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Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS  

Specialties: surgery

Interests: Pet Owner Education
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A common disease in anal sacs

Sep 13, 2009 - 5 comments

anal sac















Bailey is a 10 year old Lab.  His owner brought him to a local colleague.  At her practice, a yearly exam rightfully includes full blood work. This means a CBC (Complete Blood Count) which looks at red and white blood cell counts, and a chemistry, which analyzes the levels of kidney values, liver values and some minerals.

Bailey’s calcium level was high (aka hypercalcemia).  That prompted his vet to perform a rectal exam.  This is the wonderful test where a gloved finger is introduced you-know-where.

And guess what, a walnut-sized mass was found in place of the right anal sac.  It probably should be about the size of a sweet pea in a Lab.  Bailey was referred to us to have surgery to remove the mass (this is called anal sacculectomy), which we of course sent to the lab to be analyzed.

One week later, the biopsy confirmed anal sac carcinoma, the most common type of cancer in that area.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

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by Tammy2009, Sep 13, 2009
How common is cancer in the anal sac?

Are those dogs that have constant anal gland problems (or those that need constant expression) at more of a risk?

Do you check for other tumours, or how likely is it to spread?

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by darlasmom, Sep 13, 2009
Good Afternoon Dr. Zeltzman:

Darla is an 8 year old Silky terrier. 8 months ago I noticed a grape sized mass on the side of her anus while palpating the area.  It seems to be connected to her hind bone quarters in that area and is almost tucked up in there, is symmetrical, hard and mobile but attached in a small area. It has grown slightly and now I can feel it when I pick her up. She has been more bothered lately than usual and bites at her rear end and drags in across the floor.  She has always been highly food allergic so I cannot say this behavior is out of the ordinary for her; just has been accelerated. She is on a single meat source no grain diet and also has recurrent ear infections (we believe from food alergies). She has been a "special" dog from the beginning but the growth on her back side has me concerned. What could it be? I am unfortunately on a rather tight budget now and want to offer her the best care I am able.  Any information you might share before I begin some formal diagnosis or treatment would be much appreciated.

Kelly Burns and Darla
Miami, FL

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by Heather3418, Sep 14, 2009
Oh the anal sacs!  My poodles and Pekingnese frequently had their anal sacs checked by my vet at their physicals.  They were frequently squeezed and drained by my vet and smell is horrendous.

I did not read through the other posts, so forgive me if I repeat something that has already been said.  If you see your animals frequently scooting their bottoms across the floor, do not always assume that it is a case of internal parasites.  It may be that the animal's rear-end simply itches (which even happens to us human's, but without scraping our rears along the floor, of course)  or it could mean a clogged anal gland.  Especially is you see the animal go back and smell the area where he just scooted across the floor.  If it's their anal glands that are bothering them, I saw my poodle flop to the floor to rub the scent all over her body.  Which to me, meant a nasty smell.  That would prompt a visit to the vet, which usually showed a clogged gland.

Correct me if I am wrong doctor, but aren't the small breeds more susceptible to clogged anal glands?  My vet seemed to pay particular attention to these glands in my smaller dogs, even though I know the glands can become clogged and infected in larger breeds.

Such interesting subjects you bring up doctor...LOL  All kidding aside, I love your threads.  I learn so much from them.  Thank you for your contributions.  Wish your clinic was near me.  I would love to have a doctor like you, taking care of my animals.

All the Best and thank you again for all the great threads,

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by ginger899, Sep 14, 2009
It's always a good idea to take dogs for fairly regular (maybe once a year in fit healthy dogs, or six-or nine monthly in older dogs) blood panel tests. This picks up any things that might be going amiss, including cancers, which, if caught in early-stage, stand a better chance of successful treatment. Calcium levels being up beyond the 'normal' zones could indicate some kind of cancer in early stage.

Avatar universal
by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Sep 14, 2009
Dear all,

I can't reproduce here what I already wrote elsewhere, but I will try to briefly answer:


>How common is cancer in the anal sac?
Rare overall, but if you're a surgeon it seems like it happens all the time!

>Are those dogs that have constant anal gland problems (or those that need constant expression) at more of a risk?
Possibly. One theory says that ongoing irritation (inflammation) can lead to cancer.  That said, it's typically 2 separate issues.

>how likely is it to spread?
Anal sac cancer cancerous tumors spread readily, esp. to a lymph node under the lower spine.

Kelly :
I really can't diagnose your puppy's problem via the Internet and would highly suggest you see your vet. Not all masses neard the anus are cancer. But if it is, the earlier you treat it, the better for Darla.

Thanks for the kind words!

>aren't the small breeds more susceptible to clogged anal glands
yes, I believe you're right. Poodles (mini-, toy-), chichis are supposed to be predisposed.  But problems can occur in ALL breeds, and even in cats!

I couldn't agree more. A yearly check up, or even better every 6 months in older pets, and regular b lood work, are great things to provide your pet.

As they say, prevention is the best medicine. It's true!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

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