VCA Animal Hospitals
Published: Jul 31, 2012

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Dog owners may notice their four-legged friends scooting or dragging their rear ends along on the ground. Although it may seem as if the animal is simply playing around, this could be a sign of a serious problem with dog's anal sacs, also known as anal glands. Anal gland problems in dogs are very painful and require the intervention of a veterinarian, so pet owners should be on the lookout for this problem.

While scooting around on the floor is the most common clinical sign of the condition, the dog may exhibit several other signs that could indicate an issue with the anal glands. The dog may begin to lick or bite at the infected area, which is typically around the base of the tail. If the owner attempts to touch the dog's tail or rear end, he may become aggressive or wince in pain. In some cases, digestive problems or diarrhea in dogs may be observed several weeks before the pain sets in.

When functioning normally, the anal sac is responsible for the dog "marking its territory" when it passes feces. The glands produce a secretion unique to the dog that allows it to "mark" a certain area with its droppings. This secretion is why dogs are often so interested in smelling each other's feces. However, it's quite common for these glands to become infected for various reasons. When they do, the glands become enlarged and make it painful for the dog to go to the bathroom. The normal secretion may also become thicker and it's possible for the sacs to even burst, leaving behind a green or yellow pus.

The good news is that veterinarians can treat anal gland problems relatively easily. The doctor will sedate the animal, then manipulate the sac area to empty the glands and reduce the swelling. The dog will be prescribed antibiotics and pain medication to help it cope for the next few days as the area heals.

While the issue is relatively simple to treat, it's likely to recur, especially in overweight dogs. In these instances, the veterinarian may recommend complete removal of the anal sacs. As the purpose of these glands is to allow the dog to "mark its territory," they are not actually necessary for domesticated animals. Thus, it may be easier to simply remove the anal glands altogether so they do not trouble the dog any further.

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