Dog having veterinary check up

Anal gland disease in dogs: diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Okay, so it’s not the nicest of subjects, but with anal sac disorder being a common problem in dogs, it’s important to be clued up. We will help you to recognise the signs and symptoms of anal sac disease in dogs.

What are anal sacs?

Your dog has two anal sacs in his bottom, about the size of a pea. These glands produce a dark, smelly, oily liquid when they poo – the liquid is expressed onto the poo to help him mark his territory.

Problems with the anal sacs are common in all dogs, though they’re most common in overweight dogs.

So, what are the most common anal sac problems, and how do you spot the signs of anal sac disease in your dog?

Common anal sac problems in dogs

Your dog’s anal glands can become infected, blocked up, or even develop an abscess. Here’s an outline of the most common issues:

Impacted anal sacs

The most common anal sac problem in dogs is caused by clogging or blockage to the duct or tube that’s used to empty out the sac. This can lead to a build-up of pressure, and can cause pain and constipation.

Anal sac infections

A build-up of bacteria in the anal sac can cause infection. Left untreated, this infection may cause an abscess, so it’s vital to get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible. 

Abscesses in the anal sac

The most painful of the three conditions, an abscess is a swollen mass of pus. Treatment involves making a small incision and draining the abscess before it ruptures, or cleaning it out if it has already ruptured.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of anal gland problems in dogs

Common signs of anal sac problems include:

  • Pain. Your dog may find it painful to poo, or to sit down.
  • Swelling. You may notice swelling on the sides of his bottom, or you may feel hard masses in this area. The anal sacs sit at the 4 and 8 o’clock position on your dog’s bottom.
  • Scooting. He may scoot or drag his bottom along the ground.
  • Tail chasing. He may reach for his tail more than usual.
  • Licking or biting. He may repeatedly lick or bite the area around his tail.

“A build-up of bacteria in the anal sac can cause infection. Left untreated, this infection may cause an abscess, so it’s vital to get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.” 

If you spot any of these signs in your dog, make an appointment with your local vet.

Treating anal sac disorders in dogs

There are a number of treatments for anal sac disorders in dogs. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to clear up any infection. He or she may ‘express’ the anal sacs – which means squeezing out the contents by hand – unpleasant, but effective! The anal sacs are sometimes emptied and cleaned out under sedation, or in extreme cases, your vet may recommend surgery to remove your dog’s anal sacs.

Need advice on anal gland problems in dogs?

For expert advice on anal sac problems in dogs, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.