Who ever thought that being a vet was a glamorous job, missed out on the training session dealing with ANAL SACS a.k.a. Anal glands – cue appropriate ‘dah dah dah!’ music…. So what are they, why do they cause problems and how do we manage them? Read on, brave pet owner, read on…

gray tabby Scottish kitten lies on his back and played. animal isolated on white background

What are Anal Sacs?

Anal Sacs are two little pouches located on either side of the anus at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. They are lined with many modified sebaceous (oil secreting) and apocrine (sweat secreting) glands. The secretions from these little glands collect in the pouches and are expressed when the pet passes a stool or occasionally when they get a big fright. The smell from these inconspicuous pouches can be quite overwhelming and will your breath away – not in a good way!

What is the purpose of these secretions though? It’s thought that along with urine marking, anal gland secretions are used for territorial marking. The scent produced by each animal is unique and so identifies that particular animal as well as his ‘turf’. This also explains why when dogs meet they do the ‘bottom sniffing’ routine – a way of saying “Hi my name is Scruff, what’s yours?”


What can go wrong with Anal Sacs?

Sometimes anal sacs do not get expressed properly in the normal routine of pets going to the toilet. Reasons include: not having enough roughage in their diet; weak anal sphincter muscles; over-production of secretion by the glands lining the sacs; a recent bout of diarrhoea; obstructed ducts; as well as certain breeds being more predisposed.

If the anal sacs are not expressed and the secretion starts to build up, inflammation and discomfort result. This is known as ‘Impacted Anal Sacs’. Furthermore, these sacs may then become infected resulting in an ‘Anal Gland Abscess’ or ‘Anal Sacculitis’ – very sore!

Position of Anal Sacs

Position of Anal Sacs


What should you look out for?

These signs may indicate an anal sac problem in your pet:

  • Scooting/dragging bottom along the ground
  • Straining to defaecate
  • Scratching, licking or chewing at the anus
  • Swollen or red anus
  • Swelling around the anus
  • Discharge from the anal sacs or skin surrounding the anus.


What can be done about problematic Anal Sacs?

If your pet merely has mildly swollen anal sacs, your vet can easily express the glands. This relieves the swelling and makes your pet much more comfortable.

If your pet has an infection though, antibiotic treatment and sometimes anti-inflammatories may be required. Should an abscess have developed, your pet may need a general anaesthetic for the abscess to be lanced and flushed, along with the medication.

If a pet has chronic anal sac issues, they can be managed by manually expressing them every few weeks/months depending on the particular pet’s needs. Should recurrent infections develop however, it may be necessary to surgically remove them.

Occasionally anal sacs may develop cancers. If found early and treated early, they have much better treatment results.


What now?

If you suspect your dog or cat has anal sac problems, please call 0481 527 678 to book an appointment to get him or her checked out. You don’t want to be messing with those ‘stinkers’ on your own 😉