Dog Anal Gland Removal Pros and Cons

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

I have firsthand experience with the decision-making process that goes into deciding whether or not to surgically remove a dog’s anal glands.

As a former veterinary technician, I have spoken to numerous dog owners who were caught in this dilemma.

Given that there are pros and cons of removing a dog’s anal glands, making a decision might be difficult.

I will examine the numerous deciding criteria in this blog post so that you may choose what is best for your doggy.

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Surgical Anal Gland Removal For Dogs?

Dog Anal Gland Removal Pros and Cons

Anal glands or anal sacs are small glands that are found on either side of a dog’s anus.

They release a pungent fluid that is used to mark their territory and distinguish themselves from other dogs.

However, your dog may experience discomfort or pain if these glands become impacted or infected.

Thus, the surgical excision of the anal glands may be advised in such circumstances.

Although it seems a logical decision, you must remember that the anal glands (scent glands) in dogs have a function, and removing them can change how your dog acts or interacts with other dogs.

You must assess the benefits and drawbacks with your family veterinarian before coming to a final decision.

Let’s dive in to understand the details.

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Benefits of Dog Anal Glands Removal

Benefits of Dog Anal Glands RemovalExplanation
Relief from discomfortSurgical excision of the anal glands can alleviate symptoms like swelling, soreness, discomfort, discharge, and odor
Prevention of future issuesRemoving the anal glands is an effective way to prevent future issues, especially if your dog has a history of them
Less smell and messRemoving the anal glands gets rid of the odor and the messes caused by the fluid leaking out
Improvement in quality of lifeAfter surgery, your dog should experience an improvement in their quality of life by no longer experiencing discomfort or pain related to the anal glands

Relief from discomfort

When the glands’ fluid cannot express itself normally, a blockage results and the anal glands can become impacted.

Swelling, soreness, and discomfort may result from this.

Similar symptoms, as well as discharge and an unpleasant odor, can be brought on by anal sacculitis, another name for anal gland infection.

By removing the cause of the issue, surgical excision of the anal glands can alleviate these symptoms.

Your dog shouldn’t feel any discomfort following the surgery except for maybe the first couple of days during recovery.

Do not need to express manually

Another advantage is the fact that you no longer need to express the glands manually, nor do you have to bring your dog to a vet to do so.

You see, when the glands’ fluid cannot normally express itself, they can become impacted, which is why it can be necessary to physically express the glands in order to clear the obstruction and spare your dog any discomfort.

However, this process can be tedious and uncomfortable for both you and your dog.

And sometimes, the glands are too deep within the anal region, which makes it challenging to express correctly. 

Put simply, a wrong move can lead to more problems for your dog.

Prevention of future issues

It’s important to remember that removing the anal glands does not guarantee that your dog’s anus will never cause them any problems.

The health of this region can also be influenced by other variables, including food and general health.

That said, the surgery is one effective way of preventing any future issues from coming up, especially useful if your dog has a history.

Less smell and mess

The fluid expressed from a dog’s anal glands can really smell and this odor bothers many dog owners, who may decide to have their dog’s anal glands removed in order to get rid of it.

Along with the odor, the fluid can also result in messes.

The fluid can leak out if the glands are damaged or inflamed, leaving stains on your furniture, carpets, and clothing.

Improvement in quality of life

After going through an anal sac removal surgery, your dog should see a vast improvement in their quality of life.

Chronic anal gland problems, such as frequent impaction or infection, can have a serious negative impact on your dog’s everyday life and general well-being.

These conditions can cause discomfort and agony, which can affect your dog’s temperament, energy level, and appetite.

Following the surgery, your dog should no longer have anal gland-related discomfort or pain, enabling them to live a happier and more comfortable life.

Disadvantages of Dog Anal Gland Removal

DisadvantagesDetails
Risk of complicationsInfections, bleeding, and reactions to the anesthetic are possible complications. The exact dangers can be discussed with the vet.
Fecal incontinenceSurgery may result in fecal incontinence, the inability to regulate bowel movements. More common in older dogs and those with compromised immune systems.
AnesthesiaDogs must be put to sleep with anesthesia, which can cause adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, and a drop in blood pressure. More severe issues may occasionally develop.
Cost of surgeryThe cost of the procedure includes anesthetic, surgeon’s fee, prescription drugs, and post-operative care. Payment plans may be available, but most insurance companies do not cover the procedure.

Risk of complications

As with any surgery, there is a chance that anything could go wrong during or after the operation.

Dog anal glands bleeding, Infections, and reactions to the anesthetic are a few examples of complications.

The exact dangers connected with the treatment can be discussed with your veterinarian, who can also take preventative measures.

To lower the chance of complications, you must follow your veterinarian’s recommendations both before and after the procedure.

Fecal incontinence

Surgery to remove the anal gland may occasionally result in the rare but serious consequence of fecal incontinence, which is the inability to regulate bowel movements.

The muscles and nerves that regulate bowel and anus movements are close to the anal glands, which means that surgery might have an impact on them.

Fecal incontinence is more common in canines with spinal cord injuries or neurological diseases that have already had problems with their anal muscles or nerves.

Additionally, older dogs or those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to developing it.

Anesthesia

Your dog must be put to sleep using anesthesia throughout the surgery, which entails risks of its own.

Dogs who undergo anesthesia can have the adverse effects of nausea, vomiting, and a drop in blood pressure.

The majority of the time, these side effects are manageable with medication or other forms of supportive care.

However, more severe issues including allergic responses or breathing problems might occasionally develop.

Cost of surgery

The price of the treatment can be a real stumbling block as this is not exactly a simple procedure.

It will depend on the particular situation and the veterinarian you choose.

The cost of the procedure will typically cover the anesthetic, the surgeon’s fee, and any required prescription drugs or post-operative care, which adds up quickly.

Some vets will offer payment plans that can help you out financially, or you may consult your insurer about their coverage. 

In my experience though, most insurers do not cover this as it is considered an elective procedure.

What Are Dog Anal Glands? Anatomy of the Anal Glands

Dog anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are small grape-sized glands located on either side of a dog’s anus, typically at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions.

They produce a strong-smelling fluid that is used for marking territory and identifying other dogs.

The pressure applied by the anal muscles during defecation activates the glands, aiding in the sacs’ eventual emptying.

As a result, a foul liquid that has the odor of rotting fish comes out with feces, and this thick liquid typically has a range of colors, including deep green, yellow, brown, and black.

When a dog’s anal glands need to be expressed, you might have noticed them “scooting” their rear on the ground.

If their anal glands are stuffed up or painful, some dogs may also lick or bite at their anus.

At this point, you might need to intervene and express the gland manually or bring your dog to the vet.

Can dogs anal glands be removed?

Yes, dogs’ anal glands can be surgically removed if necessary. However, this procedure is typically considered a last resort and is only recommended in specific cases where the glands are consistently causing severe issues and other treatment options have been exhausted.

Common Anal Gland Issues and Symptoms in Dogs

There are several common problems that can affect a dog’s anal glands and these include:

Impaction

Impaction happens when the anal glands’ fluid cannot normally express itself, causing an obstruction or becoming plugged. Your dog may have swelling, soreness, and discomfort as a result.

Infection

Anal sacculitis, another name for anal gland infection, is an inflammation of the anal glands. It may manifest as swelling, discomfort, discharge, and an unpleasant odor.

Abscess

A pus-filled pocket known as an abscess develops when an infection is not appropriately managed. Anal gland abscesses can be uncomfortable and may need to be treated with medications and drainage.

Tumors

The anal glands can occasionally form tumors which may need to be surgically removed depending on whether they are malignant or benign.

Can a Dog’s Anal Glands Get Blocked?

Yes, a dog’s anal glands can get impacted or clogged, which prevents the glands from normally secreting fluid.

This fluid accumulates when the glands are affected, which can be painful and uncomfortable for your dog.

Such a situation can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Lack of fiber in the diet: Your dog may have trouble producing enough bulk in their stools to naturally express their anal glands if their diet is lacking in fiber
  • Obesity: The extra fat surrounding the anus in overweight or obese dogs may make it difficult for them to express their anal glands
  • Inactivity: Dogs who are inactive or who do not exercise enough may not produce enough pressure to allow the anal glands to express themselves naturally
  • Medical issue: Certain medical conditions, such as allergies or inflammatory bowel disease, can contribute to anal gland impaction

Is Anal Sac Expression Really Necessary?

Is Anal Sac Expression Really Necessary?

Anal gland expression, also known as anal sac expression or emptying, is the process of manually expressing the fluid from a dog’s anal glands.

The good thing is, anal glands are typically expressed by dogs themselves as they pass motion.

A dog should not require having their anal glands expressed if they have a well-balanced diet that has adequate fiber, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of activity.

There is nothing you need to do if your dog is not experiencing any problems.

However, when the glands are impacted or inflamed and unable to express themselves spontaneously, intervention is required.

When is It Necessary to Remove a Dog’s Anal Glands?

Anal sacculectomy, commonly known as the surgical removal of a dog’s anal glands, is normally only advised after all other treatment options have failed or when the dog is experiencing persistent or serious issues.

When the glands are continually affected or contaminated and do not react to manual expression or medicine, surgery might be the best option.

Non-surgical options for dog anal gland problems

When it comes to addressing anal gland problems in dogs, there are non-surgical solutions that can often do the trick.

  • One way is by regularly having a professional express the glands. It’s like giving them a little squeeze to help empty them out.
  • Another approach is through dietary adjustments. By providing your furry friend with food to help express glands and ensuring their stool consistency is just right, it can promote a more natural emptying of the glands.
  • Additionally, adding fiber to their diet can also help regulate their bowel movements and assist in keeping those pesky glands from getting clogged.

What Happens During a Dog’s Anal Gland Removal?

For this surgery, your dog won’t be conscious and won’t be able to feel discomfort throughout the surgery because it is carried out under general anesthesia.

No painful procedure, dog parents.

To make sure that your dog is healthy enough for surgery, the veterinarian will do a complete physical check prior to the treatment and could advise blood work.

They will also answer any questions you may have about the treatment plan and go over the specifics of the operation with you.

During the procedure, the vet will make an incision near your dog’s anus and extract the anal glands, after which the area will be stitched or stapled shut.

Usually, it takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete the treatment.

Does Anal Sacculectomy Always Involve Both Anal Sacs?

The situation and severity of your dog’s glands will determine whether to remove one or both glands.

If both glands are damaged or infected and do not respond to previous treatments, it may be necessary to remove both of them.

In some situations, if the other gland is operating normally, it can be possible to remove just one then.

Is Permanent Dogs Anal Gland Removal Effective?

In my experience, dogs with persistent anal problems, such as recurrent impaction or infection, will benefit from permanent anal gland excision.

Your dog’s quality of life may be enhanced and discomfort will be relieved as a result of the surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do dogs feel better after gland expression?

By manually expressing your dog’s anal glands, you can both ease any discomfort they feel and potentially prevent any unwanted issues from forming. The majority of owners prefer to have their dog’s anal glands expressed by a groomer or at the veterinary office because it is stinky and gets messy quickly.

What should I do if my dog has irritated anal glands?

If your dog shows signs of anal gland irritation such as persistent scooting, licking, straining to poop, or blood in the stools, you should get them evaluated by a vet immediately. This is the most effective way to determine the right treatment.

What is an anal gland abscess or burst anal gland?

An anal gland abscess is a painful anal gland infection. The sac fills with pus when it is infected and the infection stops the sac’s anal fluid, which has a bad odor, from emptying. With excessive fluids, the anal gland expands and might even burst.

What is anal sacculitis?

Anal sacculitis is a condition marked by the inflammation of the anal glands. It is characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the anal sac, which can cause discomfort, pain, and itching in pets. If left untreated, anal sacculitis can lead to further complications and can be quite frustrating for both the pet and the pet owner.

How can I increase the fiber in my dog’s diet?

There are several ways to increase the fiber intake in your dog’s diet such as feeding it canned pumpkin, more vegetables like broccoli and spinach, switching to high-fiber dog food, or adding a fiber supplement.

In Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Dog Anal Gland Removal

Anal gland removal in dogs is a serious procedure, and therefore you should think it through carefully before deciding.

Before making a choice, I highly recommend you have a lengthy discussion with your veterinarian and thoroughly balance the benefits and drawbacks.

Your veterinarian will be able to give you personalized guidance based on the particular requirements and medical background of your dog and recommend the proper treatment required.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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