Anal gland removal

This forum is for dog lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your dog.

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Zeppelin CGN

Mellow is the- path to- happiness
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 7:13am PST 
So I'd like your opinion on this. Zeppelin has been having problems with his anal glands for the past two years I would say. They do not empty naturally. He rarely has soft poop. In the last six months, we have had them emptied by the vet 3 times and by the groomer twice. Our vet, whom we adore, is recommending that we have them surgically removed. Obviously it is very uncomfortable for Zeppelin when they are full and don't empty on their own and we don't necessarily notice right away. Add in the fact that we have to bring him to the vet or groomer each time, surgery seems logical.

He has allergy problems that we have hopefully solved (food based + seasonal). But when he does have a reaction, his glands really bother him and he will licks his bum and chew on the bottom of his tail. cry

My first question to the vet was recovery time and he told us it usually takes 3-4 days for the dog to feel 100% again. Cost is not an issue in this case.

So we are 99% sure we are going to go ahead with the surgery if we see he needs them emptied in the next 2 months.

Has any had this done before? What was your experience? thinking

Im a lean, mean,- cuddling machine
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 7:43am PST 
We do anal gland removal every now and again ( at the office I work at), the doctors dog actually had hers removed just a few months ago. She recovered within a few days and was back to her normal self. The most common thing I've seen after surgery is the dog trying with all it's might to get at the rear end and also trying to scoot. Most pooches have to wear a happy hat( e-collar). It's a fairly quick surgery, of course not as quick as a spay or something like that, but still pretty quick. We always tell people that surgery is better then having to come down every 4-6 weeks to have the anals expressed for the length of the dogs life. In the long run it will save you time and money. And removing them will definitely help with comfort issues with the anals being full and causing pressure back there. Good luck!
Zeppelin CGN

Mellow is the- path to- happiness
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 8:02am PST 
Thanks Radley. For us, Zep's comfort and well being is our first priority. So when the vet explained that removing them would eliminate his discomfort and irritation, we were ready to say yes. laugh out loud

Thanks for the input, glad to know it's not too serious.


Work? What's- that?
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 8:38am PST 
I know this isn't something that is typically done because of the risk for fecal incontinence. But I'm not sure how prevalent that is (it might be a pretty uncommon side effect) and it sounds like in your case it is worth the risk given how uncomfortable it makes Zeppelin.

Edited by author Sat May 14, '11 8:38am PST

Toto, CD, RN, CGC

We don't do- doodles!!!
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 9:10am PST 
I would certainly do a bit more research!!! The risk of loss of bowel control is certainly something to be concerned and, as I understand it, is high enough to bear considering...
A dog who needs his glands emptied vs a dog with no bowel control... I'll empty the glands ANY DAY!!!
Why not just have the vet show YOU how to do it, then you could do it every two weeks or so and no longer have a problem.
Zeppelin CGN

Mellow is the- path to- happiness
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 9:54am PST 
I will do some more research on that and ask our vet. Expelling glands myself is not something I want to do. I'm not willing to risk doing it wrong or hurting him. Having them expelled is not a pleasant experience for Zeppelin and they can fill themselves within a few days. From what I understand, when they are full, some fluid is expelled but it is an irritant which is why he licks and chews.

Does anybody know where I can get good information on the risks of the surgery?
Joey Diego - CGC, Therapy- Dog

Where did mom- go?
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 10:26am PST 
I think you are thinking about it in the right way, and that is Zep's comfort. However, if there is no infection in the anal glands I don't know if I would do the surgery because of the possibility of fecal incontinence.

Joey needs his anal glands emptied once a month. If I wait longer than that then he will do it himself on my couch frown

That being said, I have had multiple conversations with the vet about it and he says as long as they are properly expressing and there is no infection he would not do surgery.

Now again, if I wait too long Joey's will express themselves all over my couch, it doesn't sound like this happens in your case so maybe surgery is the best option. Layla also has anal gland problems just like Joey (go figure...).

I have seen a dog have it done at the vet I used to work at and it worked really well for him, he was a huge Great Dane who was having problems almost weekly with his glands, and now he is a happy boy, so it does work. Good luck!
The Roo- Crew™- ©®

We go together- like peas &- carrots

Barked: Sat May 14, '11 12:14pm PST 
I had a dog that had it done back in the early 80's. She lived for years afterwards. I was young, and don't remember why they did it, other than she was getting recurrent infections, but I don't remember them being all that bad.

I do remember the recovery was uncomfortable. Best of luck to you!hug
Leah, CGC

All the Beauty- with none of the- Brains
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 12:20pm PST 
Anal Gland is actually a misnomer that has entered into our everyday speech. The actual term is Anal Sac since the glands actually line the inside of the sac meaning diseases affect the sac NOT the gland. I have always thought that vets wanted to avoid the accidental slip of the tongue that terms the words "anal sac's" into an uncomfortable sexual reference (no pun intendedsilenced).

Chronic anal sac disease can be cause by inflammation/allergies/unknown-usually termed chronic anal sacculitis, tumors usually termed anal sac tumors or (rarely) foreign material. When the sacs become inflamed it causes them to have a smaller interior (IE they fill up faster) and causing a narrowing of the the duct they empty into the anus with. Expression can actually cause inflammation which can sometimes then become the reason why they get impacted. Tumors of the anal sacs are most commonly diagnosed by palpation (feeling) which happens as they are expressed. I can assume no one has felt this since otherwise you would be asking different questions.

Dogs who regularly express their own anal glands will do it when they go BM or if scared. The firmness of the stool seems to be the factor that allows for complete expression so when dogs suffer from chronically soft stool they may also in turn suffer from AG problems. With food allergies we often see corresponding inflammation of the GI tract which can encompass the anal sac area leading to problems. This is why chronic allergic pets (especially those with food allergies) seem to be overrepresented in this disease.

Expressing anal sacs manually does come with a small risk of abscess if not done correctly as well as the additional inflammation putting the dog at risk for future impactions. So the need to frequently express anal sacs is not an ideal position to be in either.

As for surgery.....there is definitely a small risk that Zepplin could lose the ability to control his rectal sphincter. The anal glands lay very close to this sphincter and the removal of them requires the surgeon to slice within mm's of this sphincter. If a mistake is made, even if the surgeon slips or nicks a mm one way or the other, your dog will be unable to hold its bowels either temporarily (weeks to months) or for the rest of his life. Many dogs have successfully done the surgery early on but suffered the rectal incontinence later in life, some suffer temporary fecal incontinence lasting weeks to months, some have never had fecal incontinence and others start with incontinence immedietely following the surgery. There are also other complications such as seeping/weeping of anal sac material (if removal not complete), seeping/weeping of rectal fluid from weakened sphincter, chronic fistula formation and scarring which can cause tenesmus or the feeling that you need to "go" but there is actually no stool (IE excessive straining, cramping, sometimes severe abdominal pain).

In the last 6 months (avg. 180 days) you have had his anal sac expressed 3 times right? When was the last time the VET (not the groomer) expressed him? Did he check for infection? The anal sacs are lined with specialized sebaceous glands that produce a normally light yellow material. These glands continue producing material even if the material is unable to leave the sac. As the material builds up it thickens to the point where it can become almost paste-like and gritty. It also turns dark closer to black. If an infection is present the material will have a purulent appearance to it, meaning that it appears green or pus-like....it also can be bloody. Infections are usually more painful when expressed than just an impaction. Keep in mind that improperly performed expression can lead to future abscess up to several weeks later.

To be honest with you, your case is not one that I would think of surgery for as a first option. In my experience, the GP's I have worked with as well as the Surgeons usually don't start recommending surgery until the impactions are occurring weekly to monthly and seriously affecting the patients quality of life. Zepplin hasn't had frequent enough impactions to suggest that this will be a life-long problem....it may actually be all related to one event of inflammation of the anal sac area. Basically there is inflammation in the sacs that hasn't returned to normal (possibly complicated by the manual expressions).

So the first thing I would say is start taking a look at the previous 9-10 months of Zepplins life. The first impaction may have been the start of an inflammation that has not resolved so you want to look before it for reasons why the impactions occurred. Look at any food changes...where there any episodes of diarrhea lasting more than 2-3 days...any new treats or food indiscretions (IE did he get into anything)...where there any flare ups of his allergies in general???

Is Zepplin on an antihistamine? If so name and mg and how often do you give it? Is he on any other medications? Has he been on oral antibiotics in the last 9 months? If so what type and how long?

Have you tried adding additional fiber to his meals? Even though you report he rarely has soft stool it may benefit him to make his stool actually more firm so he has to strain some to go. This straining can actually help them express the sacs more effectively on their own.

Although we are not 100% sure of all the reasons why anal sac impactions happen we do tend to see them happen more often for several reasons (not sure which ones would apply to you):

-Obesity - Dogs who have too much fat can actually cause the duct to be "crushed" close so they can't be expressed with stool. Also there is some suggestion that grooming by the dog keeps the ducts open and cleaned as well as occasionally causing small expressions. If the dog is too fat to reach that area they cannot groom predisposing them to impactions.

-Lack of fiber or bone material in diet - Many people believe that a kibble based diet predisposes our pets to anal sac issues. When fed raw diet with bone material there are occasions of firm stool with hard pieces that encourage additional straining helping to successfully empty the sacs.

-Allergies - Food and Seasonal - Since inflammation can cause the duct to narrow allergic response in the area may make it hard for the pet to express the sac OR may make it fill faster. Hypoallergenic diets and oral antihistamines have shown some success with limiting impactions.

These are all considerations to be made when figuring out the risk/benefit's of this surgery for your dog and you. If you don't want to express anal glands how will you feel about cleaning up stool 2-5x daily? The risk of incontinence may be low overall but in the long run its a much worse place to be (for some owners-depends on your POV) than with impacted anal glands. This is a cosmetic surgery in that this is not a life threatening disease or something that grossly affects the pets QOL at this point so I would want to make sure I have exhausted all other options prior to considering surgery.

Here are just some good links to see all POV on disease, medical management and surgery.....I would suggest it may be worth it to take a couple weeks to months to decide if this is the right decision for you, your family and Zepplin.

Surgical Description

Abstract from Medical Journal on Anal Sacculectomy prognosis - Published 2008

More info

Merck Vet Manual - Anal Sac disease

PetPlace - Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

PetPlace - Anal Sac Removal

ETA - Take some time and write down a pros cons list to help determine where you stand on the surgery at this time....then take some time to read the literature and remake the list....see if it changes and make a decision based on that list.

Any INFORMED decision you make for YOUR pet is the RIGHT one no matter what you choose. Even though surgery is not right for me and my pets now doesn't mean I wouldn't find myself with a change of mind if they suffered frequent impactions. Talk with your family, vet and others to gather info then sit down and think about it.
---> Sometimes I also find its helpful to talk the issue over with my dog - outloud - Their eyes are non-judgemental so I can lay the information out and really spend time processing it - when we found out Cara had cancer I told her about it and it actually made me feel better about it. IDK - maybe this is just me !?!shrug

Edited by author Sat May 14, '11 12:28pm PST

Zeppelin CGN

Mellow is the- path to- happiness
Barked: Sat May 14, '11 12:35pm PST 
Thanks so much for all that info Leah! I'll be doing lots of reading I see. I'll post a more detailed response with answers to your questions later this weekend (time for supper). smile

The only thing I want to add is that he does seem to be uncomfortable the majority of the time and I don't think his anal sacs are full at the moment, but he still tends to lick. If the allergies are a cause of his issues, we are still in the process of controlling them, so it's difficult to pin down when his "bum" issues started.
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