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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Carcinoma of the Anal Gland

Updated: October 1st, 2018

One of the less common cancers is carcinoma of the anal gland.

Carcinoma of the anal gland occurs on the rear end of dogs, and are found on the anus, in it, or on the edge where the haired skin starts.  Sometimes they can be found only by doing a rectal exam, which is a good reason every senior (or early senior) dog should have a rectal exam, even females.

There are scent glands within the wall of the anus in dogs and many other animals, which are called anal sacs.  These sacs have anal glands within them which are used for marking territory.  Anal glands are also located in other areas in and around the anus.

These tumors start from an anal gland.

Most commonly, anal sac carcinomas are found in older female dogs who have been spayed.  Sometimes male dogs get the tumor however.

Whenever one of these growths is suspected, a test should be done to see whether the tumor is an anal gland carcinoma, or whether it is a different tumor type.

This type of tumor can sometimes cause elevated blood calcium levels, which will increase your vet’s suspicion of anal sac carcinomas.

However, for real diagnosis, a test of the actual tumor material is needed.  One of the most widely used is a fine needle aspirate.  Sometime though, a biopsy (either before or after removal) is the first step to get a diagnosis, since the tumor may be too sensitive, or in an area that  cannot be reached, using a fine needle aspirate procedure.  Another instance when a biopsy would be used is if the fine needle aspirate was not conclusive.

In this case the growth may be removed or sampled so a piece of tissue is submitted to the lab.

Results of the pathology report usually are returned in 10 days or so.

A plan should be made at this point. Usually the tumor is staged, and an assessment of spread is made.  Using the results of blood and urine testing, X-rays, ultrasound, and sometimes other tools, an idea of how much spread has already happened can be formed.

We should keep in mind though that some of these tumors will spread microscopically (micrometastasis).

The most important treatment step is to have them surgically removed, with as wide margins as possible.  Sometimes they will spread into lymph nodes under the lower spine, or to the lungs.  These tumor should be considered at moderately aggressive overall, and can endanger the lives of dogs with them.

Radiation and chemotherapy are used often along with these steps, depending on how aggressive the tumor is and whether spread has happened or is considered likely in the future.

In the next post, we will look at this dog cancer in more detail.


Dr D


Leave a Comment

  1. Susan Kazara Harper on June 23, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    OH Dana, what wonderful news! Congratulations to you all and well done for changing those statistics. Give him a big “good boy” from us all!

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on June 16, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Dana, I’m guessing that the surgery either has, or has not happened now. And truly we could not make a recommendation in this post. These decisions must be made by you with guidance from your vet and all the information available to you. How is your boy?

  3. Dana Nuno on May 30, 2015 at 6:47 am

    My dog was diagnosed with this 2.5 years ago when he was 10. We did removal of the still small tumor and low dose c-cyclophosphamide chemo therapy for about 3 months. He did well for all this time with the exception of other issues related to hind legs and even a bout of pancreatitis due to steroid use. All resolved but now our vet found the tumor has grown back and presents itself to approx. The size of a plum!! We have surgery scheduled for next Friday but I am fearful due to its size and now his age, almost 13! He is a big fellow, lab mix and now weighs 64 lbs. he had weighed in at 75 lbs, but his bout with pancreatitis left him unable to eat for nearly 7 days. He also goes down and stays down for days due to his bad hind legs, but it always resolves ( without steroids)! And he gets back up. Do you feel that this surgery is recommended due to his history and the size of the new tumor, which is where the first tumor was located, left side anal gland area?? Any input would be great!! Thanks!

    • Dana Nuno on June 16, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      Yes, he had the surgery and it went well!!! He is recovering well!! We were so torn but knew his odds were bad if we didn’t do anything, so we took a chance!! He is a true miracle having made 2 1/2 years since his original diagnosis! Hopefully we will make another 2 1/2 years!! Thanks for your post!!

  4. Lynne on October 6, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you for this post. My 10-year-old mini Dachshund was just found to have an anal gland tumor. Since I began doing her grooming at home and he had not done any expressing of anal glands like the former groomer did, I thought the little bump might be the anal gland needing to be emptied. I took her to a new groomer who confirmed it was not that and that I should get her to that ASAP because it was probably a tumor. I discovered this only because I baby wipe her butt and paws every time she goes poop and have noticed a little bump on one side for the past few days. I believe that we got this early, fortunately. The blood test revealed that she is slightly anemic and I have vitamin drops for her. The lung x-ray looked beautiful. The vet is sending the tissue off to be biopsied and will know more in a few days.

    A friend of mine who also has a couple of small dogs asked how I found out about this. I told her that when your dog sleeps in your bed you probably want to have packages of baby wipes by the door so that when you take her out and bring your baby wiping her boss and her but when I baby wipes her but that’s how I found it. People who don’t do this with their dogs may never notice until they take their dog in for an annual exam.

    If you have any tips on how to make her more comfortable during her recovery I would really appreciate it. Roxie is not just a dog to me she is my co-pilot and I want her to be as comfortable as possible. She’s never been ill before and has never had to deal with a cone (don’t believe she had one when she was spayed). It’s driving her crazy so I took it off for her first night of recovery and have her on the pillow next to me so I can be sure she doesn’t get after it. I’m searching for a ProCollar or some similar cone alternative.

  5. Susan Kazara Harper on August 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Barbara, you are definitely giving that boy all the love and care that he needs. Bless you both. Please let him guide you — don’t feel sad. When he wakes up like ‘let’s play”, just enjoy, and play. He will feel your sadness otherwise. And if there is a little bit of residue that he wants to clean up, consider letting him. It’s natural for him, and part of what dogs just do. Also, if he has nice, solid poos there should not be much residue. Check out the Dog Cancer Diet, if you haven’t already, and just keep loving that boy everyday. Good luck!

  6. Barbara on August 2, 2014 at 3:34 am

    My male 9 year old Brittany, Jazzy, was diagnosed with cancer of his anal gland in June of 2014. The tumor was quite large and when they removed it on July 8 the doctor had to remove part of his sphincter muscle. We were afraid that this would make him fecal incontinent. However, he has somewhat normal bowel movements but some is left behind in the hole that does not close due to his operation. So after every BM he has, I clean the residue from the hole with flushable wipes. Sometimes I put peroxide on the wipe. Sometimes I also take a cue tip and apply neosporin. He constantly try’s to lick his anus areas, so a lot of the time we have him wear a cone collar. We feel so sad for him but right now he seems to be his normal self in every way except for the bowel leakage at times. His appetite is extremely good. We elected not to do chemo or radiation. The vet said we will know when he is ready to leave us. My husband and I try not to dwell on this so we are doing everything we can to make his last days with us as happy and comfortable as we can. We love him so much.

  7. Pam Volland on April 28, 2013 at 2:31 am

    My sweet Max has completed his Chemo treatment as well as the Melphalan. Now 9 months after discovering he has AGC xrays have showed that the cancer has moved to his lymph nodes. His kidneys are not functioning properly too, he is drinking water excessively. The Cancer Dr. said that the lymph node will impede his ability to poop. My ? is what signs should I watch for that he is hurting? Will this be evident if he can’t poop? He is still eating and has not lost any weight. I don’t want him to suffer and I don’t know what to expect. Any advice is appreciated. Also how long does he have. Thank you. Pam

  8. Julie on March 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm


    How is your dog doing I just read your post and relate ….I just found out about our Jake has this type of cancer…Your story sounds alot like mine… would like to hear from you

  9. Sarah on January 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Just reading this back I can see how upset I was spelling is terrible. Unfortunately it appears the sub lumbar masses were Pancreas related tumours…. he started to wee lots of blood in his urine and on 14 January and we made the difficult decision to say goodnight to our wonderful dog of 10 years. RIP Ernie xx

  10. Sarah on January 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Hi All,

    Our beautiful black lab was not concentrating his urine back as far as September…he had a petit Mal seizure just before Christmas and on new year day I noticed he was not right… Over the last week or so he has been diagnosed with anal carcinoma. There are a further two masses in his sub lumbar that are putting pressure on his poop pipe. Fine needle aspirate on anal mass confirmed but they did not get a good reading from the other mass.

    He is also hypercalcimc since jan, elevated but in normal levels before that. He is 10 oncology is a flight away to the uk (we are in guernsey) our vet is doing all he xn calling oncology or advice does not think he will be with us long…. Operating at this ge carries complications… How ill we know when the me is right o o he right thing!?

    Sarah x

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