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The Automatic Content Filters Made Me Do It
Gather ‘round kiddies, Uncle Bob’s about to have the talk that your Mom or Dad should have had with you. Yes, that’s right, how to be responsible and mature about… canine anal sac problems.
If you haven’t yet been introduced to your dog’s anal sacs, be patient. Your day will come. I know it’s a crappy subject but all dog owners should be aware of the little devils because of the problems they can create. For the dog, they can literally be a pain in the butt.
First a little A & P. The anal sacs are two glands, each about the size of a kidney bean, located on either side of your dog’s anus. If that little sphincter were a clock, the sacs would be the 5 and the 7. They contain what’s politely referred to as a “foul smelling fluid” that’s dispensed onto the stool, and the fur surrounding the anus, when the dog moves his bowels.
This fluid, about the consistency of oil, gives the stool your dog’s signature scent. When another dog sniffs the stool, or your dog's hiney, it can learn your dog’s identity (phew, that’s definitely Boomer), gender, breeding status, etc. You, on the other hand, can simply look at your dog and know all that stuff; and doesn't that just make you so happy that you're civilized and not merely domesticated.
Before becoming domesticated, dogs would eat a lot of meat and bone, producing very hard stools that did a good job of expressing (squeezing) and emptying the sacs. Today’s high quality commercial diets produce firm, easy-to-pick-up stools, but not the real hard ones of days of yore.
If the sacs don’t completely empty, the fluid thickens and the sacs may become impacted. Sometimes they will spontaneously empty, and they’re not particularly fussy about where they do this…a potential disadvantage to owning a lap dog.
If they don’t empty by themselves, they must be manually expressed lest they become inflamed or abscessed, which can lead to rupture. It’s at times like these that you wished you owned a goldfish.
All kidding aside, this is a painful condition which should be taken care of immediately. The procedure can be performed at the vet’s office, and some groomer’s offer the service as well. If you’ve mastered the technique, you can do it yourself.
If it happens occasionally most vets or groomers will be willing to teach you how to express the sacs yourself, but if it happens repeatedly your vet may feel that surgical removal of the anal sacs is an option to seriously consider.
They don’t know for sure what causes anal sacs to become impacted but chronically soft stools, occasional diarrhea, and poor anal muscle tone are among those considered to be predisposing factors.
If your dog’s anal sacs need attention he'll probably do some scooting, may constantly lick or scratch the area, chase his tail, strain to move his bowels, or you may notice a discharge from the dog’s hind end.
It’s not unusual for the veterinarian to do a complete physical on the dog, so be prepared to give a thorough history. The vet will also need to know when the symptoms began and possible incidents that might have led to this condition; things such as a recent change of diet or perhaps a course of antibiotics.
Once the fluid has been expressed the vet may send it to the lab for culture and sensitivity testing. The sacs will be cleaned and flushed and antibiotics will be infused into them. Most vets will schedule a follow-up appointment within a week or so.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. As troublesome as the anal sacs can be, there are many dog owners who have owned dogs for years and never encountered a problem, a record that they should be very grateful for.