Friday, April 12, 2013

Atresia Ani, What Happens If You Are Born Unable To Poop?

I received this question anonymously yesterday.

Dear Dr. Magnifico:

I am a breeder and  I have a female pup recently born without an anus.  As of right now she is in no immediate stress due to this.  My local vet is suggesting euthanasia.  Do you have any experience with young puppies having this condition and if surgery is an option ?  I did a search on vets that may have experience with this condition and your name came up. 

As a responsible breeder I know euthansia needs to be considered.  However more times than most compassion takes over and I want at least try to look into corrective surgery before I take that step.  Should this be an option the puppy would be placed as a rescue, with a responsible owner.

My reply;


Thanks for your question.

There are a few very important points to discuss and consider as you face this pups dilemma.

Atresi Ani is the anatomical condition that your puppy has. It  is an embryologic anamoly (fancy way of saying a birth defect). It occurs when the colon fails to meet and fuse with the anus. 

I know that sounds confusing but in fetal development there are two tubes, the intestine and the anus that develop as tunnels and advance toward each other. When the two tunnels meet they are supposed to fuse and make one long tunnel that leads from the mouth to the anus. This allows food to go in and feces to go out.

When the tubes do not fuse the resultant puppy ends up with a pouch for a gut and an anus. The feces get packed into a  colon that cannot empty. This is a life threatening disaster. It can only be treated two ways, surgery or death/euthanasia.

In my 15 years of veterinary medicine I have seen it twice. Once in a puppy and again in a kitten. Both times the babies were euthanized. In both cases the diagnosis was made tragically too late to have surgery be a viable option.

Without knowing the age of the puppy it is hard for me to provide guidance on what to do, but one thing is certain IF you want to try to save this pup you need to find a surgeon willing to do this surgery ASAP. The longer that feces stays in the closed colon the more it dilates and stretches and causes significant damaging results to the puppy. 

With these cases I always feel like you have to try because you have absolutely nothing to lose.

There is a very good article explaining this surgery. I have attached it as a link,

Update; April 19, 2013.

A week later I was able to put the breeder of this puppy in touch with the veterinarian that I spent so many early days with. His practice was close enough to her home for her to bring her one week old puppy into see him. That day he surgically opened the anatomical congenital defect and saved that puppies life.

A very thankful mom sent me a note that her puppy would be adopted out to a safe wonderful home. She actually asked if I wanted her. I was very touched by her sweet offer and appreciative note. I wish her puppy a  long happy healthy life.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm sorry.. I don't know how much the surgery was.

  2. I have a puppy (Britanny spaniel) with atresia ani, Type I - congenital anal stenosis, who had a successful operation when she was five weeks old. Now she is four months old. She has a healthy appetite and is growing nicely. We try to keep her stool soft.. I always soften pellets with warm water and add some olive oil tool. She regained continence, she poops three times a day and there is no leaking in between (there was some incontinence shortly after surgery but not any more). The only problem that remained is that every time she poops there is bright red blood in her stool. Vet said that it is all normal. I hope it will heal some day :( I would like to connect and exchange experiences with some other dog owners who have or had dog who undergo such surgery and to hear how their recovery went?

    1. Hello!
      many thanks for posting your pups success story! I would love to get more information on her.. where you had the surgery done, how much it cost? the recovery process and photos!
      best of luck..
      I agree with your vet that some bleeding is probably normal, although I would advise you to keep a close eye on it