guide on what causes anal glands in a dog to fill

What Causes Anal Glands in a Dog to Fill?

Dealing with a dog’s anal glands is a smelly but necessary situation. Anal gland health is irrespective of regular grooming. There is a chance you can clean your pup regularly, we’re talking the works, including nail trimming, ear cleaning, and fur trimming, but that foul fishy smell could still be present. What are anal glands in dogs, what do they do, and how can you prevent anal gland problems in your dog? Read on to find out.

What are Dog Anal Glands?

What are Dog Anal Glands?
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The glands are located on either side of your dog’s anus. These glands secrete a liquid that has a very pungent scent. The smell is very distinctive and unique to each dog. It’s how many dogs identify each other and mark their territory (aside from urine marking).

What Causes Anal Gland Problems in Dogs?

Anal glands usually express naturally, but a lot of domesticated dogs may need some help in that department. Anal gland problems can arise if the anal sacs do not empty on their own. Usually, when your dog does a number 2, the anal glands will also empty a but during that time and sometimes even walking around can do it.

If a dog’s anal glands do not empty on their own or the sacs are allowed to fill up to a certain extent, it could cause blockages, get infected even swell. If severe enough, impacted anal glands can become a breeding ground for bacteria and serious issues. Some vets may even suggest having the anal glands removed.

When Should My Dog See a Vet?

When Should My Dog See a Vet?
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How do you know if your dog is suffering from anal gland issues? One of the most common signs of anal gland problems is excessive licking. You will find your dog licking around the anal area and some may even start to drag and scoot their bottoms across the ground.

Anal gland problems in dogs are quite common. If you notice any of these symptoms, or some of the more serious side effects of anal sac disease such as a foul smell, pus and blood around the anus, and changes in the anal gland fluid, you should book a vet visit immediately.

Signs of Impacted or Infected Anal Glands

  • Scooting or dragging of the rear end along the floor
  • Itching or licking around the anal area
  • Your dog is having a tough time pooping
  • You see blood or pus around the anal area

Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Anal gland issues are not uncommon, but it’s seen in smaller breeds more often. Anal gland infection is very uncomfortable for your dog, which is why we suggest keeping a close eye on the situation. Aside from smaller dogs, older dogs are also more likely to be impacted by anal gland problems.

Physical characteristics such as obesity can also cause anal gland impaction. Food allergies, low fiber in your dog’s diet, and hyperthyroidism can also cause anal gland issues.

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How to Treat Dog Anal Gland Problems

How to Treat Dog Anal Gland Problems
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Expressing the anal glands is the quickest and most effective way to treat the issue. It may take a few sessions and your dog may need to be sedated in more serious cases, but after the liquids are released, your dog will start to feel much better.

As we said, the vet may choose to remove the anal glands if repeated infections occur or if they detect unusual tumors in the area. However, this type of surgery does come with risks, so it is often used as a last resort.

Anal Gland Expression

Anal Gland Expression
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Whether or not anal gland secretions need to be manually expressed is a debated topic among experts. Some believe pet owners should make their dogs get their anal glands expressed regularly, while others feel that it should be left up to nature. Your dog pooping should release the secretions.

If not done correctly, it’s possible to accidentally rupture something if you use too much pressure. If you’re unsure, always ask your vet.

If the advice from your trusted veterinarian is to have the glands expressed to avoid anal gland impaction, you don’t always have to rely on a groomer. You can do it at home if you know how to do it.

Start by preparing the necessary tools such as latex gloves, a lubricant such as Vaseline, paper towels, a warm and clean washcloth, and hopefully the help of a friend or family member your dog trusts.

Start by kneeling or sitting behind your dog with the friend or family member securing your pooch in a comforting grip. Put on the gloves and then lubricate your index finger with the lubricant. Gently insert your finger into your dog’s rectum at about an inch deep. Locate the glands, which are on either side of the anus.

Place the paper towels down around your dog to catch the mess. Once you have located the sac, place your thumb outside of the sphincter and use your index within and squeeze the sac gently until the liquid is expressed. Once you’re done, do the same to the other sac and then clean the area with a warm washcloth.

Helping Your Dog’s Anal Gland Health

Helping Your Dog's Anal Gland Health
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The best treatment for anal gland problems is prevention. There are things dog owners can do to avoid flare-ups.

Start with adjusting your dog’s diet. If you notice that he isn’t getting enough fiber, which is what firms up his stool to push the anal sac for natural expression, then consider adding some to his food bowl. Carrots and pumpkin puree are great sources of fiber that are also tasty treats for your dog. Just in case your dog has a sensitive stomach, as your vet what could help firm up your dog’s stool.

Healthy digestion is something else that you should keep an eye on. Adding supplements such as prebiotics and probiotics will help support gut health and reduce the chances of anal gland problems.

You should also make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. Sometimes vigorous movement can be enough to get the glands moving and the liquid expressed. Exercise also keeps your dog at a healthy weight. Since overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from anal gland problems, this can also serve as a way to reduce the chances. Not to mention, a tired and stimulated dog is a well-behaved one.

If your dog has allergies to certain foods, address it. Making sure that your pooch has the best diet that he can tolerate will also prevent extremely painful and swelled glands.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep my dog’s anal glands from filling up?

The best way to keep your dog’s anal glands from filling up is to feed a high-fiber diet. Avoid softer foods such as a raw diet without fiber and canned food, although you can add high-fiber foods to balance it out. Consider adding prebiotics and probiotics to your dog’s food as well to support healthy digestion and easy defecation.

Why does my dog keep needing anal glands expressed?

Each dog is different, and it’s possible that your dog’s natural anatomy causes him to need his anal glands expressed more often. Smaller breeds are more susceptible to glands filling up faster and issues with expression. Chronic soft stools are another reason why your dog will not express his anal sac on his own and requires manual relief.

How often do dogs need anal glands expressed?

If your dog needs his anal glands expressed, then most experts and groomers would suggest doing it monthly. To be sure, ask your vet as he or she would know more about your dog’s health. There are plenty of experts that believe anal glands should be expressed via natural means such as when your dog defecates. However, this may not work with all dogs, especially ones that can’t do it themselves.


It’s a smelly situation but one that responsible pet parents need to watch out for. Sometimes your dog’s anal gland may express all at once and leave a stinky mess. If you don’t want to find this unpleasant surprise, then we suggest regular expression with the go-ahead from your vet first. If your dog is capable of natural expression, then there is really no need to do it monthly at the groomers.

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