Anal Sacculitis in Dogs and Cats


Raising pets can be a costly experience with so many diseases around today. Pet insurance is a good way to ensure you’ll be able to provide your pet with the medical care needed to keep your pet in great health. Anal sacculitis is a disease that affects both cats and dogs but is more common in dogs. It’s especially common in older small breed dogs. Anal sacculitis can be treated in most cases and may be caused by numerous things.

What is Anal Sacculitis?

Anal sacculitis occurs when the anal sac, a set of glands located right below the anus, becomes inflamed and infected. The anal glands create a brown, oily and smelly fluid that male dogs or cats use to mark their territory and identify with other animals. It’s also what causes animals to smell each other. Anal sacculitis typically begins as an uncomfortable impaction.

The first sign that a dog has an anal sacculitis is when the dog scoots across the room dragging his behind. If left unattended, it can progress to an abscess or infection. Possible symptoms of anal sacculitis include:

  • Biting or licking their rear end
  • Scooting across the ground or floor
  • A foul odor
  • Pain or constipation when sitting or pooping

Dog Anal Gland Problems

A dog can develop anal gland problems when the glands become impacted and need to be expressed or emptied. If the anal glands aren’t properly emptied and become impacted, an abscess or infection can develop. If an abscess isn’t taken care of, it can rupture and cause the dog serious problems. A ruptured abscess may require surgery and additional drainage.

These problems usually develop in small breed dogs such as miniature and toy poodles, cocker spaniels, Chihuahuas, beagles, basset hounds and Lhasa apsos. Although there is really no prevention for anal sacculitis, possible causes of anal sacculitis in dogs include:

  • Poor diet
  • Skin infections
  • Not enough fiber
  • Lack of exercise
  • Food allergies
  • Obesity
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Hypothyroidism

Cat Anal Gland Problems

Although anal gland problems typically affect dogs more than cats, cats can also have anal gland problems. If the ducts from the anal glands are plugged, the glandular liquids can’t be released in the typical way cats defecate. When this happens, the glands may become impacted, which causes the cat to become constipated.

If it becomes serious and is not taken care of, the gland will get a buildup of bacteria, and infection will develop. If the infection goes on too long, it can become serious and very painful for the cat. Symptoms of cat anal gland problems are similar to with dogs.

  • Scooting – This will take place as the cat attempts to relieve the itching sensation in the rectal area
  • Licking the anal area – Although cats generally like themselves to keep clean, the cat will be licking the area almost constantly.
  • Defecating in places other than the litter box – This is caused by the cat’s constipation or discomfort.
  • Foul odor – If the cat has a bad odor, anal gland problems are usually the problem.
  • Swelling or redness of the anal glands – Inflammation of the anal area is usually a red flag for a potential anal gland issue.

How to Express Anal Glands

The best way to not just prevent anal sacculitis but also to treat it is by expressing or emptying the animal’s anal glands. Anal glands may need to be expressed anywhere from once a week to every month or two. This will depend a lot on the breed of animal and the amount of discomfort the animal may be exhibiting.

Supplies you’ll need to express the animal’s glands include latex or plastic gloves, a warm, soapy washrag, paper towels and Vaseline or a similar lubricant. The dog should be standing during the procedure. Place a small dog on a table or stand behind a big dog. Two people best perform this procedure. One person will distract and hold the dog in place, while the other does the expression.

Put the gloves on, lubricate the index finger and insert it about one inch into the dog’s rectum. The thumb should be on the outside of the dog’s rectum. Run the thumb and index finger around the dog’s anus until you’ve located the dog’s anal glands. One should be at the 4 or 5 o’clock position, and the second one should be at the 7 or 8 o’clock position. When your finger the pea-sized anal gland, gently squeeze it until all the liquid comes out. Keep a paper towel near the area to catch the liquid. You know the glands are fully emptied when you can barely feel the glands anymore.

If it’s a serious impaction or an infection is present, it may be necessary to flush out the infected sac and remove any solid material. If an abscess has developed, a veterinarian should treat the animal. An impacted anal sac can be very painful for pets, so an anesthetic or sedative may be recommended as part of the treatment. Pain medication may be given orally to the pet or can be injected directly into the anal sacs. If the animal has a severe case of anal sacculitis, surgery may be the preferred treatment.

Estimated Cost of Dealing with Anal Gland Issues

Depending on the company, anal gland expression may be covered under certain sections of a pet insurance policy. Health issues that arise from infected anal glands are generally covered under basic pet insurance. Provided the animal’s anal glands have not become abscessed or infected, the cost of dealing with anal glands is relatively inexpensive. The cost of expressing the anal glands is generally about $50.

However, the cost to fix an abscessed or infected gland or glands can range from $100 to $1,000. The cost can vary if the animal needs to be hospitalized. If the health issue is so serious that the anal glands need to be removed, the cost can be anywhere from $750 to $2,500 or more. The prices can also vary by the veterinary service and the geographic location.