Anal Sac Disease
The anal sacs are a pair of small glandular structures, located just within and on each side of the anus. Each sac has a small duct or tube to the outside. They produce an unpleasant smelling fluid that is normally squeezed out onto a dog or cat’s faeces every time it defecates.
Anal sacs have no useful function in our society. They are a remnant of our pets’ ancestors’ previous existence as wild animals: they used their faeces, each with its own individual smell from the anal sacs, to mark the limits of their territory. Anal sacs do however, frequently become diseased.
Disease can be due to:
- Abscess formation
The signs of anal sac disease vary according to the stage it has reached. Initially it causes irritation, with animals being seen “scooting” or dragging their bottoms along the ground. Some people find this amusing, but it is intensely irritating to the dog or cat. Some dogs don’t scoot but turn around and lick or chew at the area under or beside the tail.
If a blocked anal sac becomes infected, it will lead to the formation of an abscess, and if untreated, will rupture. Anal sac abscesses are extremely painful to an animal and can be frustrating to treat.
Treatment of anal sac disease depends on the stage it has reached.
Blocked anal sacs with no infection can usually be relieved by carefully squeezing out the contents: it is necessary to insert a finger into the animal’s anus to do this properly, and because of the dangers involved, should not be tried at home. Sometimes, even without infection, the area is too painful to squeeze, and general anaesthesia is needed.
Infection of the anal sacs is usually painful, sometimes it is necessary to carefully flush them out under general anaesthesia, followed by antibiotic treatment.
Abscesses require lancing and flushing of the anal sac, this requires an anaesthetic, a course of specific antibiotics and pain relief. The anus is a very vital area, and abscess formation in this region is a big danger. Sufficient damage to the anus can result in loss of bowel control.
Regular anal sac expression is good way to manage anal sacs that fill readily, especially those whose material is quite thick and they can’t express themselves. For those patients that have progressed to the abscess stage it is strongly recommended that their glands be expressed at least every 3 months, some require more frequent visits.
CARE POST ABSCESS
After your pet’s procedure they will be dispensed pain relief and antibiotics. Please administer these as labelled. Any questions just contact your veterinarian. An e-collar is recommended as there is likely to be a medication that was instilled in the opened anal sac and we don’t want this being licked out. Also continual licking from a pet will cause more damage. Because of the discomfort your pet can feel it may want to “scoot”, it is recommended that this be prevented your pet kept on a surface e.g. tiles, where it can do little damage. A recheck is needed within a week of the procedure to make sure everything is healing and that the gland is functioning as it should.
This is a consideration for those patients where it may be applicable. Such candidates are those who get recurrent anal sac abscesses that can’t seem to be managed by regular expression. The technique is referred to as anal sac ablation or anal sacculectomy