What is the Deal with Anal Glands?

Based on the name alone, anal sacs (more commonly known as anal glands) may not be something you want to know much about. But at some point, in most dogs’ lives (and some cat’s), they may need their anal sacs expressed.

So as pet owners it is a good idea to have a general knowledge of the anal sacs, as problems can arise with them in all breeds. If your pet has expressed their anal sacs before, you probably know the associated scent all too well; musky, fishy, and foul! Many pet owners will book regular appointments at their veterinarian or their groomer to have the anal sacs expressed. A common question we get here at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital is: “But what are they?!”, “Why do our pets have them and what function do they serve?”

Anal sacs are small pouches on either side of the anus that store sebaceous secretions from the anal glands. The sacs discharge their contents through small ducts positioned at about the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions on either side of the anus. The colour and consistency of the secretions can vary, but the smell is almost always rather unpleasant.

These sacs are often referred to as “scent glands” as they serve to mark an animals’ territory, as well as to identify other dogs and cats by their unique odour. Ideally, the anal sacs are expressed naturally whenever an animal has a bowel movement; the movement of the feces causes the anal glands to express automatically.

Our pets can run into problems with their anal glands for many different reasons. Diet, weight, food and or environmental allergies, breed and conformation can all play a part in causing anal sac problems. The most common problems seen are anal gland impactions or infections. Although impaction in itself can be uncomfortable, it can also lead to infection, which can lead to abscesses. Abscesses are quite painful and do require medical attention.

There are many different signs that may indicate anal sac problems in our dogs, as well as our cats, although cats may be more subtle about it. Scooting or dragging the bum along the ground is the most common behaviour that owners often see, but this is not the only sign indicating potential problems. A few signs you may notice are excessive licking, difficult or painful bowel movements, a swelling under the skin, redness of the skin, and/or blood or pus around the bum or on furniture around the house.

Adding fibre or fish oils can help some of our pets avoid problems, while others may require further intervention in regards to diet, or medications, etc. If your pet is already having problems, first speak to your veterinarian to figure out the cause. If your pet is overweight, figure out the reason why and create a plan to get them down to a healthy and manageable weight.

One thing to be aware of is that frequent anal sac expressions do cause some degree of inflammation which can potentially create problems in the future. It is a good idea to be sure they are not overdone, and not done unnecessarily. Speak to your family veterinarian about your pets’ individual requirements and together you can come up with an appropriate schedule for your pet’s needs.

Submitted by Jessica McKay, RVT 


Get a Cupcake and Support BC Animals in Need During Treat Week (Feb 24 - Mar 1, 2020)

Van Isle Veterinary Hospital is super excited to be hosting our 4th annual cupcake day fundraiser! BCSPCA celebrates “Treat Week” across the Province from Feb 24th – March 1st 2020 where business, pet owners and animal lovers can bake up a storm and sell treats with the proceeds going to BC animals in need.

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Last updated: December 2, 2021

Dear Clients,

Welcome back! We are happy to be able to invite our pet parents back into the hospital with their pets!! However, we are still following many of our previous health and safety protocols which have know been implemented as part of our communicable disease prevention protocol. We appreciate your patience, understanding and cooperation as we navigate through these times together. By helping to keep each other safe, we can continue to keep your pets safe.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!

We continue to see a significant demand for these types of services. We want to thank everyone in advance for your patience while we work through this. Sometimes this means wait times of several weeks to be seen for non-urgent appointments. This allows our team to properly assess and triage those more critical patients that require our immediate attention. Although restrictions have been lifted, our health and safety protocols have not. It is important we continue to follow the guidelines set out by Worksafe BC and put our team’s safety and that of the public first.


Our DVM team is excited to invite you back into our exam rooms with your pets as long as we have the capacity to do so. To maintain a safe distance, we ask that only one pet parent accompany their pet into the exam room with the doctor. You will be asked to sanitize your hands upon entry and please do not enter our hospital if you are feeling unwell, have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have been told to isolate by Island health.


The use of our online store for easy ordering, payment and delivery of our pet's food, flea and tick medications. Orders over $100 can be delivered to your home for free! CLICK HERE


We continue to offer our clients emergency on call services 7 days a week between the hours of 8:00 am and midnight, including stat holidays.

After-hours emergency care will be referred to Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital between the hours of midnight - 8:00 am. They can be reached at 250-933-0913. 

Our regular hours of operation remain the same:

Monday: 8:00 am - 5:30 pm
Tuesday - Friday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm

Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Thank you for helping us make this transition in our health and safety protocols as safe as possible, so our team can be at its best and continue to look after you and your pet!

- Your dedicated team at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital