How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands And Other Questions Answered

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Dog exposing its belly and privatesYeah, 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 — and ultimately his health. If your dog suffers from occasional anal gland issues, you’re in the right place. Read on to 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.

What Exactly Are Impacted Anal Glands in Dogs?

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 his 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 impacted, 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?

Yes. Large-breed dogs seldom suffer from anal gland problems. Impactions 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.

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.

  • scooting his butt on the ground
  • excessively biting or licking the area (learn more about why dogs lick)
  • releasing the contents of his anal glands indoors
  • red skin around his anus
  • bleeding or pus draining from around his anus

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 to Express Dog’s Glands Externally

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

Initial Tips: You’ll need a pair of disposable plastic or latex gloves, Vaseline or a similar lubricant, paper towels and a warm soapy washcloth. And we recommend you have someone to help you gently restrain your dog.

  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 his tail and insert your index finger into your dog’s rectum (about one inch).
  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.

*Tip: 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.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

So, now you know how to spot dog anal gland issues and how to excrete dog glands. Here are some other FAQ’s that will help you care for your dog.

How do you know how often to express dog glands?

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

How should you alter your dog’s diet?

Many experts recommend eliminating grains from your dog’s diet if he suffers 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?

Changing 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.

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 his 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?

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Sally grew up in a feline-only home, but cat allergies in her early 20’s made it an easy transition to dog ownership. And she couldn’t be happier with her canine shadow, who’s been at her side (literally) for years. No longer a cat person for obvious reasons, Sally is now a true bone-ified dog lover.

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1 Comment on "How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands And Other Questions Answered"

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Jane Marie
Jane Marie

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

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