guide on what are dog anal glands for

Why Do Dogs Have Anal Glands?

The dog anal gland, an often misunderstood (and smelly) part of a canine’s anatomy.

Is it necessary, or is it similar to our appendices – something they can live without? And why does it secret such pungent liquids? T

here are two anal sacs on either side of your dog’s anus with the anal glands filling them up with strong-smelling liquid.

Some dogs can exhibit anal gland problems while others will have minimal trouble from these sacs for their entire lives. Let’s take a closer look at the function of anal glands.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog's Anal Glands
Image by ElfinFox on Pixabay

Anatomy of Anal Glands

The anal glands secrete a liquid when your dog has a bowel movement. Anal glands, which fill anal sacs with pungent liquid are located on either side of your dog’s anus.

When your dog needs to do his business, the pushing of the stool will usually express the glands.

Some people believe the scent from the anal glands is what dogs sniff when they get to know each other, which is why you see dogs sniffing each other’s butts.

Others say anal gland secretion is used to mark territories and there are even theories that state anal gland liquids act as a lubricant for hard stools.

How Can Anal Glands Become a Problem?

Dogs can develop anal gland problems if the glands are not expressed normally. The liquid that has a fishy smell to it can build up and eventually lead to anal gland infections and other health issues. Some pets’ anal glands will eventually squirt or leak excess liquid if vets, dog owners, or groomers don’t treat them.

Best Way to Tell if Your Dog Is Having Problems With Anal Glands

How do you know if your dog has anal gland problems? Don’t worry because it’s easy to spot.

One of the most prominent signs of anal gland issues is a scooting dog.

Have you ever seen dogs scooting their rear ends and dragging them along the floor?

This behavior is because the anal gland sacs swell and are bothering the dog.

Excessive licking of the glands and surrounding areas can also indicate an anal gland problem.

It can also be an indication of anal gland problems when you see blood, pus, or stool around the anal area or if your dog is having difficulty pooping.

Causes of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Unexpressed anal glands can cause problems in your dog. Other causes are linked to health issues such as obesity, chronic skin dermatitis, a lack of fiber in your dog’s diet, food allergies, chronic soft stool, and even the breed can impact anal gland health.

Statistically, it’s more common for small breed dogs to suffer from an anal gland issue, but any dog can develop problems in the area.

The Gland Plan: Making Sure Your Dog’s Anal Glands Are Emptying Properly

The Gland Plan: Making Sure Your Dog's Anal Glands Are Emptying Properly

Is your dog suffering from anal gland distress? There are home remedies and changes to your pooch’s diet that you can enforce to help soothe the area.

Treatments and Prevention of Anal Glands Disease

1. Add More Fiber to Their Diet

Since a lack of fiber, which means soft stools, can lead to poor anal gland expression, we suggest adding more fiber to your dog’s food.

Firm up the stool so it has enough substance to push the anal glands in dogs in order to express them on its way out. Pumpkin is a great treat to add to your dog’s kibble as well as sweet potato and carrots to get more fiber into your dog.

2. Increase Liquid Consumption

Maybe your dog isn’t getting enough water. Adequate hydration will help anal gland secretions. Some dogs just don’t drink that much water, which can be a headache when you’re trying to increase water intake.

A way around this is to choose moist foods such as wet dog food with high water content. Mixing liquids such as bone broth in with your dog’s dry food can also help.

3. Lose Some Weight

As said, overweight pups are more likely to suffer from impacted anal glands. We suggest pet owners look at the dog’s overall health. If your canine is a little bit on the pudgy side, a proper diet and weight loss could help reduce pressure in the anal area.

4. Add Digestive Enzymes to Diet

Regular bowel movements will help anal sac health, so adding probiotics and prebiotics to your dog’s food can encourage healthy poops.

A good potty routine can support anal gland secretion without having to be manually expressed.

How to Express Anal Glands in Dogs

Booty Health & How to Express Anal Glands in Dogs
Image by Pezibear on Pixabay
  1. Get some gloves ready along with lubricant (Vaseline works well), paper towels, a warm hand towel, and the help of a friend or family member to help restrain your dog. Keep your dog in front of you standing on all fours.
  2. Have the friend or family member hold onto your dog securely but don’t restrain him too much because most dogs tend to struggle if they feel trapped.
  3. Put on the gloves and lubricate your index finger and slip your finger into your dog’s rectum up to about the second knuckle or 1-inch deep.
  4. Use your thumb as a helper outside the rectum and pinch the side of your dog’s anus to locate the anal gland. You will feel a sturdy round object – that is the anal gland.
  5. Make sure you put a paper towel down on the table or ground before you express the gland.
  6. The liquid tends to squirt, so lay more than a few paper towels down just in case. All it takes is just a slight pressure to empty the glands.
  7. You will know when to stop when the sac has emptied. Do the same to the other gland and then clean up your dog’s anal area with the warm washcloth.

For a more detailed explanation read our in-depth article – How to Express Dog Anal Glands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are certain dogs more prone to needing their glands expressed than others?

Small breed dogs tend to need more anal gland expressions than others, but that doesn’t mean larger dogs are immune.

Small breeds may need regular, monthly expression while others may need it a lot less. Pet parents are advised to ask the groomer how often their dogs need anal gland treatment.

How often do dogs express their anal glands?

Depending on the breed and each unique dog, anal gland and sac expression are done once a month to a few times year.

If your dog has shown clinical signs of anal gland issues, then we would suggest keeping a close eye on the situation. Otherwise, monitoring your dog for any of the symptoms of anal gland upset would be enough.

Where can I get anal gland expression done?

Anal gland expression can be done at the vet or at the groomers. You can even consider doing it yourself if you have the tools. All you need are gloves, a lubricant, paper towels, and a warm washcloth.

How can you tell if your dog needs his anal glands expressed?

Your dog will need his anal gland expressed if he is showing signs of discomfort. Scooting off the butt, excessive itching or licking of the surrounding area, and noticeable blood or pus around the anus indicates that it’s time to have anal glands expressed.

What happens if you don’t empty your dog’s anal glands?

Your dog’s anal glands can swell, get infected, and really bother your dog if they are not emptied.

There is a possibility that it can become severe enough for vets to suggest removing your dog’s anal glands altogether.

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