By emptying anal sacs, veterinarians can relieve dogs’ pain and swelling

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Q: What are anal bags and why does my vet need to empty them for my dog?

A: Dogs (and cats) each have two small pouches inside the anal sphincter and are located around 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. of the rectum. These pouches are lined with sebum cells that are very similar to sweat glands. These cells produce a terribly smelly material that is stored in the anal sac.

The anal sac empties its contents at regular intervals during bowel movements when it passes through the rectum. In the ancestors of our domestic animals, such as wolves, this material is intended to serve as a territorial odor marker. But our very domesticated Griffin French Bulldog no longer needs it to serve that purpose, and indeed it is a nuisance and can be a problem.

Griffin, like most of our pets today, hardly resembles a wolf, and neither does its anal glands. His anal sacs are not working properly and he is unable to empty these sacs on his own, causing the secretions to build up. This build-up causes the anal sacs to swell, causing pressure and pain, so we often have to empty his anal sacs for him. When dogs have this problem, they tend to show an interest in their rump by chewing excessively or licking under the tail or sliding on the floor.

Veterinarians completely empty the anal sacs using an in-house technique that involves putting a dreaded gloved finger in the rectum. We’re going to squeeze this horrible stuff into the palm of our glove on either side, turn the glove over, tie the glove and get it out of the office ASAP! Some owners and dog groomers may use an external technique that involves applying pressure to the skin on each side of the rectum.

This technique works, but it does not completely empty the sack and does not allow a complete digital examination of the sack. Anal sac cancer is quite common, and it is always recommended that your veterinarian pinch the sac and examine it for abnormalities.

Because problems with the anal sac are so common, we routinely perform an operation to remove the anal sac called an anal saculectomy. Always consult your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan and see if your pet needs such an operation. Like all surgeries, anal saculectomy carries a risk, but we have great success and very happy owners who no longer have to treat their beloved pet with such a chronic problem.

Q: Does my cat need a blood test now that it is getting older?

A: Most veterinarians recommend that adult cats have routine blood tests during their annual physical exams. We believe that the importance of these blood counts increases with age and we strongly recommend that tests be carried out annually, especially in older cats. This blood count usually includes a complete blood count or CBC, a chemistry panel, and a urinalysis.

The CBC will quantify the various blood cells, such as red and white blood cells and platelets, and provide important details. The chemistry panel displays the concentrations of various enzymes, proteins, or other chemicals that can indicate the health status of vital organs. Urinalysis is especially important in cats to assess kidney function and check for other conditions such as diabetes.

Our goal with these tests is to provide an early diagnosis of any medical condition that the owners are not yet aware of. If we have the ability to treat illnesses early, we can create a more successful treatment plan. We are always happy when testing is completely normal again.

Having these values ​​on your cat’s medical history is fantastic. If your cat needs testing in the future, we can use these numbers to compare against the new values ​​to assess a trend.

Drs. Josh and Marya Teders are the owners of the NorthArlington Animal Clinic in Upper Arlington. To ask them a question, email Becky Kover ( and include “pet question” in the subject line.