Anal Gland Surgery for a Dog

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Canine anal sacs are nonessential glands located near the rectum. Infections and blockages can disrupt their normal function, leading to inflammation, swelling and other health concerns. Dysfunction of the anal glands is a common health issue in domestic dogs of all breeds. There are several veterinary procedures available to deal with disorders of these glands, ranging from routine manual stimulation to complete removal of the sacs.

Common Problems

The anal sacs are lined with many small sebaceous glands that produce the chemical marker. The secretion builds up inside the gland over time and is released during bowel movements, which allows dogs to establish territorial scent boundaries. The chemical marker is unique to the dog and functions much like a fingerprint does in humans.

Gland Impaction

The chemical marker is secreted through small tubes that open near the anus. These narrow passages are easily obstructed by inflammation or injury, which allows the fluid to thicken and build up inside the sacs. This accumulation causes the sacs to swell and become misshapen, which can make bowel movements painful for your pet, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

Early signs of anal gland problems include:

  • Scooting across the floor.
  • Excessive grooming or chewing.
  • Sensitivity around the tail and rear end.
  • Whimpering or yelping during bowel movements, or unwillingness to defecate.

Bacterial Abscess

Impacted and inflamed glands are vulnerable to bacterial infection if left untreated. The glands may become abscessed as the pathogens take hold and multiply, causing symptoms such as:

  • Redness and swelling around the duct openings.
  • Loss of hair in the affected area.
  • Visible blood or pus from a burst abscess.

Typical Procedures

The scope and severity of your dog's anal gland condition may not be obvious at first glance. Schedule a visit with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of anal gland problems, as they can indicate a serious infection, cancer or other life-threatening conditions.

Gland Expression

Expression of the glands is a basic procedure that can be performed by a veterinarian or licensed groomer to push excess fluid through the ducts manually. If you are interested, ask your vet to teach you how to safely do this at home. This procedure can treat mild cases of gland impaction. It is performed as needed to prevent accumulation and blockage of the ducts, sometimes on a monthly or biweekly basis.

Antibiotic Flushing

For severe cases of impaction, your veterinarian may perform an antibiotic flush of the glands to clear out obstructions and bacterial growth. The medicated fluid is injected through the ducts over the course of several days. Minor surgery to puncture and drain the glands may be necessary for abscesses.


Oral antibiotics alone are rarely effective, as the anal sacs have a barrier that prevents medication from reaching the area through the bloodstream, according to Vet Surgery Central in Burton, Michigan.

Sac Removal

Anal sacculectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the glands to prevent further complications. While dogs do not rely on the glands for any vital bodily functions, removing the sacs does carry the risk of serious complications. After the dog has been anesthetized, the surgeon makes small incisions near the anus to remove the effected sacs.

Potential Complications

Nerve Damage

Temporary nerve damage is a common side effect of anal gland removal. Loss of muscle control from this damage may prevent your dog from controlling his bowel movements for several weeks after surgery. While most collateral nerve damage from this surgery will go away on its own, permanent nerve injury is possible. Severe abscesses and infection increase the risk of nerve damage during surgery.

Reaction to Anesthesia

Anal gland flushing and surgery often requires anesthesia to ease your pet's discomfort and keep him safe during the procedure. Some dogs are sensitive to these sedatives, which can result in illness. Adverse reactions to the anesthesia range from mild to severe, including swelling, diminished heart rate and anaphylaxis.

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