How To Express A Dog’s Anal Glands & Other Questions Answered

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Dog exposing its belly and privatesIt’s not the most pleasant subject to discuss. But hey, you’ve surely dealt with your dog’s puke and potty accidents before? And this is for your beloved pup’s comfort after all — and ultimately their health.

If your dog suffers from occasional anal gland issues, we’re here to help. Learn how to spot the signs of impacted glands, how to express dog’s anal glands and what you can do to help prevent frequent blockages. If not taken care of immediately, blocked anal glands can lead to a severe infection.

Article Overview

What Exactly Are Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs?

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Dog anal gland issues are relatively common among all canines. Why? Every dog has two anal glands, also called anal sacs, which are on either side of their anus. These glands continually fill up with fluid, which has a unique scent to each dog (dog butt sniffing explained!).

Every time your dog poops, these glands empty a small amount of this smelly fluid. But problems arise when the glands don’t excrete enough of the fluid and get clogged (or “impacted”). If these glands become full, you could be dealing with a dog anal gland infection, nasty abscesses, or a ruptured anal gland, which could require surgical removal of the glands.

What Causes Impacted Anal Glands?

The major cause of impacted anal glands is feces that’s too soft, typically as a result of dietary needs not being met.

According to the American Kennel Club. Many cheap commercial dog foods don’t contain enough fiber to harden their stools. And it’s these solid stools that help naturally express the anal gland fluids.

We’ll give you some higher fiber dog food recommendations a bit later in this article. There are also some medical issues that cause loose stool or diarrhea (learn how to diagnose diarrhea), including misplaced anal glands or anal gland cancer in dogs.

Are Some Dogs More Prone to Anal Gland Issues?

Sick Lazy BeagleImpactions and infections are more common in small to medium-sized breeds, including Beagles, Basset Hounds, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Miniature and Toy Poodles and Lhasa Apsos. Large-breed dogs seldom suffer from anal gland problems.

How Do You Know if Your Dog Needs Glands Expressed?

The symptoms are pretty easy to spot to know if it’s time for anal gland expression.

If you see blood or pus around your dog’s anus, it’s time to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. These symptoms could indicate a serious infection or ruptured anal glands.

How Often To Express Dog Glands?

Only as needed when you spot the common symptoms we described above.

How To Express Dog’s Glands Externally

If your dog isn’t bleeding or oozing pus around their anus, it’s usually safe for you to express the dog’s glands yourself. Below are proper at-home dog anal gland expression practices.

What You’ll Need

  • VaselineA pair of disposable plastic or latex gloves
  • Vaseline or a similar lubricant
  • Paper towels
  • A warm soapy washcloth
  • Someone to help you gently restrain your dog

Steps To Express Glands Externally

  1. Place a small dog on a table in front of you, or kneel behind a larger dog. Your dog should be standing on all fours.
  2. Have your helper gently restrain your dog. We recommend having them place one arm underneath and around your dog’s neck like a cradle and the other arm hugging the rest of his body closely.
  3. Put on a pair of latex gloves and lubricate your index finger.
  4. Lift up their tail and insert your index finger into your dog’s rectum (about one inch).Woman holding dog with butt in air
  5. Place your thumb on the outside of your dog’s anus and bring your thumb and index finger together, running them around his anus. You can locate the anal glands one at the 4 or 5 o’clock position and the other around the 7 or 8 o’clock position. Feel for a firm pea to plum-sized object.
  6. Once you’ve located the anal gland, place a paper towel in front of the area (glands tend to squirt outward). Using a light amount of pressure, gently milk the gland’s contents* toward you. When you can barely feel the gland, it’s fully expressed.
  7. Follow the same procedure for the second anal gland.
  8. Once you’ve emptied both glands, use a warm soapy washcloth to wash the area. Cleaning dog anal glands help rid the area of the strong, fishy smell from the expressed contents.

*Normal anal gland fluid is brown with a thin consistency. If the expressed fluid is thick, chunky or colored green, yellow or gray, this is abnormal and could indicate an infection or other problem. You should contact your vet in the case of abnormal fluid.

Video Tutorial

The video below does a great job of helping you visualize the process.

Prevention: Maintaining A Fiber-Rich Diet

So, now you know how to spot dog anal gland issues and how to excrete dog glands. Here are some other tips that will help you prevent anal glands from being full and care for your dog.

Golden in field of grain

How Should You Alter Your Dog’s Diet?

Many experts recommend eliminating grains from your dog’s diet if they suffer from anal gland problems, learn more about a grain-free diet. And make sure your dog’s getting enough fiber in his diet.

Bran, canned pumpkin, apples, brown rice and vegetables are all high in fiber, and you can easily add them to his diet.

What’s The Best High Fiber Dog Food For Anal Gland Problems?

Diggin Your Dog Firm Up Pumpkin SupplementChanging your dog food brand can make a huge difference, as well as giving him daily supplements that help with digestive health. Look for high-fiber, high-quality dog foods that contain no additives or preservatives. Two excellent products are Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food and Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food

Are There Supplements Available?

Yes. There are several popular supplements that are safe and healthy that should help ease your dog’s anal gland problems. We recommend Diggin’ Your Dog Firm Up Pumpkin Supplement (pumpkin is very high in fiber) or Glandex Soft Chews Anal Gland Fiber & Probiotic Digestive Supplement for Dogs.

Learn how probiotics can improve your dog’s health

Be Patient And Improvement Will Come

One last bit of advice we have for you is to be patient. It takes some practice to master the expression procedure, and if you ever have any questions, contact your veterinarian. You also need to be patient with your dog’s diet, learn more about safely changing dog food.

Changes won’t happen overnight or even in a week. Once you’ve stuck to their new diet, it typically takes a month to six weeks before you and your pup will see improvement.

What tips do you have for owners dealing with their dog’s anal gland problems?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets).

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

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David Gletne
May 8, 2020 10:21 am

My problem will be having someone hold my little Buddy. I don’t have or know anyone where I live.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 8, 2020 2:08 pm
Reply to  David Gletne

I would recommend having his vet or a groomer take care of it then just to make sure it is done properly for your pet.

January 7, 2020 11:48 pm

As gross as this is, and it’s GROSS! vet charges $80 a pop for this so , I’m going to need to lube up!
I watched the vet do it, the stench was awful! I have a ridgeback puppy that seems to not clear her glands, we’ve started adding canned pumpkin to her puppy food, will add sack cloth next to add fibre 🙂

August 8, 2019 5:21 pm

My Vet said it’s possible to have these glands removed, and that will fix the problem. His stool seems fine to me, but he has to have these expressed about every month or so. Anyone else go this route, and what do you think about the idea?

Lydia Contreras
July 6, 2020 2:34 am
Reply to  Tiger

Removing the anal glands, there’s a chance it could cause nerve damage and your dog couldn’t hold their bowels inside their rectum.

September 1, 2019 7:28 am
Reply to  Tiger

We have our dogs anal glands expressed every month with an allergy shot. Last visit they didn’t do it and now I’m on here seeing if I can do it myself

July 8, 2019 10:06 am

I have a Golden Retriever and a Chocolate Lab that suffer from this. They’ve figured out how to express it themselves. It’s gross! I’ve had them on Taste of the Wild – Grain-Free Smoked Salmon and also Beyond – Salmon. I’m disgusted with how these have escalated the odor to gag-levels!
I realized that even though they were eating grain-free, the Salmon oils were making it much worse.
I’ve gone back to Canidae and chose Turkey and Brown Rice flavor. I’ll be bathing them today and will try again to express all fluids and clean thoroughly. Thanks for the in-depth directions!

July 2, 2019 4:18 am

I need to do it for my dog, I’ll let you kn how it goes !

May 22, 2019 2:55 am

I recently took my jrt to the vet for frequent butt scooting. Vet said my dog’s anal glands needed to be expressed which was done by the vet tech. My poor dog yelped several times. Is that normal?

Kimberly Alt
May 22, 2019 11:38 am
Reply to  Joni

It can be uncomfortable for the dog, which may be why your dog yelped. Did you ask your vet about it when it was happening?

Sean Ward
January 24, 2019 1:49 pm

didn’t work on my cat

July 23, 2019 8:54 pm
Reply to  Sean Ward

Does not work on all chickens either!

Gm gm
January 10, 2020 10:58 am
Reply to  Dan

This must be a joke.

Boot Strap
November 28, 2018 4:49 pm

Why is the stuff expressed from my dogs’ glands bright GREEN?

April 10, 2019 1:42 am
Reply to  Boot Strap

I got bright green too and now I’m worried because I read if it’s green yellowish it could be a problem.

May 7, 2018 7:52 pm

Ifound your article regarding gland expressing ” top dog”. I was raised with cats and love em. Read Sally’s story. Has she ever gone to an allergist doctor for relief? The condition might be treatable!

April 10, 2018 6:04 pm

My poor dog got an impacted anal gland before I new that dogs had anal glands. It resulted in the swelling of the gland to the point that it popped a hole out of his skin near his anus and that is how it drained. Imagine the amount of suffering it caused my poor baby! This is why it is so important to keep an eye out for any signs that your dog may be dealing with a clogged gland.

January 31, 2018 9:39 pm

I am in the process of having to do this. We changed up our dog’s food and she’s had softer stool the past week. This has resulted in her anal gland’s causing her trouble. It started with brown stuff coming out, but then it went to red blood, and now it’s back to the brown. It is only coming out a little at a time. So we’ll get a little bit and then an hour later get a little more. Idk if I call the vet or not just because she did have some blood or if we should wait a few days.

Jane Marie
October 6, 2017 11:45 am

I’ve had to do this and it’s not very fun but necessary!

November 18, 2018 2:43 am
Reply to  Jane Marie

Well. What exactly should hi do ??

March 8, 2019 8:18 am
Reply to  Joe

My dog occasionally has this really bad fishy odor coming from her butt. It’s not all the time but man! When it happens you really don’t want her sitting near you because it gets on your clothes and the blankets on the couch. What causes this? Is it an issue with her anal glands? Should I at this point get them expressed?? Please help my stinky dog!!


March 7, 2020 1:47 pm
Reply to  Michele

Yes, absolutely it is.

Kimberly Alt
March 8, 2019 9:52 am
Reply to  Michele

Hi Michele, sounds like your dog may need her anal glands expressed. If you don’t know how to do it (or don’t want to) you can schedule an appointment with the vet.

March 8, 2019 12:48 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

I watched the video and it seems simple enough. I’m just nervous about hurting her. Thank you for the advice. Do you think this will become a regular thing? I’ve necer had this happen with any Other dog that I’ve owned.

Zenaida Vargas
August 13, 2019 12:05 pm
Reply to  Michele

If you are afraid to stick your finger in the anal thinking you might hurt your pet . Please look at you tube video . There is another way of empty your dogs glands . I was charge $26 dollars so I learn from the video . I do it by myself and my dog is happier that it is me. Best of luck to you. My dog is a Shih poo. 5 years old .

January 27, 2020 5:50 pm
Reply to  Zenaida Vargas

still nervous about doing this try for a high fibre diet and ordered a medication called glandex which is supposed to bulk poo and hopefully avoid the need

January 26, 2020 12:38 am
Reply to  Zenaida Vargas

My Boston has what seems to be a second rectum that is hidden under hair. It feels like a small tail inside this opening. I didn’t discover this until recently. It’s not visible and you can’t feel it even when bathing and cleaning her backside. Has this ever been seen by anyone? It usually has some feces inside that I try to clean up.

March 7, 2020 1:48 pm
Reply to  Sam

That is an abscess – Vet immediately!!

August 19, 2019 4:36 am
Reply to  Zenaida Vargas

Hello, after expressing the glands does the swelling go down immediately? I have just done my dogs however she is still licking at it and it is still red and swollen looking. Thanks, Shelby

Kimberly Alt
March 11, 2019 8:57 am
Reply to  Michele

Each dog is different. Some dogs may need it done more frequently than other. It’s hard to say either way. Best of luck!