A dog with a ruptured anal gland abscess will require veterinary attention considering that the condition can be very painful and affected dogs will need a round of antibiotics. If you have a dog with a ruptured anal gland abscess, it's important to understand the underlying cause so that future recurrences can be prevented. There are several preventive tips that you can take to avoid potential problems along the roads. Following is information about ruptured anal gland abscesses in dogs from veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.
A Lesson in Anatomy
The anal sacs are part of the dog’s territory-marking system. The anal sacs are situated on either side of the anus and secrete a special fluid used for marking and identification purposes. If you raise your dog’s tail to a flagpole position, as seen in the picture, the anal sacs are located under the skin at a four and eight o’clock position.
A dog's anal sac secretion is made of a cocktail of smelly fatty acids. When all goes well, after a dog defecates, muscles around the anus squeeze drops of the fluid on to the stool. Therefore, each time a dog passes a nice solid and firm stool, it anoints its feces with a few drops of this smelly cocktail.
The expulsion of this cocktail though can sometimes be impaired by a number of reasons. Regardless of the underlying reason, if the cocktail is unable to get out of the sacs as it's supposed to, it causes problems.The incidence of anal sac problems can vary, depending on several factors, but it is generally high.
Dogs may be affected by several anal gland problems that may take place in three subsequent stages if allowed to progress: impaction, infection and abscess formation. Let's take a closer look at at these different anal gland problems and their stages.
Stages of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs
The first stage, impaction, or simply put, blocked anal sacs, develops when the natural emptying of the sacs is impaired. This can be due to soft stools or dry and thick secretions that plug the dog's anal sacs’ canals.
Since the two defining factors, namely, consistency of the stool and secretion, can be easily modified through proper nutrition and regular exercise, it is best to avoid having your dog’s anal sacs from becoming impacted in the first place.
If left untreated, the impaction can easily and quite fast turn into infection. The reason for the onset of infection is quite simple. When the dog empties its anal sacs it also gets rid of bacteria that entered the sacs through the sacs’ ducts. When the dog cannot empty the sacs, bacteria end up getting trapped inside.
Infected anal glands are not only painful but also irritating. Affected dogs will show signs like scooting, licking, biting and scratching the rear end, repellent, purulent and overwhelmingly smelly secretion that can be yellow, green or blood-tinged, localized skin issues (hairless patches, acne, irritation, infections).
Untreated and often repeated infections can then develop into abscesses. Affected dogs may have anal sac abscesses on one or both sides. An abscess is defined as a swollen and newly formed pocket filled with pus. The abscess can break out and burst through the skin, thus producing a draining abscess.
The skin that covers the abscess is initially red but turns to purple just before rupturing. Regardless, a ruptured anal gland abscess in dogs is an extremely painful condition. Once the abscess ruptures though, the pain is significantly reduced.
Helping a Dog With a Ruptured Anal Gland Abscess
Diagnosing a dog with a ruptured anal gland abscess is quite easy. A simple look at the anal area is enough. However, the vet will perform a full physical examination. Depending on the planned treatment approach, the vet may order some addition tests, especially if he/she plans to treat the abscess under general anesthesia.
The treatment for a dog with a ruptured anal gland abscess depends on whether the abscess has ruptured or not. However, in both cases, in order for the treatment to be effective, the source of the infection needs to be removed. This is done by simple draining. Then, in cases of small and non-ruptured abscesses, the vet will recommend applying warm compresses to soothe and relieve the pain and decrease the swelling.
If the abscess is big and non-ruptured, instead of regular draining, the vet will lance the abscess and drain it out through the cut. This is performed under general anesthesia. Already ruptured abscess that do not need further draining are simply flushed with a solution containing an antiseptic or antibiotic.
Both ruptured and non-ruptured anal sac abscesses in dogs require oral antibiotics and pain control medication.
In rare circumstances, if the abscess is severe or the conditions tends to repeat on a regular basis, the vet will recommend surgical removal of the anal sacs.
The prognosis for a dog with a ruptured anal gland abscess is excellent. Depending on the treatment of choice, dogs with uncomplicated anal abscesses get better in just a few days. If the anal sac infection caused skin problems, the skin changes will probably need two to three weeks to fully disappear.
Preventing Anal Gland Abscesses in Dogs
The best way of preventing anal sacs issues in dogs is by regular squeezing (anal gland expression). How often this is needed tends to vary between different dogs. Some dogs need to have their anal sacs emptied as often as every month, while other dogs may never manifest anal sacs related issues. The anal sacs can be emptied by either internal or external pressure.
You can even learn how to empty your dog's anal sacs on your own. Put on disposable latex gloves or plastic gloves and raise your dog’s tail to a flagpole position. This position causes the sacs to protrude and can be easily visualized. Then, place your fingers on either side of the anus at the mentioned four and eight o’clock position.
If the sacs are filled you will probably be able to feel two grapes-like lumps. If they are full, gently but firmly squeeze both sacs with your thumb and forefinger while pulling outward and upward. The secretion will be discharged on to your glove or drip on the floor. Last but not least, wipe your dog’s anal area with cotton and clean it with damp tissue.
If your dog’s anatomy prevents external emptying or if you cannot perform this on your own, visit your vet and have him empty the anal sacs by pressing from both inside and outside.