top of page


Anal sacs (or anal glands) are located just inside the anus at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions. Small ducts pass from the sacs to the rectum and empty just inside the anal opening. The glands inside of the sac produce an aromatic liquid that is typically expressed during defecation. As dogs age, this liquid can start to have a thicker consistency, which is more difficult to express during normal defection. Consequently, the sacs can become overfilled which leads to discomfort. You may notice your pet frequently licking their bottom, scooting their bottom on the ground, or walking with a stiff-legged or hunched appearance. If the anal sacs are not appropriately emptied, they may become infected or impacted; this can cause pain and discomfort for your pet. Anal sacs can even rupture, causing a draining ulcer on your dog’s bottom. The anal sacs may need to be flushed to correct the problem or in some cases completely removed.


How often should my dog’s anal sacs be expressed?

This can vary between dogs. Some dogs never require manual expression of their anal sacs, while other dogs require expression every 3-4 weeks. If you notice signs of discomfort in your pet, such as frequent licking of the bottom, scooting of the bottom on the ground, or a stiff-legged or hunched posture, they may need their anal sacs expressed. If the veterinary technician or veterinarian who performs the expression notices abnormalities with your dog’s anal sacs, they may recommend more frequent expressions.


How is an anal sac expression performed?

The anal sacs are expressed via digital manipulation within the rectum. A veterinary technician or veterinarian will apply gentle pressure to the anal sac from within the rectum which will express the contained liquid.


If my dog’s anal sacs are expressed by the groomer, does a veterinarian need to express them as well?

Most groomers will express the anal sacs by applying external pressure on the sacs. This is different from the way in which a veterinary technician or veterinarian applies internal pressure via rectal manipulation. Some dogs can be maintained with the external expression performed by a groomer; however, other dogs may require internal expression by a veterinarian. If you are noticing signs of discomfort, you should schedule an appointment for anal sac expression.


What happens if my dog’s anal sacs become infected?

Your dog’s anal sacs can become infected if fluid accumulates without being expressed routinely. This leads to swelling of the anal sacs and associated pain and discomfort. If the sacs become infected and inflamed, they may not be able to expressed normally. Often, a veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic and pain medication. They will also likely recommend your dog’s anal sacs be flushed under anesthesia.


What is involved with an anal sac flush?

Your dog will be sedated and anesthetized for an anal sac flush. If you have a long-haired dog, we may clip the hair around your dog’s anus to allow for better visualization. A catheter will be passed along the anal sac duct and into the anal sac on each side. The anal sac is then flushed to remove anal gland liquid, debris, and infection. Once the anal sac has been sufficiently flushed, an antibiotic ointment is instilled into the anal sac and left to treat infection.


When is removal of the anal sacs necessary?

A veterinarian may recommend removal of the anal sacs if they are recurrently becoming infected or impacted, if there is significant scar tissue following an anal sac infection so that the ability for the anal sacs to be expressed is reduced, or if a cancerous process is suspected. The anal sacs are not an essential organ, so removal is warranted if they are causing recurrent or serious problems.


What is involved with an anal sac removal?

The anal sacs are removed while your dog is under general anesthesia with the use of our CO2 laser. The anal sacs are removed via two small incisions on either side of the anus.


What should I expect on the day of my dog’s surgery?

On the day of surgery, we ask that you bring your pet to the clinic between 8-8:30AM. We do allow check-in the night before surgery if this is more feasible for your schedule. Please let us know at the time you schedule your pet’s surgery if you would like to drop your pet off the night before. Your pet should be fasted for at least 8 hours and no water after midnight the night before surgery. You should bring any medications that your pet is taking so that the medications can be continued while at the clinic. If your pet is on a prescription diet, please bring enough food for two meals. When you bring your pet for surgery, the office staff or a technician will have you sign an admissions form and provide a contact phone number for the day. It is very important that you be accessible via this phone number in case the veterinarian needs to contact you in regards to your pet.

Your pet will have a quick exam to check their vital signs when they arrive for surgery. If your pet requires any bloodwork prior to surgery, we will perform it at this time. Surgeries are typically performed in the late morning and early afternoon. Each pet has a customized anesthetic protocol designed for their specific breed and health condition. After your pet’s surgery is complete, a veterinarian or technician will call to let you know how the surgery went and when your pet can go home.


How is my pet monitored during surgery?

The heart rate, respiratory rate, and SpO2 (or blood oxygenation level) is monitored during surgery. In addition, a veterinary technician and veterinarian are present at all times while your pet is anesthetized.


Is my dog given pain medication after the surgery?

Yes, your dog will receive an injection of pain medication during their surgery which will last for 24 hours. Your dog will also be sent home with an oral pain medication for you to give for several days after the surgery.


Are there visible stitches after an anal sac removal?

Our veterinarians typically bury the skin sutures, which means that there will be no visible stitches after the anal sac removal. In addition, the buried sutures will dissolve away on their own. They do not need to be removed.


What are the benefits of using the CO2 laser for the anal sac removal?

The CO2 laser cauterizes blood vessels and nerves immediately, so there is less swelling, bleeding, and pain associated with the surgery.


What special care does my dog need after surgery?


There is minimal post-surgical care needed following an anal sac flush. You should monitor your dog for normal bowel movements. The veterinarian will schedule a recheck appointment 3-4 weeks following the anal sac flush in order to manually express the anal sacs. Your dog will be sent home with an antibiotic and pain medications following the procedure.


Following an anal sac removal, your dog will be sent home with an e-collar to prevent licking of the incisions. E-collars should be left on at all times to prevent your dog from licking the incisions. Monitoring the incisions for any swelling, discharge, or discoloration is important. The incisions should improve in their appearance after your dog is discharged. If you notice any changes to the incisions, please contact our clinic right away. You should not bathe your dog for 14 days following the surgery. In addition, you should monitor your dog for normal bowel movements. Please contact our clinic if you notice your dog straining or having pain on defecation.

bottom of page