May issue

May issue
May issue

Monday, 11 July 2011

Cold feet

My three-year-old Pug, Boris, is suffering from blocked anal glands. They become blocked so often that my vet has suggested giving Boris an operation to have them removed. I have been with my vet for 30 years and he has been brilliant with my other dogs so I do trust him but there is some doubt in my mind and I can’t shift it. I suffer from arthritis and find it very difficult to empty them myself, although I have done so and continue to try.

I was a vet nurse for five years and have never hesitated to allow my own dogs to undergo necessary routine teeth removals or for pyometra, for example, but I am worried about this operation. My son has helped me to search internet forums and the overwhelming opinion seems to be that Pug owners should avoid this operation going ahead. The operation is planned for this Thursday, but my vet told me last Friday to ring him today if I still had doubts, and I am thinking about postponing it.

I wonder if changing his diet might help? He is on medium junior Royal Canin and has been since he was a pup – his breeder said it was ok for him to have junior food rather than puppy food as a pup because it’s all dog food. I’m not sure if this is truly the case, but apart from blocked anal glands, he is a very healthy and happy dog in all other respects. I have started adding spinach to his diet too.

Has anyone else had a dog who has had this operation? Is this a common operation? I would love to hear from anyone who has, and even more so if the op was carried out on a Pug. He is clearly stressed by the problem and I think he must be in pain. I do not want to prolong his pain, but I do not want to put him under a stressful operation that may not help.

I really want to make an informed decision on this, because Boris is so much more than just a dog and I love him to bits. I am happy to change his diet – I would cook for him if it made him better. I would be really very grateful for any advice.

Thank you very much

Joan, by phone

Alison Logan, vet, says...

The anal sacs lie just inside the anus, at four and eight o’clock as you look at your dog’s backside. They fill with a fluid which has a smell all of its own, quite fishy but not in a pleasant way. When dogs fight, there is often a fishy smell because the anal sacs have been released during the confrontation.

They are thought to have a role in territorial marking. Under normal circumstances, the fluid they contain passes onto faeces as the bowels are evacuated, marking them as belonging to the dog. Personally, I find it hard to believe that each dog has a unique smell for its anal sac fluid.

If the anal sacs do not empty properly but accumulate this fluid, they can become very full and cause the dog all manner of irritation. This may manifest as:
- Scooting – the characteristic dragging of the rear across the floor, usually when you have visitors of a delicate disposition;
- Biting at the back paws;
- Biting at the tail base;
- Leaping up suddenly as if been stung by an insect;
- Odd behaviour, rushing around for no apparent reason.

Emptying anal sacs is generally a simple matter, either externally or with a gloved finger. Some dogs may find this painful, sometimes needing sedation.

Normal anal sac fluid ranges from a brown liquid to a greeny-white toothpaste-like substance. The fluid being warm, it is not uncommon to detect an infection, usually indicated by the presence of blood in the fluid. Rarely, an abscess may develop which is incredibly painful for the dog, and it may burst through the skin. Antibiotics and pain relief are often sufficient but it may be necessary to flush the infected sacs under sedation.

Recurrent anal sac infections and abscessation are a common reason for removal to be recommended. This is not surgery to be undertaken lightly so you are quite right to be giving this careful thought. Faecal incontinence is the major concern, albeit a rare complication. There is also the need for general anaesthesia so the age and general condition of your dog need to be considered. However, if your dog is suffering from repeated anal sac infections and abscesses then removing the anal sacs will solve that.

If your vet has recommended anal sac removal because of a growth in one or both sacs, then there are other factors to consider.

If you are at all unsure about putting your dog through this procedure, then I would go back to your vet to discuss it with him at greater length. He really will not mind talking it over with you because this is an important decision you are making on your dog’s behalf. Your vet is in the best position to advise you because he knows you and your dog and the history leading up to his recommendation to have the anal sacs removed. He will want to know that you are happy and giving fully informed consent for the procedure before he goes ahead.


  1. Yes diet makes a big difference. Many dogs I have encountered with Anal Gland issues are on the expensive highly processed foods. Try giving your dog some raw carrot and chicken wings, these are high in roughage and can make a huge difference. I helped a lady who was only a week away from having her dog operated on, the introduction of raw food and also changing to greyhound maintenance food prevented her GSD from having surgery.

  2. I'm in two minds about posting, but felt I had to ... my Lab x had her anal glands done when she was about 18 months old. On the one hand the outcome was great, because it did cure the problem and she was getting increasingly nervous about going to the vet's for all that emptying, so it was good to stop all that. HOWEVER, in our case - and I can only speak from personal experience - she was in a LOT of pain following the op. When I got her home she was crouched and would only move in short, scuttling, sideways movements. I had to take her back to the vet (both of us were in a lot of distress) for more pain relief and another's day's stay. So, (and the reason I decided to post) I'd advise getting reassurance that Boris will remain at the surgery and will get plenty of pain meds until truly ready to go home. I'm convinced my girl was discharged too early. I was given no pain relief pills for her for home use, either, so do enquire about this. It was the most traumatic thing I've experienced as a dog owner, so I wanted to speak up and perhaps help you and Boris avoid what Bea and I went through. Bea is nearly 9 now and, apart from the initial pain probs, has been fine in that area ever since. Good luck!

  3. Are you cleaning them out every time he/she has a bath. And put sunflower oil in his food. I would not have it done, but I would talk to Dicks or the Vet colleges.

  4. I had my papillion operated on when he was 10. It was a great success with him only experiencing a little discomfort the first time he tried to poo - on the same day as the op. He was great after. The only concern I have is the reason for having this done. My pap experienced many anal gland infections which required antibiotics and the removal of the glands was the last resort. I would suggest changing his diet first and trying other things if it's just a build up without infection. Also, why is he still on Junior food? I would have thought he would be on adult by now. My Borzoi went on to Adult food (Royal Canin) at 15 months as suggested on the packet. Saying that, I had to change it to Hills as he was a bit 'loose' on the RC. but fine on the Hills Adult (for big dogs) Hope this helps. PS. I don't want to be 'anonymous' with this blog, but it won't allow me put anything else in the box....

  5. I too think that this could be a diet related problem, and that feeding a more 'natural' food could help with this problem.

    Personally I think that too many problems can be attributed to the dry foods that are being fed for our convience, and not our dogs. How can these be a natural diet.

    If you do not want to try the BARF feeding method, then maybe try a natural cooked food such as Forthglade or Naturediet. Neither contain artificial additives or colourings, and the protein source is a good one, unlike many dry foods, which contain things like meat derivatives, oil that has been recycled from resturants, and literally the sweepings from the floor. Dogs wouldn't naturally eat cereals like wheat, maize or oats, yet with many foods this is the first ingredient on the Typical Analysis list. They are cheap fillers, and in the long run could and do have serious health risks for our dog's.

    Feeding your dog naturally will also keep your dog healthy and the teeth in tip top condition.