Wednesday 6th September, 2023

Why you shouldn’t worry about anal gland surgery

Anal gland infection must be a miserable condition for dogs. A piece of leftover evolution, serving no purpose for our modern companions, they abscessate and irritate. Yet as a profession, we tend to just keep squeezing them – a procedure that must be unpleasant in itself!


In rare instances it has been known that these annoying little glands can rupture internally and lead to peritonitis, but we are all more familiar with those horrible fistulae on the thighs of dogs that are so painful and unpleasant.


Making a difference


As strange as it is to champion anal glands as a crusade, we at MSM Vets feel strongly that we should be removing more of these pesky glands. In our experience it makes a huge difference to the quality of life of dogs – not to mention the benefits to their owners who don’t have to make regular trips to the vets or make awkward explanations to guests at dinner parties as to why their dog is doing the ‘bum surf’!


We know what comes next! What about incontinence, that’s a major issue, right? Well, according to a Journal of Small Animal Practice paper by T.M Charlesworth in 2014, not so much. A retrospective 10-year study showed that no dogs had permanent incontinence after the surgery. None!


While this is only a small study, others do support this assertion and we have to be careful about propagated myth. Articles have been written citing papers which date back to the 1960s but our husbandry and surgery are in a very different place today.


Fifteen percent of cases did have some faecal issues post-op and we are sure the surgery does move things around, but don’t forget we put a purse string suture in all these patients – something we appreciate must be a little ouchy for a few days as well!


A better option


That JSAP paper also noted that adenectomies performed using gel had higher complication rates and, on initial introduction to this technique, it certainly didn’t seem elegant at all – quite the contrary, in fact.  


There will be those out there who love this method, and familiarity is wonderful. If you are assessing your outcomes and getting consistently good results, don’t change! However, if you are starting out then the balloon catheter technique is wonderful.


It’s inexpensive, only requiring a cheap foley catheter and £50-£100 of instruments, if you don’t already have them, and comes with a shallow learning curve for your average surgeon.


Anal adenectomy should be understood, recommended and made available in all general practices. Balloon catheter anal gland adenectomy – viva la revolution!

For more information on surgical mentoring for this technique, email us at

Posted by Rhea Alton