Click here to learn more.
Nothing raises a stink quite like anal sacs. If you’ve ever noticed a foul, musky odor wafting from your pet, there's a chance that anal sacs are behind it.
In dogs and cats, these small pouches, which store sebaceous secretions from the glands within the sac lining, are located in the anal sphincter. The sacs can discharge their contents through two small ducts positioned at about the four- and eight-o’clock positions on either side of the anus. Although the yellow-brown secretions can vary in consistency from oily to creamy, they almost always have an offensive stench.
“Their principle function seems to be for the production of a distinctive odor,” says Dr. Peter Dodson, professor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “The odors may convey information about the general health and stress levels of the pet.”
It’s possible that anal sacs are vestigial anatomical parts that the ancestors of dogs and cats used to defend themselves through spraying. “In certain species, as dog owners sometimes know all too well, the odor-bearing sebaceous secretion can be propelled, as in the case of skunks,” says Dr. Dodson.
While most domesticated dogs and cats no longer need to use their anal sacs for defense, the structures don’t appear to be necessary for good health. However, anal sacs can become infected, impacted or even rupture.
Your dog will usually let you know there’s a problem by scooting across your favorite carpet. Pets with anal gland problems may also spend an inordinate amount of time licking their rumps.
If you suspect that your pet may have an anal sac problem, consult with your veterinarian. Adding fiber to your pet’s diet may help, but many pets need to have their anal sacs emptied on a regular basis. Your vet can show you how to do it, although most pet owners prefer to leave this task to the professionals.
For answers to other curious questions about animals, check out our other "What's the Deal With . . ." stories.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Jax, who trained to be a K9, sprang into
action when a man being chased by
police hid behind the dog's home.
Did you laugh at Paper Cat or tear up
during Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” ad?
Here are our favorite clips of the year.
Ever wonder why your cat goes into a
crouch and then suddenly leaps? Our
veterinary behaviorist has the answer.
A reader has heard that his puppy risks
getting parvo if she leaves the house or
yard before her last shot at 16…
Think big dogs are more aggressive? Or
that they can’t live in apartments? We’re
here to dispel these…
In his home country of Thailand, the intelligent and attention-loving Korat is a living symbol of luck and prosperity.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.