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A pain in the backside: study examines anal sac disorders in dogs

Anal sac disorders are relatively common in dogs, and in most cases are simple to treat.

The anal glands are a pair of small sacs that sit just inside a dog’s bottom and contain a strong-smelling liquid used for marking territory. Healthy anal glands empty naturally when a dog poos, but if this doesn’t happen they can over-fill and become blocked.

Left untreated, blocked anal glands can lead to more serious problems such as infections and abscesses, explains veterinary charity PDSA.

Until now, there has been little research on how often anal sac disorders occur in different breeds and how they are treated – but a new study published in the journal Veterinary Record seeks to redress this, using data from the Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass programme.

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In particular, the research focused on identifying breeds with increased or reduced risk of anal sac disorders. Compared with crossbred dogs, six breeds had increased risk of an anal sac disorder: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (x 3.31), King Charles Spaniel (x 3.30), Cockapoo (x 2.59), Shih-tzu (x 1.66), Bichon Frise (x 1.63) and Cocker Spaniel (x 1.24).

Conversely, six breeds had reduced risk: Boxer (x 0.29), German Shepherd Dog (x 0.37), Lurcher (x 0.51), Staffordshire Bull Terrier (x 0.56), Border Collie (x 0.60) and Labrador Retriever (x 0.70).

The researchers also noted that there was a greater prevalence among flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds, which had 2.6 times the risk for anal sac disorders compared with long-faced dogs.

Overall, anal sac disorders affected 4.4% of dogs and the risks of anal sac problems were higher in older dogs.

One in five (20%) dogs with anal sac problems were prescribed antimicrobials while 12% were given pain relief. Anal sacs were surgically removed in under 1% of affected dogs.

Vets recommended dietary change in 8.18% of cases and weight loss in 1.14% of cases.

Welcoming the study, Bill Lambert, head of health and welfare at the Kennel Club, said: “For most dog owners, anal sac problems aren’t exactly a common topic of conversation, but this research demonstrates that they certainly should be. They are one of the top three most commonly diagnosed canine disorders and are literally a pain in the backside for thousands of dogs each year.

“This research is invaluable in helping us identify the types of dogs most at risk of developing anal sac disorders. Ultimately, this will help to target owners that may need support in spotting the initial signs, as well as ways to treat affected dogs and ways to prevent it occurring in the future.”

If your dog needs veterinary treatment, the costs can soon add up. Dog insurance from Purely Pets may help provide your four-legged friend with the care they need.