When is it Appropriate to Consider Anal Gland Surgery in Dogs?
My 7-year-old chocolate lab has been dealing with chronic anal gland infections since Feb. 09 (left gland). We tried various antibiotics, hot compresses, regular expressions, and hypoallergenic food. I have spent thousands at the vet. I am wondering if now it's time for surgery.
What questions should I ask to learn more about anal glad surgery? How do I find the best surgeon in my area (San Diego) who has lots of successful experience with this kind of surgery? What if money is an issue (how do I have that conversation with the surgeon)?
Anal glands are a savory subject for a Monday morning.
Consider yourself lucky if you don't know what anal glands are. You may want to stop reading now. But just in case . . .
The anal glands consist of two sacs adjacent to the anus in dogs and cats. They are connected to the anus by small ducts. They produce a fluid that smells like a combination of feces and rotting fish--once you have smelled it, you will recognize it for life.
When animals defecate the glands normally empty spontaneously. But for some unfortunate animals the emptying does not always occur. This causes the affected gland or glands to become distended and uncomfortable. Impacted glands also can become infected.
Most anal gland issues can be solved by manually expressing (emptying) the glands every now and then. But some very unfortunate animals (with very unfortunate owners) suffer from chronic, intractable anal gland problems. Chronic infections and impactions can lead to a major quality of life issue for everyone in the house.
There is good news: the anal glands can be removed surgically. This usually permanently cures even the worst anal gland issues (unless cancer is involved).
There is also, unfortunately, bad news when it comes to anal gland surgery. The surgery has a relatively high rate of complications including infection (think about the surgical site--it can't be kept clean), pain, failure to remove every last bit of gland (leading to ongoing problems), and anal leakage.
Wendy, your best bet is to start by talking to your regular vet. Ask her opinion of the surgery, and ask for a referral to an experienced surgeon. This is not a surgery for a new veterinary graduate to perform. Ask the surgeon specifically about pain control, infections, and the surgeon's personal rate of more serious complications such as fecal incontinence.
Ask the surgeon up-front how much the procedure will cost. It will not be cheap to have a good surgeon perform the procedure. However, in the long run you and your dog will be much better off with a good surgeon than with a fly-by-night operation.
Photo: the glands in question are on the other end of the dog.