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Anal Sac Problems
Cute Scooting Could Mean Trouble
If you own a dog, you might have seen him (or her) scooting his end along the ground sometime in the past, and wondered why your dog does this. While this behavior is not always a problem, scooting like this, in your dog, may have something to do with his anal sacs.

The anal sacs are located under a dog's skin very close to the anus. There are two anal sacs, found at about four o'clock and eight o'clock around the anus. The key function of these glands is the production of scents - the odor they produce is very distinct and isn't necessarily attractive to humans. But the smell is for dogs, a means of personal identification for marking territory. When two dogs meet and sniff at each other's hind ends, they are usually checking the smell of these glands.

During defecation, the movement of stools through the rectum puts pressure on these glands, and the liquid they contain is pushed out of the body. In this way, anal sacs are emptied regularly. However, there can be situations where this action does not occur smoothly. And if the anal sacs are not emptied properly, there may be problems for your dog. The fluid in these sacs can become thicker and thicker, making it harder and harder for the dog to squeeze the fluid out. Eventually this can lead to a state called "impaction" (inactive anal sacs). The anal impaction, if left unchecked, can lead to bacterial infections or even lead to an abscess.

When the anal sac glands are impacted, the dog will usually try to empty the sacs on his or her own. This is when you may see your dog frequently scooting his or her rear across the ground. Also, your dog may lick or bite around the rear end excessively. If this condition (impaction) occurs frequently, you might want to discuss the matter with your vet - before it leads to something more serious and difficult to handle.

Impacted anal sacs can be treated by your veterinarian, who will express (squeeze) the sacs manually. Since the anal sacs of dogs with this problem need to be emptied regularly, your vet may instruct you on how to do this action yourself at home (needless to say, gloves and casual clothing are recommended when doing this!).

Many factors can contribute to anal sac problems. Cats, for example, rarely have this problem. More often seen in dogs, anal sac problems are particularly an issue among small breed dogs. Obesity may be a contributing factor, and certainly poor diet leading to soft stools (which don't press the glands effectively during defecation) is often associated with anal sac problems.

Although some dogs are more prone to have anal sac difficulties even from birth, there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of trouble like this. The best thing is to feed your pets a good quality food with enough balanced nutrients to produce firm (but not too firm), consistent stools on a regular basis. Anything you can do to "encourage" regular bowel movements in your pets will be helpful. Daily exercise will help stimulate bowel movements - as well as build toned muscles as an added benefit. Poorly toned and weak muscles will predispose your pets to anal sac gland problems because weak muscles cannot strain enough to push stools through smoothly. Your dog will have a harder time defecating, and the sacs won't be stimulated as thoroughly.

Adding fiber to your pets' diets is considered another good way to encourage smooth bowel movements, and can be beneficial for some dogs since fiber helps produce a more evenly formed stool. (I often give my own dog vegetable pieces as training rewards, rather than semi-moist dog treats that may be loaded with chemicals and sugars.)

Though watching a dog "scoot" over the carpet may be cute (or not cute at all, if it's a nice carpet!), your pets are usually doing this because they feel uncomfortable. Please don't ignore these early warning signs of a potentially serious problem. Deal with it sooner, rather than later, to ensure the long term happiness of your great pets!

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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