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  • Anal Gland Care - Everything you need to know!

    The Anal Gland - the part that grosses so many out and with good reason!

    Stink Bugs and Liquid Fish Butt, yep that's about what an anal gland smells like when it's expressing itself. I don't get too grossed out but I have to say, this is some stinky smelling stuff. Jack, my non-bully, needs his anal glands expressed about every 5 weeks and I've been doing his myself for awhile now. His glands are not in the proper alignment (the 5 and 7 o'clock). His left gland is set farther far back than normal so it doesn't get compressed normally when he has his bowel movement. I really believe this is due to him being extremely thin when we rescued him at 4 months old. His entire bum structure protruded out he was so skinny. I'm not an expert by no means but I always felt this was something I could do at home myself so I decided to do some research and now I have put my findings into an article. Note: There are times when a dog will need to go to the vet to have his/her anal glands expressed, and that will be discussed below.

    No Butts About it - our Bullies bums can get some stink to them!

    Anal glands can be easily overlooked when you consider your dog's health. But these small, stinky sacs can cause a lot of trouble if they aren't checked. An impaction is uncomfortable for your dog, an infection is painful and a rupture is extremely painful and leads to further complications. And the next time your pup scoots around the floor, call the vet and keep the camcorder in the closet.

    Anal glands can become overly full (mildly to moderately uncomfortable), infected (itchy and very uncomfortable), impacted (very annoying and bothersome), or abscessed (suddenly extremely swollen and very painful). All conditions can be treated. If your dog develops impacted or abscessed anal glands, life-long regular treatment and/or surgery (once the abscess has healed) may be needed to help prevent recurrences.

    When the glands are working normally, the pressure caused by a passing stool causes some fluid to be released through ducts in each gland. Liquid will also empty from muscle contractions that occur when your dog is frightened.

    Canine anal glands become a problem when the ducts that allow the fluid to leave the body become blocked or clogged. There are several reasons why the ducts can become blocked:

    • Glands that produce too much fluid
    • Soft stools that can't apply the same pressure as firm stools
    • Tumors or Polyps that block the opening

    These problems are referred to as dog anal sac disease, anal sac impaction and Sacculitis, which is canine anal sac infection.

    Signs that your dog anal glands are bothering him.

    • Scooting (dragging the fanny across the floor).
    • Frequent licking or chewing at the base of the tail, on the tail, or on the hip next to the tail.
    • Red and/or gooey skin in the general vicinity of the anus.
    • Very abrupt sits when walking.
    • Difficulty passing stools, with straining, crying, or whimpering.
    • Sudden onset of very bad breath (from licking), when teeth and gums are in great shape.
    • Swollen, red, tender area around/next to anus; sometimes this ruptures and there is bloody drainage.

    You know all that doggy butt-sniffing that we humans seem to find either appalling or hilarious? Ever ask yourself what that's all about? You may not think of that dog in your bed as a predator, but at heart, he is. And like all predators, your dog has anal sacs (anal glands) located on both sides and slightly below his anus. They produce fluid with a distinctive odor that identifies him and tells other dogs his sex, approximate age, health status, and other things.

    Healthy anal glands express, or empty, this fluid when the dog has a bowel movement. Unfortunately, some anal glands don't work as they should because of inherited malformations, or because of a history of poor-quality foods that produce poor-quality bowel movements. If the anal glands don't empty properly, they can become impacted, making bowel movements difficult or painful, and potentially leading to infections or abscesses.

    It's not uncommon for a rescued dog to have a history of anal gland problems. Your dog may damage the delicate tissue around his anus in his attempts to relieve his own discomfort, so if you see him biting at his butt, or scooting it along the ground, take him to the vet.

    Impacted anal glands can often be relieved by manually expressing, or squeezing out, the fluid they contain. This is a very smelly process, but if you're game you can have your vet or groomer teach you how to do it. Most people whose dogs need their anal glands expressed periodically prefer to pay to have it done.

    If your dog's anal glands get impacted frequently, ask your vet to recommend a high-fiber diet to create bulkier stools. If that doesn't work, and if your dog has repeated infections or abscesses from impaction, the anal glands may need to be removed.

    Having a Professional Express the Glands
    This is really recommended as an expert is less likely to hurt your dog and can do it quickly and efficiently. You can bring your dog to the vet to get the glands expressed when you notice a sign that they're impacted. You can also bring him to the dog groomer. A groomer is a good choice because she likely sees your dog every few months and, thus, there's less time that the glands are going unchecked.

    If You Are Determined to "Doing It Yourself" as I was, we will discuss that at the end.


    As discussed above, normal dogs will express small amounts of the secretion in the anal glands with their bowel movements. In some dogs, this does not occur and the anal gland will become full and cause discomfort for the dog.

    The most common sign of a dog with anal gland compaction is scooting--the animal will place its butt on the ground and drag it in an effort to relieve the compaction. Manual expression of the anal gland is recommended for dogs that are scooting. The frequency of expression will vary by animal. Some pets can need anal glands expressed as often as monthly and some will need expression once or twice per year.

    Infection and abscess formation
    Since the duct of the anal gland is located close to the external anal sphincter contamination with fecal bacteria is common. The infection resulting from bacterial contamination can be very painful.

    Signs can include excessive scooting, excessive licking, swelling, fever, and pain. If the infection persists, the gland can rupture. Treatment includes manual expression of the gland and antibiotics. Surgical removal may be recommended to prevent additional problems.

    If an anal gland is compacted and infected, the infection will be unable to drain from the duct and can rupture through the skin overlying the anal gland.

    Signs of a ruptured anal gland include evidence of a draining track with bloody or purulent (pus) discharge, scooting, licking, swelling, and pain. In some cases, the animal may lay around, hide, or have a decreased appetite. Treatment is often done under anesthesia and includes debriding the affected skin tissue, flushing and cleaning the area, placing a drain to ensure continued drainage, antibiotics, and pain medications. Surgical removal of the anal glands at a later date may be recommended to prevent relapse.

    Tumor formation
    Several tumors can form within an anal gland. The cause for tumor formation is often unknown but may be the result of chronic irritation. Dogs with small, early anal gland tumors may not show any signs of discomfort. Dogs with larger, more advanced tumors may scoot or lick excessively, have swelling in the area of the anal gland and/or have problems defecating.

    Surgical removal of anal gland tumors is strongly recommended in the earliest stages of progression. If biopsy/histopathology of the tumor determines a malignancy, additional treatment, including chemotherapy and/or radiation, may be recommended. If the tumor is benign, surgery should be curative and additional treatment is often not necessary.

    Symptoms of Problems with the Canine Anal Glands
    When the pea sized dog anal sacs become swollen you can physically feel them in them by touching the glands which are at the 5 and 7 o'clock positions around the anus. To get some relief your dog may be seen scooting across the floor on his or her anus (rear). If the fluid is infection, it will smell badly and be yellow or black in color. Your dog may have a fever and the any liquid that is expressed or emptied from the gland, beside the bad smell may have a drop of blood or puss.

    If you see unusual swelling in the gland then your dog may have an anal abscess, which is another term for blocked fluid, puss and liquid. The area of the gland might be discolored (e.g.; reddish). Just emptying the gland through pressure will not help and your veterinarian may have to use a lance to make a small opening.

    Treatment for Canine Anal Glands
    The best way to take care of this problem is to empty the glands yourself or have a dog health professional express the glands. It is easy to do, just messy and smelly.

    Dog Anal Gland Infection
    If the dog anal glands are infected then they will have to be emptied. Your veterinarian will put an antibiotic ointment into the glands to kill off any infection that may of taken hold.

    An abscessed anal gland about to rupture

    Inflamed and ruptured

    Prevention of Problems with Canine Anal Glands
    To prevent health problems with anal glands, avoid feeding your dog table scraps. These foods could cause soft stools which don't have the pressure needed. To firm up your dog's stool consider adding more fiber to your dog's diet. A simple way to do this is to give your dog a high fiber natural supplement which contains the fiber Psyllium nigrum.

    Another natural approach is to provide a natural supplement made specifically to help dogs with this problem. Herbs such as German Chamomile and Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) are known to have a positive effect and are worth a try. One product to research that is made specifically for this purpose is AnalGlandz which is known to help treat infected anal glands in dogs naturally.

    It is a good habit to check your dog to see if the anal glands (also called pouches or sacs) are filling and need to be expressed. Changes in the diet like those mentioned could help.


    There are no predictable antecedents to painful anal sac disorders. Infections, obstruction and subsequent overfilling (called impaction), and rupture with drainage through the perianal skin are the most common clinical presentations. Anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, enlarged anal sacs that are not compressed properly by the anal sphincter muscle, hypersecretion from the anal sac lining, obstructed or constricted anal sac ducts all may be predisposing circumstances for anal sac problems.

    Some dogs may be born with very narrow channels that lead from the sacs to the edge of the anus, thereby obstruction the flow of anal sac material. Acquired damage to the duct can occur when perianal infections, trauma, allergies and inflammation compress or obstruct the narrow channel leading from the sac to the surface. For unknown reasons some dogs produce a thick or dry material from the sac lining which makes passage of the material through the narrow ducts impossible.

    There is no age or sex predisposition to anal sac pathology. Uncommon in large breeds, infections and impactions are often experienced by small breeds such as Toy and Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Lhasa Apsos. Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles rank high on the list of breeds affected by anal sac difficulties.

    Some groomers and animal health care workers believe feeding a diet rich in fiber aids in emptying the sacs. The pressure of the firm stool against the colon wall near the anus may help to express the anal sac contents. Dogs that have an existing problem such as infection or obstructed ducts, though, probably won’t respond to dietary changes; modifying the diet with more or less fiber yields inconsistent benefits.

    There is a difference of opinion regarding routine expressing of the anal sacs. For example, veterinarian Mark Thompson in his presentation about anal sacs in Current Veterinary Therapy XIII, suggests routine manual expressing of the anal sacs should not be done in a normal dog with no anal sac issues. Many groomers make it a matter of routine, though, to express the anal sacs of their dogs. Certified Master Groomer Sherri Glass, for example, has been grooming dogs for 14 years and has taught grooming for 5 years at Cornerstone Dog Grooming Academy in Clyde, OH. She relates, “I teach students to empty anal glands on all small dogs, about 20 pounds or less in size. We also do any size dog at owners request. If dog owners would meet their dogs nutritional needs with high quality food, keep them at proper weight, and provide plenty of good exercise, most dogs would not have to have the anal sacs expressed.” Mr. Jeffrey Reynolds, Director of the National Dog Groomers Association of America says “In states where it is legal for groomers to express anal sacs, many groomers express them externally only either as a part of the grooming procedure or at the owners request. When there is evidence that the sacs are impacted, then they are not expressed and the owner is advised to bring the dog to the vet.”

    There is an 88% chance the thought of anal sacs will never even occur to you. However, if your dog is one of the 12% that scoots his butt along the carpet, frequently turns to lick or bite at the base of his tail or anal region, or displays discomfort when passing stool, it would be advisable to make an appointment with the veterinarian. If left untreated, anal sac impactions, infections and abscesses can be a reoccurring nuisance for your dog so be proactive about an evaluation if your dog displays any discomfort in the tail or anal region.

    Some cases respond to infusion of the sacs with antibiotics in addition to oral medication. In chronic cases, careful surgical removal of the anal sacs can be curative; the dog never has another annoying bout of anal sac disease. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of surgery if chronic problems lead you in that direction.

    Instructions for Emptying Dog Anal Glands

    Probably the best time to do this is in the bathtub to avoid messes in the home and so that you can give your dog a quick bath to wash off any liquid that may fall on her coat. You might also want to wear latex kitchen gloves to keep the smelly, possibly infected fluid off your hands. (Yuck… be careful about contact with anal sac secretions or you’ll be very unpopular with yourself and others!) The key is to be calm, prepared, and as quick as possible as this is not a pleasant experience for your dog. Think about it happening to a human and you'll sympathize.

    1. With one hand lift your dog's tail.
    2. In the other hand hold a tissue, paper towel or warm cloth over the anus opening to prevent a squirt of the nasty smelling fluid going all over.
    3. Using your thumb and forefinger apply light pressure to each gland pressing inward toward the opening of the anus.
    4. Don't push hard if you don't see any fluid. Try a second time and if you don't see anything see your veterinarian for help. You could also put your finger partly inside the anus and then push on the gland with a finger.

    Some fluid should be expelled from the opening. Do not repeat the process; simply wipe your dog with the wash cloth and reward him.

    Expressing anal glands

    Anal Glands Expression in a dog

    Different ways to know if you're Bulldog needs his anal glands expressed

    The butt scratch

    References: PetMD, Dr. Greg Martinez, All Pets Veterinary Clinic, The Answer Vet