Anal Glands in Dogs – How They Work (and Stop Working)

Dogs have two small sacs located just inside their anus, known as anal glands. These sacs are filled with a foul-smelling substance that is used to mark territory and communicate with other dogs. When your dog poops, the glands usually empty on their own.

However, sometimes the glands can become impacted. For example, this can happen if your dog has diarrhea or soft stools, which can prevent the glands from emptying properly. Impacted anal glands can be very painful for your dog and may lead to infections. For this reason, it’s important to know how to express dog anal glands.

What Causes Anal Gland Issues in Dogs?

There are a number of different things that can cause anal gland problems in dogs, including:

  • Diet. Dogs who eat a lot of processed food or fillers may be more likely to develop anal gland issues because these ingredients can make the stool softer, which makes it more difficult for the glands to empty properly.
  • Allergies. They can cause itchiness, which may lead your dog to scratch or lick his or her anus more frequently. This can irritate the glands and make them more likely to become impacted.
  • Obesity. Dogs who are overweight may have difficulty expressing their glands because of the extra tissue around their anus.
  • Genetics. Small breeds of dogs are more likely to develop anal gland issues because they have a smaller space for the glands to empty into.

If you suspect the reason your dog may have anal gland issues, you can take preventive measures, such as switching to a grain-free diet or adding more fiber to his or her food. You should also talk to your vet about how often you should express your dog’s anal glands.

Symptoms of Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs

If you notice your dog scooting his or her bottom along the ground, licking their anus more than usual, or seems to be in pain when going to the bathroom, these may be signs that the anal glands are impacted. Other symptoms are:

  • a pungent smell coming from your dog’s bottom;
  • swelling around your dog’s anus;
  • your dog biting their anus;
  • spots of a brownish substance on your dog’s bedding.
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All these symptoms point to one thing – your dog is in discomfort and needs help. The sacs have filled up completely, have no way of getting emptied naturally, and need to be expressed.

What to Do If Your Dog Needs Their Anal Glands Expressed?

If you suspect your dog’s anal glands are impacted, it’s important to take him or her to the vet right away. The vet will be able to express the glands and give your dog relief from the pain. Some groomers also offer this service, but it’s better to leave it to the professionals.

At-home anal gland expression should only be done if your dog’s vet has shown you how to do it properly. If done incorrectly, you could cause your dog pain or even injure them. That being said, if you have been instructed by your vet but need a little reminder, you’ll find a guide on how to express dog anal glands below.

How to Express Dog Anal Glands – A Step-by-Step Guide

You already know what they are and how to tell if there’s something wrong with them. Now, how to express dog anal glands yourself? Before you start, make sure you have everything you need:

  • disposable gloves;
  • lubricant (KY Jelly works well);
  • paper towels;
  • a washcloth dampened with warm, soapy water (to clean up your dog afterwards).

If your veterinarian recommended anything else, follow their instructions. They know more than we do about your dog’s particular case. Now that you have everything, let’s get down to business:

  1. Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
  2. Have someone hold your dog gently but firmly while you’re working.
  3. Stand or kneel behind your dog while he or she is standing up on all fours.
  4. Apply some lubricant to your gloved index finger and insert it into your dog’s anus. Place your thumb on the outside.
  5. Locate your dog’s anal glands. They are located on both sides of the anus, at approximately 4 and 8 o’clock, just below the opening. They’re often the size of a small grape and might be firm to the touch.
  6. Squeeze your thumb and index finger together, attempting to squeeze out the fluid out of the sacs. The hole it will come out of is just inside the anus, so keep the opening as clear as possible.
  7. Hold a paper towel near the anus with your other hand, and wipe away any fluid that comes out. It should be brown, thin and smelly. If it’s green, yellow, gray or chunky, it’s recommended to consult the vet afterwards.
  8. Repeat the process on the other side.
  9. Once you’ve emptied both glands, give your dog a good clean-up with the washcloth.

And there you have it! You’ve just expressed your dog’s anal glands. If you’ve done everything properly, your dog should be feeling much better now. Remember to keep an eye on their stools and call the vet if you notice any changes.

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If you notice your dog’s bottom smelling fishy after expressing the glands and cleaning up, don’t worry – this is normal. The fluid that’s excreted has a very strong smell, but it will go away after a few hours. Just make sure to keep an eye on your dog and call the vet if the smell doesn’t dissipate or if your dog seems to be in pain.

When to Call the Vet?

As we said before, discoloration or a weird consistency of the fluid is reason enough to give your vet a call. Other reasons are:

  • if this is the first time you’re expressing your dog’s anal glands, and you’re not sure if you did it correctly;
  • if your dog seems to be in pain or bleeding from their anus;
  • if your dog’s anal glands have been expressed, but they’re still scooting or seem to be in pain;
  • if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting.

With proper care, your dog’s anal glands shouldn’t give you any trouble. But if they do, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for help. They will be more than happy to assist you and answer any questions you might have.

How to Help Your Dog Express Anal Glands Naturally

Now you know how to express dog anal glands, but will you always have to do it manually? There are a few things you can do to help your dog express anal glands naturally and avoid problems in the future. They won’t help if they’re already impacted, but they might prevent it from happening again.

The most important thing is to feed them a high-fiber diet. This will help produce stools that are bulky and firm, which puts pressure on the glands and helps empty them naturally. You can find high-fiber dog food in any pet store, or give your dog a vegetable snack every week.

Another thing you can do is add some supplements to their diet, such as psyllium husk or flaxseed meal. These will also help produce firmer stools and make sure the glands are emptied properly. Consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements, to make sure they won’t interact badly with any medication they might be taking.

And finally, make sure your dog gets enough exercise. A good walk every day will help them stay healthy and have regular bowel movements. Constipation is one of the main causes of impacted anal glands, so avoiding it is key.

How Often Should You Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands?

Some dogs never need their anal sacs expressed, while others need it done on a monthly basis. It all depends on the individual dog and their diet, exercise habits, and how much of the secretion they produce.

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In general, if your dog has a history of anal gland infection or impaction, it’s best to have them expressed regularly. How often that is will depend on your vet’s recommendation. For dogs with healthy anal glands, expressing them every few months should be enough. But some dogs might need it more often, while others might only need it once a year.

If your dog has never had their anal glands expressed before, it’s best to start by having it done at the vet. They can show you how to do it properly and answer any questions you might have. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be able to do it at home with no problem.

How Are Anal Gland Problems Treated?

The treatment for anal gland problems will depend on the individual case. For mild cases of infection, the vet might prescribe a course of antibiotics. For more severe cases, they might need to be hospitalized and given IV fluids and antibiotics.

If your dog has impacted anal glands, the vet will need to empty them manually, the way we instructed you to do earlier. They might also prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. In some cases, they might need to be expressed more frequently for a while, until the problem is resolved.

Prevention Is Better Than Treatment

Now you know how to express dog anal glands. Anal gland problems are not something to be taken lightly. If you’re unsure about anything, it’s always better to ask a professional. We hope this guide was of some help and that you’ll never have to use it! Until next time, take care of yourselves – and your furry friends.

A high-quality diet, supplements, and exercise can help prevent anal gland problems. But if your dog does develop an infection or impaction, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for help and to express the anal glands.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us. We are always happy to help!


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