One of the most common procedures performed in veterinary medicine is dog anal gland removal, also known as an Anal Sacculectomy. It involves surgically removing the glands that produce smelly secretions for scent marking and releasing them when your pup poops. While this procedure can be beneficial for certain dogs, it’s important to understand its pros and cons before deciding whether to remove your pup’s anal glands.
Anatomy of the Anal Glands
In dogs, the anal glands are two pea-sized organs located on either side of the anus, behind and slightly below the base of the tail. Their function is to produce a thick liquid that is deposited on top of feces when they go to poop. This scent-marking behavior indicates that dogs live in a certain territory and assert their superiority over other canines.
Anal Sacculectomy Pros and Cons
Anal sac surgery can benefit certain dogs, but owners must understand both the pros and cons of having their dog’s anal glands removed for proper decisions. Here are some of the pros and cons of anal sac removal:
- No more need for potentially harmful manual gland expression
- Potential reduction in self-mutilating behavior, such as scratching and biting resulting from discomfort
- No more smell
- Potential reduction in the amount of scooting, a behavior that is often seen in dogs that have impacted anal glands
- No more anal gland expression on couch, bed, or other furniture
- Potential improvement to your dog’s overall health and well-being by reducing the risk of infection and irritation from impacted anal glands
- Potential increased risk for constipation after surgery, especially if not followed through with a proper diet and exercise plan and monitoring post-surgery. This can be easily avoided by feeding your pup high-quality dog food with extra fiber and plenty of exercise daily to ensure regular bowel movements.
- Potential increased risk for licking and chewing at the surgical site after surgery, especially if not following through with a proper diet and exercise plan and monitoring post-surgery.
- Procedure can be expensive
- Potential to cause bleeding and infection at the surgical site if not completed correctly or not properly monitored after surgery
- Potential increased risk for anal gland tumors that can later affect the anal region of your dog over time
- Potential for fecal incontinence if the surgery is not performed correctly
- Temporary pain and discomfort for the animal while healing from the surgery
Anal Sac Problems in Dogs
The anal sacs don’t cause major problems for most dogs (especially if they’re fed a high-quality diet). However, some dogs may experience one or more issues. They include:
The feces are surrounding the liquid remaining in the anal sacs after defecation can become hard to pass and cause constipation, especially in small breeds with tighter rectums.
Dogs with long hair near their bottoms may constantly rub themselves against furniture or carpet to get the smelly liquid from their anal sacs. This is known as chronic scooting, and it can be quite problematic for dogs that don’t have access to a yard.
If your dog has lots of liquid remaining in his anal glands, you’ll notice a very pungent smell when he poops, which is something every dog owner wants to avoid.
When poop collects in the anal sacs, it can become infected and cause several issues. These include anal gland abscesses (severe swelling), anal gland polyps (small growths on their surface), anal gland neoplasia (cancer), and chronic inflammation of the tissue surrounding the glands.
What is the Procedure for an Anal Sacculectomy?
Surgical removal of anal glands, also known as anal sacculectomy, is a common procedure for treating chronic anal sacculitis and other anal gland disorders. It is done under general anesthesia. Anal sacculectomy is a fairly straightforward procedure, and can be performed using an open or closed technique.
An open technique requires more tissue trauma, which may increase the risk of infection. A closed technique is a more effective way to remove anal sac tumors, while attempting to preserve the anal sac.
A closed technique uses a balloon and a Foley catheter to facilitate the removal of the anal sac. The balloon minimizes the disruption of the external anal sphincter, while the Foley catheter facilitates easier placement of the catheter.
An open technique is more efficient, but also has a higher risk of contamination. Because of the risk of infection, it is usually performed only if anal furunculosis or anal sac cancer is present.
An open approach to anal sacculectomy may require extensive tests, such as an EKG, radiographs, and serum biochemical tests. Some surgeons prefer to use closed methods, however, to reduce the risk of contamination and increase the chance of preserving the anal sac.
The most common indication for anal sacculectomy is chronic anal sacculitis. In these cases, preoperative immunosuppressive therapy is often used.
What to Expect When Visiting a Veterinarian
Whether you’re concerned about your dog’s ability to urinate or defecate, or if you think your dog may have a tumor or infection of the anal glands, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose the issue and determine whether surgery is needed.
During the visit, the veterinarian will perform a full physical examination of your pet. This will help them to determine whether other conditions are contributing to the anal gland’s condition. They will also discuss the pros and cons of the surgery. The doctor will also be able to recommend a plan of action.
During the procedure, a licensed veterinary technician will hold your pet in a safe manner. They will also do a digital rectal exam. Your pet may also be asked to stand in a particular position.
After the procedure is complete, your pet should be put on a short-term pain control regimen. Your veterinarian will also provide you with information on prevention methods for your pet.