The anal glands or anal sacs are two glands that secrete an odorous fluid traveling through tiny ducts that open into the anus during defecation. Located on either side of the anus, just under the skin, at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions, the anal glands are embedded in the muscle of the anal sphincter and normally not readily visible. They are small oval shaped glands. Within the glands, the tissue produces a fluid collected in a multitude of tiny ducts. As feces pass through the anus, the glands are squeezed and the duct releases the fluid through small pores. The function of the anal glands is to produce small amounts of anal gland secretions ranging in color from yellow brown to gray. These secretions are used as a way to mark territory, identify other dogs or are released when the dog is frightened.
Not all dogs develop anal gland problems. Anal gland disease affects dogs more than cats. Impaction is more common in small breeds than in large breeds. Anal sac tumors appear to affect senior females. Therefore, many pet parents are unaware of their presence. In those dogs that do develop issues, the anal glands may pose a serious medical condition. Diseases vary in severity from anal gland impactions, infections, abscesses, rupture, and tumors. Basic signs of anal gland disease include scooting the butt end across the floor, a foul odor coming from the butt area, tacky secretions, straining to or difficulty defecating, production of ribbon-like stools, licking or biting at the rectal area, difficulty to sit asymmetrically do to avoid pressure on the painful anal sac, or painful swelling around the anus.
Impactions are the most common disorder associated with the anal glands. The fluid produced in the glands becomes too thick to be expressed naturally .The fluid is overproduced, and causes an enlargement of the gland and irritation.
Typically bacteria, cause inflammation, and infections. Anal gland abscesses are a progressive responsive to bacterial infections. Untreated infections cause accumulation of pus within the anal glands and ultimately an abscess that continues to enlarge until it ruptures and the pus drains.
Classified as adenocarcinomas, anal gland tumors are most often malignant. Anal gland tumors can result in elevated blood calcium levels, causing significant organ damage, including kidney failure.
The veterinarian is the best diagnostic tool to evaluate anal glands by physical examination and rectal palpation performed by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the gland. A biopsy may be indicated when a tumor is suspected. Generally, x-rays or Blood/Chemistry Panels are not used to evaluate anal gland issues. A different disease with similar symptoms known as Perianal fistula, a condition that causes draining tracts around the anus. A veterinarian is the best at determining the medical condition and treatment of your dog's anal glands. A natural quality diet, fresh water, exercise and weight control are holistically considered positive factors in contributing to the management of anal gland issues. Talk to your veterinarian or pet nutritionist about introducing a more natural lifestyle into your dog’s daily regime.