Have you ever noticed your dog scooting along the ground on her rear or your cat having a funny scent after being startled? If you have, you may have noticed a unique characteristic of certain animals called anal sacs or scent glands. These sacs are located just under the skin on either side of the anus at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. The sacs store a foul smelling, dark colored material similar to the material that is sprayed by skunk to ward off its enemies. Skunks use their scent glands to protect themselves. Luckily for most dogs and cats, we act as their protectors so they don’t have a great need to scare off predators. It is believed that dogs and cats may use the material in the anal sacs to mark territory with their own unique scent.
Anal sac problems are more common in dogs than cats, especially in smaller breed dogs although any dog can be affected. Most commonly, you notice a foul smell coming from the rear of your dog or your dog scooting on the ground. When a veterinarian checks the anal sacs, they are usually very full and need to be cleaned out or expressed. This is termed impaction. A veterinarian can usually clean out the sacs quickly and easily. Sometimes the sacs become infected or abscessed and you may notice your dog scooting, licking at the area under its tail, pain or swelling near the anus, or a bloody discharge on either side of the anus. In this case, your veterinarian will need to express the sacs and may need to treat your dog with antibiotics. Finally, cancer of the anal sacs can occur and can be a very severe, life threatening condition.
So next time you notice Fluffy scooting along the ground on her rear or Kitty is startled and leaves a foul smelling material on the floor, remember that these may be signs that your pet may have a problem. Check with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment of this often “foul” condition.