent bowel movements due to restricted access to outside; food toxicity, and inadequate exercise.
Signs that your dog is encountering anal sac problems include:
- Scooting the rear end along the ground
- Chewing or licking the tail base
- Clamping the tail down over the anus
- Reluctance to sit
- Difficulty passing feces
- Redness or swelling in the area or an open, draining sore.
Obese dogs have more trouble draining their anal sacs properly than other dogs, and this inability only leads to further problems associated with impacted sacs. Manual emptying of anal sacs is only a temporary measure, not something to do continually. It's much better if the sacs empty naturally. Adding vegetables, bran and olive oil to the food will help to regulate the intestines, encourage bulky bowel movements which will facilitate emtying of the sacs.
Anal sac disease can be prevented by following these recommendations. Make sure your animal has adequate exercise, an opportunity to go outside and have frequent bowel movements. Good nutrition is important, too, and especially useful would be those nutrients that help promote healthy skin: zinc, the B vitamin complex, vitamin A, lecithin and omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil is a good source of unsaturated fatty acids and has the advantage of being a slight laxative by promoting muscular contraction of the bowels. Dogs with a history of anal sac problems may be candidates for surgical removal, which is the only way to permanently solve the problem. Because your dog doesn't really "need" them, this is a pretty benign procedure, although it requires general anesthesia. If possible, schedule the surgery at the same time as some other necessary surgery.