Anal Gland Disease

Anal gland disease, also called anal sac disease, is a fairly common pet health problem. Most anal sac problems occur when the glands, which are located just inside the anal opening, become blocked or enlarged. This can occur due to increased secretion by the anal glands, inflammatory processes, low fiber diets, tumors or abscesses.

Anal Gland Disease

How it Affects your pet

When pets defecate, the stool presses against the anal sacs and causes a small amount of liquid to be released. This liquid is oily and has a distinctive fishy smell. In the wild, it serves as a means to mark territory. Sometimes, the glands do not secrete liquid normally, or they fill with excessive liquid. In most cases, failure to secrete liquid is caused by insufficient stool volume or poor muscle tone. Often, decreased stool volume is caused by a low fiber diet, and poor muscle tone is due to obesity. The anal glands might also fail to empty normally due to allergies or other inflammatory processes that cause the ducts to swell. Less commonly, the glands can fail to secrete liquid properly due to abnormal anatomic positioning. When the anal sacs do not empty, the liquid inside thickens, and the glands become impacted. Retained liquid in the anal sacs makes them more likely to become infected. In some cases, abscesses, walled off areas of infection, can form in the sacs. If left untreated, abscesses can rupture and form abnormal tracts called fistulae. Tumors are another potential cause of anal sac disease. Anal sac tumors usually cause painless enlargement of the anal glands. These enlarged glands cannot be expressed. If a veterinarian suspects a tumor, he or she must perform a biopsy to confirm the presence of this pet disease.

Common symptoms

Symptoms of canine and feline anal gland disease include the following: Licking or biting the area under the tail, Scooting on the hindquarters, Defecation outside the litter box in cats, Foul odor, Reluctance to sit, Turning to look at the tail, Bloody discharge from the anus, Constipation, Fever, Straining to defecate and Swelling around the anus.

Treatments

Anal sac impaction is treated by manually expressing the glands. If infection or cancer is suspected, the procedure should be done by a veterinarian who can digitally examine the glands while expressing them. If infection is present, the gland will need to be cleaned, and pets will need antibiotic therapy. For severe infections and abscesses, the pet may need to have the glands repeatedly flushed and infused with medication. If this treatment is not successful or cancer is present, surgery to remove the gland or glands is indicated.

Breeds Affected

Small dogs, including members of the following breeds, are at higher risk for anal gland impaction than other pets: Miniature poodle, Toy poodle, and Chihuahua.

Anal Gland Disease Affects

  • When pets defecate, the stool presses against the anal sacs and causes a small amount of liquid to be released. This liquid is oily and has a distinctive fishy smell. In the wild, it serves as a means to mark territory. Sometimes, the glands do not secrete liquid normally, or they fill with excessive liquid. In most cases, failure to secrete liquid is caused by insufficient stool volume or poor muscle tone. Often, decreased stool volume is caused by a low fiber diet, and poor muscle tone is due to obesity. The anal glands might also fail to empty normally due to allergies or other inflammatory processes that cause the ducts to swell. Less commonly, the glands can fail to secrete liquid properly due to abnormal anatomic positioning. When the anal sacs do not empty, the liquid inside thickens, and the glands become impacted. Retained liquid in the anal sacs makes them more likely to become infected. In some cases, abscesses, walled off areas of infection, can form in the sacs. If left untreated, abscesses can rupture and form abnormal tracts called fistulae. Tumors are another potential cause of anal sac disease. Anal sac tumors usually cause painless enlargement of the anal glands. These enlarged glands cannot be expressed. If a veterinarian suspects a tumor, he or she must perform a biopsy to confirm the presence of this pet disease.

Similar conditions

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Because your pet's health is important to us.



Get a Quote!

Get A FREE, No Obligation Pet Health Insurance Quote within 5 Minutes