In today’s VETgirl online veterinary continuing education video, we demonstrate how to surgically treat an anal gland abscess. This video is of a 4 year old, MC, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is presenting for acutely acting painful and excessive grooming of the perineal region. On physical examination, we identified swelling, inflammation, pain, and redness of the right anal gland. Upon further exam, we can see a small necrotic area of tissue in the center of the surface of the anal gland.

Using your sedative of choice (we like hydromorphone and diazepam, personally), we clipped a large area around the perineal region, wrapped the tail (to help keep it clean) and gently scrubbed the area. Next step? Making the necrotic lesion or opening wider, so we can manually express and evacuate the purulent material. Next, using a dilute chlohexadine solution, we’re going to flush out the anal gland. Make sure to press the shrine against the skin to help form a seal – then flush copiously with pressure to help dislodge any purulent material from the anal gland duct. We do this several times until the lavage fluid is clear. Next, using an olive tip, curved syringe, or a 20 gauge polyethylene intravenous catheter (or whatever appropriately sized diameter you can find), attempt to cannulate the anal gland duct to further flush out the duct. You want to do this until the fluid is clear.

Don’t forget about the other anal gland – it’s potentially affected also. Make sure to express the contralateral anal gland to empty it. This one’s a juicy one, which is why we always like to put the affected anal gland on the “up” side so the contralateral anal gland contents don’t get into our surgical opening. Using the same technique, cannulate the duct and flush the other anal gland until the fluid is clear.

This is a quick, simple procedure that should be done under sedation. Sometimes you can try medically managing these (with antibiotics, warm compresses, etc.), but when they are this purulent, a flush is a must! Don’t forget that ecollar, antibiotic therapy, and analgesics (like tramadol or NSAIDs) and to recheck them 5-7 days later to make sure it’s healing.

Most importantly, always close your mouth while flushing or expressing anal glands. Take it from VETgirl.

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