guide on how to get rid of dog anal gland smell

How to Get Rid of Dog Anal Gland Smell

That fishy smell that invades your nostrils isn’t something you have to live with. It happens when your dog’s anal sacs become too full and excrete smelly and pungent fishy-smelling liquid.

This scent is unique to each dog, so it may not be as fishy as it is musty, but it’s a smelly situation nonetheless. You can’t get rid of the smell entirely when the liquid is released, but you can prevent it from marking your home and leaving a residual stench everywhere.

getting rid of anal gland smell in dogs
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In order to know how to prevent your dog’s anal glands from leaving their mark, we must first understand how they work.

What Are Anal Glands?

dog with anal glands smell
Image by christels on Pixabay

Your dog’s anal glands are located within its anal sacs, which are situated on either side of your dog’s anus. They are located on the interior rather than the exterior of your dog’s anal area, which means to express the anal glands manually, you will have to reach into your dog’s bum.

The function of dog anal lands – both fascinating and gross!

The anal glands are responsible for producing a liquid with a unique but unpleasant smell for humans. For dogs, the scent is used to identify each other, mark territories and some even believe it helps with lubrication. Sometimes, if the glands get too full, they will express naturally, which can make a mess in the house. You will find smelly marks around your home, on the couch, blankets, carpets, etc. This stinky situation is not something you want.

However, dog parents should be aware that the distinct smell from the specialized sweat glands provides a purpose, and shouldn’t be eliminated altogether.

Anal Glands and a Dog’s Health

dog with healthy anal glands
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As we said, your dog’s anal glands are more useful than you would think. While we’re mainly talking about domesticated dogs, it’s worth it to know that the anal glands served a greater purpose in the wild. It marks a dog’s territory, and can even warn predators. Anal glands naturally express through defecation – leaving a unique odor on your dog’s poop.

When another dog smells the poop, it will know another dog was here and it can even help them identify which dog it is if they have met before.

Other experts also believe that it helps your dog lubricate his poop to ensure a smoother process. The exact purpose of anal glands hasn’t been concretely pinpointed by scientists, but all this is what we know so far.

Unfortunately, for something that serves a greater cause, the ana sacs can also present many issues. How do you prevent anal gland problems and the fishy smell? It’s to know what to do when you’re faced with anal gland issues.

Anal Gland Problems In Dogs

dog with anal gland problem

Anal gland problems in dogs can arise from anal gland fluid not draining, which will lead to infections, impacted anal glands, and even anal gland abscesses that will require surgical removal.

How do you catch a problem with dog anal glands before it festers? Look out for these symptoms:

Dog Scooting

This is a sight most of us have witnessed before, whether it’s on TV, in pictures, or in real life. This is when your dog sits on the ground and drags his rear end along the floor in a scooting manner. This is the first sign of dog anal glands that are starting to become a bother.

Excessive Licking

Licking and itching in the area is another common sign that your dog’s anal sacs need emptying. If you notice this, then it’s time to get those sacs emptied.

Swelling and Redness in the Anal Area

Things will start to get more serious when you notice swelling or redness in the area. This happens when the anal gland issue is affecting the whole sac, causing internal swelling that is starting to become noticeable on the outside.

Blood and Pus

When blood and pus start to appear around the area and you may even notice a foul smell, then the anal sacs have become infected. If this is the case, we would suggest seeking immediate treatment.

Anal Sac Disease

dog with anal sac disease
Image by Joel Mills via

Anal sac disease is more frequent in younger pups and small breed dogs are more susceptible as well. When your dog has impacted anal sacs it will not be able to communicate its discomfort, so dog parents will need to keep an eye out for the symptoms we mentioned above, especially if your dog has a history of anal sac problems.

Aside from younger and smaller dogs, obesity, genetics, dogs who suffer from chronic soft stools, allergies, food intolerances, and dermatitis are also at a higher risk of developing issues within their anal sacs. Whatever the reason is, when the situation progresses to anal sac disease, it needs to be treated right away.

Your vet may suggest home remedies for prevention such as adding fiber to your pet’s diet that will help dog poops, daily exercise to combat obesity, and treatment for dermatitis if that’s the cause. In more severe cases where anal sacs are not naturally expressed, your vet may suggest removal.

It’s ideal to not allow the situation to get to the point of anal sac disease, so it’s important to watch out for the symptoms highlighted below.

Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease

dog with symptoms of anal sac disease
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Other than scooting and licking, your dog may even vocalize its discomfort during pooping because it could be painful. You may also notice blood in the stool, around the stool, and around your dog’s anus.

It’s highly possible to catch the disease early on when your dog is only scooting and licking, and that is the best way to prevent anal sac disease.

What’s the Best Way to Deal with Your Dog’s Fishy Smell?

best way to deal with your dog's fishy smell
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Just because your dog’s anal sacs are full, it doesn’t mean they will automatically cause a problem because, in most cases, they can empty themselves or can be manually expressed for maintenance. When you do need to drain the sacs on your own or if your dogs are leaving the scent marker around the house, how do you take care of this smelly problem?

A Product Every Dog Owner Should Have

If you know your dog breed or its genetics will cause anal sac issues or even if you don’t every dog owner should have a heavy-duty pet cleaner that can break down the smell or you can even create your own cleaning agent. There are plenty of products available on Amazon, Chewy, or in pet stores that can get rid of the smell.

Expressing Anal Glands

A very obvious solution to a dog’s anal gland smell is to express them periodically. There is a debate in the pet community about whether this is necessary. If your dog is getting along fine emptying his anal glands without help, then there isn’t a need to manually express them.

However, if your pooch has had constant issues in the past with anal gland expression, then we would suggest asking the vet about the best course of action. This is because if you express the glands too much, it could damage the area, cause scar tissue to build up, and clog the anal sacs even more.

Diet and Anal Glands

As said, chronic soft stool or loose stool means your dog often has stools that aren’t firm enough to help release the liquids during defecation. There won’t be enough pressure to help expel the liquid, which is why adding fiber to firm up the poops while improving your dog’s gut health at the same time can rectify the situation

Natural Remedies for Anal Gland Troubles

carrots are natural remedies for anal gland troubles
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What natural remedies can you turn to for dog anal gland troubles?

Other than adding fiber to prevent the situation, there are also things you can do if the problem does occur. If you notice some redness, itchiness, or even swelling, you can take warm or hot compresses to the area to alleviate the pain.

Making sure your dog has enough water could also reduce the chances of anal gland issues as is daily exercise to keep it at a healthy weight. Supplements such as probiotics and prebiotics that can promote gut health will make passing stool easier, and in turn, the elimination of anal sac fluid will also be more consistent.

What are some fiber supplements you can add to your dog’s meals? Pumpkin puree is a popular and effective one that plenty of experts recommend. Your dog will love that sweet added topping treat added to every meal. You can also consider carrots and other ingredients that are rich in fiber and harmless to dogs. You don’t have to add the carrots to the meal but they can be used as rewarding and healthy treats throughout the day.

Make sure you test how your dog reacts to the new ingredient first in a small amount. You never know if your dog has an intolerance or allergies to a specific type of food.

We Think You’ll Like: 7 Best High-Fiber Dog Food For Anal Gland Problems in 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of the smell of fish on my dog?

You can get rid of the fish smell on your dog by emptying his anal sacs when necessary and treating anal gland issues when they arise. If left untreated, the impacted glands could fester and become much more serious and lead to other health issues.

Why does my dog smell after anal gland expression?

Your dog may smell after anal gland expression because there could be some lingering liquid. You have to make sure to clean your dog’s anal area thoroughly after the fact. Groomers can manually express anal glands and this is usually done before the bath, which can eliminate the chances of remaining odors. If you are doing it yourself, make sure to wipe up the area well.


Most dogs will be able to express their anal glands naturally, but other dogs cannot. However, it doesn’t have to become a problem as long as you keep an eye on it. Catching the problem before it starts to cause issues for your dog can also prevent any sort of smell from lingering in your home.

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