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Anal Sac Inflammation & Scooting


What are Anal Sacs?

All dogs and cats have two anal sacs just under the skin below the anus. Anal sacs are round little pouches approximately pea-sized in small pets and grape-sized in large pets. They secrete a thin, yellow-to-brown, foul-smelling material that is automatically dripped onto your pet?s feces as it defecates. This material communicates information to other animals.

To find the anal sacs, lift your pet?s tail, and look in the 4 o?clock and 8 o?clock positions around the anus. Normally, sacs are barely visible because they are soft and compressible, but the opening of a single tiny duct that travels upward from each of the sacs may appear as a light dot. While the exact function of the anal sacs are not known, it is believed that the discharge communicates information to other animals. If the anal sacs appear obviously swollen and visibly large, or if they are hard, anal sac inflammation is likely.

If your pet's anal sac is swollen or red, it may mean he or she has a medical problem.
Key Facts of TOPIC NAME in Dogs and Cats
  • The anal sacs empty naturally when your pet defecates
  • If anal sacs need to be emptied manually, your pet has a medical problem
  • The most common symptom of anal inflammation is scooting
  • Increasing fiber in the diet may help minimize and prevent future anal sac problems.


    What is Anal Sac Inflammation and Scooting?

    When anal sacs are irritated or infected, blood flow to the area increases. The anal area becomes hot, swollen, and painful. This inflammation causes the tiny ducts that empty the anal sacs to swell shut. With the ducts swollen shut, the material within the sac dries out and hardens, first into a paste, then into a hard, gritty material. If the sac is not expressed manually or opened surgically, it bursts, creating an open, draining tract through the skin.

    Scooting in when your pet slides across the floor on its bottom as though it is scratching an itchy, painful, or dirty anus. Scooting is not a healthy activity because it drives bacteria into the skin and into the anal sac ducts. Your pet?s entire bottom can become hot, swollen, and infected. Food allergies and anal sac inflammation are two common causes of scooting.

    Scooting is as unhealthy for the floor as it is for your pet because it deposits bacteria, a foul odor, and sometimes fecal material, on the floor. Anal sac inflammation and scooting is a chicken and egg scenario because inflammation caused by any factor?such as fleas, ringworm, or food allergies?can lead to scooting and scooting can lead to inflammation.

    What Causes Scooting?

    Anything that causes itching, pain, or a dirty bottom can cause scooting. For example, anal sac inflammation, food allergies, and a low-fiber diet are common causes of scooting. Below, the causes of scooting are listed according to whether they cause itching, pain, or a dirty bottom.

    Perineal itching is caused by food allergies, biting fleas, ringworm, yeast, intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, and allergy-inducing perfumes, soaps, or sprays.
    • Food allergies are the most common cause of perineal itching. The saying used to describe food allergy symptoms is: Food allergies hit the ear and the rear.
    • Fleas are attracted to your pet’s tail area because they are safely out of reach of your pet’s mouth. As the fleas bite, your pet may scoot in an attempt to scratch the allergic itch caused by flea proteins.
    • Ringworm and yeast can infect the skin around the tail and cause intense itching without leaving outward signs such as patchy hair loss.
    • Tapeworm segments can cause itching irritation as they exit the anus and collect on the skin and surrounding hair.
    • Grooming products, especially when applied directly to the perineal area to cover up the foul smell after anal glands are emptied or when applied to skin that was irritated by a clipper burn, can cause contact allergy and itching.
    Perineal pain is caused by anal sac inflammation, constipation, cancer, skin fold infections, anal fistulas, and clipper burns caused by grooming.
    • Anal sac inflammation is often caused by low-fiber foods. While these foods are convenient for us because there is a smaller amount of fecal material to be picked up, they are unhealthy for pets. High-fiber foods are healthy for many reasons, including their ability to produce a stool volume sufficient to empty the anal sacs. Dogs and cats evolved having large stools because they ate the bones of their prey and other bulk-producing, indigestible material. Eating low-fiber kibble is not natural for them.
    • Constipation occurs when your pet doesn’t defecate. Stool accumulates inside the colon becoming increasingly drier, harder, and more difficult to pass.
    • Cancer causes perineal pain when tumors erode the skin or press into the colon.
    • Skin folds that become infected with bacteria are painful. Skin fold infections around the tail are common in obese pets and in pets with loose, wrinkled skin around the tail.
    • Anal fistulas are painful, draining tracts under the tail. These fistulas may involve the anal sacs.
    • Clipper burns and perineal skin irritation are common in frequently groomed dogs, such as Poodles and Schnauzers. If your dog licks its bottom obsessively after being groomed, check for skin irritation. Grooming soaps and sprays can also irritate the skin, especially if sprayed on thickly to mask odor after anal sacs are emptied.
    Dirty bottom
    A dirty bottom is common when pets have diarrhea, long hair, obesity, or stiffness that prevents cleaning.
    • Diarrhea occurs in pets with infections, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and insufficient digestive enzymes. Diarrhea also occurs in pets with Tritrichomonas foetus, which causes dribbling of stool called the "leaky butt syndrome.”
    • Longhaired cats, such as Himalayans, and longhaired dogs, such as Poodles, Schnauzers, and Shi Tzus, may have trouble with feces being trapped in their coats.
    • Obese pets often cannot reach their bottoms to keep themselves clean.
    • Stiff pets, especially senior pets, may have inflexible or painful joints so they cannot clean their bottoms.





    Which Pets Are Most at Risk for Anal Sac Inflammation?

    Anal sac inflammation is common in small breed dogs such as dachshunds, poodles, and chihuahuas. It is thought that this is due to the small size of the ducts which drain the anal sacs. Anal sac inflammation is also common in certain large breed, dogs, especially retriever and spaniel breeds.

  • Small dogs, especially Dachshunds, Poodles, and Chihuahuas
  • Retrievers, Spaniels Dogs with diarrhea or constipation
  • Dogs with food allergies
  • Dogs whose anal sacs are expressed frequently but not completely
  • Rare in cats

    There are many risk factors that have been shown to potentially lead to anal sac inflammation in pets. Pets that are constipated, resulting in smaller hard stool may occur when pets are not drinking enough water, or when not eating, as seen in many pets with chronic disease. Those pets on a low fiber diet often produce a smaller stool. High fiber foods, on the other hand, result in a stool volume sufficient to empty the anal sacs. Those pets who do not get enough exercise also dont have as frequent bowel movements and therefore do not empty their anal sacs as easily. Pets suffering from food allergies will often scoot and itch the anal area, which can potentially drive the bacteria up the anal sac ducts, leading to inflammation and infection. Finally obese pets with extra skin folds around the anus, also are prone to inflammation of the skin and anal sacs.

  • Max's Tip: Scooting is the most common is small to mid sized dogs and dogs that are overweight.

    Related Info on Diabetes in Dogs and Cats Medical terms: Anal sacculitis, Anal fistulas, Rectal, Perineal

    More Information on Addison's Disease in Dogs and Cats

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