by Vickie Halstead RN, CCRN, CEN, CVNS, CLNC
Problems with the anal sacs (glands) are more common in smaller breeds of dogs than large breeds. The purpose of the 2 sacs on each side of the anus is to produce an odor that identifies the individual dog and marks the stool to establish territory. It is normally emptied with stools. Some dogs may have problems emptying the sacs due to stools that are too soft, poor muscle tone in obese dogs, or blockage of the openings by thick, dry secretions.
The fluid in the anal sacs is normally brown, thick, pasty, and foul smelling. The sacs may become impacted, infected, abscessed, or cancerous. Signs that there is a problem are pain with sitting or defecating, scooting, and licking or biting the anal area. Seek veterinary intervention for any of these signs.
I have owned and bred Bichons for 20 years and have never had a problem with anal sacs, since I express them each time I bathe my dogs. I contend that groomers should do the same and may be willing to teach you how to do it. If there is a problem with the anal sacs you need to discuss this with your veterinarian who can express the sacs and can teach you how to do it. If it becomes a serious problem, the sacs may need to be removed surgically.
Research for this article includes:
The Merck Veterinary Manual
The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult by Larry Tilley& Francis Smith
Textbook of Medical Physiology by Arthur Guyton & John E. Hall
The Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by James Griffen & Liisa Carlson