Anal Sacs

Q: My Jack Russell keep "scooting" her butt on our carpet! What's the deal? Is this a medical condition?

A: Anal sacs (sometimes referred to as anal glands) are located on either side of the anus at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions, where they are positioned just under the skin. They connect to the anus by means of small canals or ducts. Anal sacs produce and store a dark, foul-smelling fluid. Usually the dog will express these anal glands himself when taking a bowel movement. However, it is not uncommon for a dog to have to have his anal glands expressed by their vet or owner, on a regular basis, so that a problem does not occur.

There are 3 problems that occur in the anal sacs.

  1. When the fluid becomes thick and solidified, the condition is called impaction.
  2. When bacteria grow in this material producing yellow or bloody pus, the condition is called infection.
  3. When the infection builds to create a hot, tender swelling in the sac, the condition is called an abscess. When the abscessed material overflows the sac, the skin over the sac breaks open, and the pus drains onto the skin.

Symptoms of anal sac problems include:

  1. Scooting or dragging the anal area.
  2. Excessive licking under the tail.
  3. Pain, sometimes severe, near the tail or anus.
  4. A swollen area on either side of the anus.
  5. Bloody or sticky drainage on either side of the anus.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is best to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have it checked out. The vet will be able to explain to you further about the anal sacs and show you how to express them. If you are not comfortable expressing them yourself at home, you may need to take the dog back to the vet at the most once a week to have this done. Doing this can prevent infection, impaction, or possible abscess of the anal glands.

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