How To Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands (Plus Causes & Prevention)

Dog laying on back with anal glands full (caption: How To Express Your Dog's Anal Glands)It’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 your 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 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 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 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 primary cause of impacted anal glands is feces that’s too soft, typically due to unmet dietary needs.

Many cheap commercial dog foods don’t contain enough fiber to harden a pup’s stools. And it’s these solid stools that help naturally express the anal gland fluids. So, if you are looking for an easy solution to reduce the chances of impacted glands, we recommend transitioning your dog to a higher quality, fiber-rich food.

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 Beagle on couchImpactions 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 I Know If My Dog Needs Its Glands Expressed (Drained)?

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 To Express A Dog’s Glands Externally

If your dog isn’t bleeding or oozing pus around their anus, it’s usually safe for you to empty 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


  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 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 a dog’s anal glands helps rid the site of the strong, fishy smell associated with 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.

How Often Should I Drain My Dog’s Anal Glands?

You should only empty them when you spot the typical symptoms we described above.

Video Tutorial

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

Prevention: Maintain 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 (caption: Grain-Free Dog Food)

How Can I Alter My 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 is 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 to a higher quality dog food can make a huge difference, but you may also wish to add a daily supplement for 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 Supplements Effective For Anal Gland Problems?

They can be. There are several popular health supplements that are designed to 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

Can Pet Insurance Help?

Get 4 Free Pet Insurance Quotes

If you’d rather leave anal gland expression to the experts, you’re not alone. In fact, anal gland inflammation is one of the top 10 most vet-treated conditions for dogs, and continued treatment can hit your finances.

Two dogs in grass (caption: Pet Insurance Reviews)You may want to consider signing up for pet insurance as a proactive measure to lower your financial risk for potential health threats during your dog’s lifetime. Why? Pet insurance is one of the best things you can do for your dog — not only for the health of your pup, but to save you from financial trouble should an accident, illness, or pet emergency arise.

Humans have health insurance, so our furry friends should too. That way, you’ll never have to choose between an expensive treatment and your pet’s suffering or even his life. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind so that you can make better and less emotional decisions in the face of a crisis.

Check out our reviews of the top pet insurance providers to learn more.

How To Safely Change Your Dog’s Diet

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. Changing your dog’s diet can also take time, learn more about safely changing your dog’s 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?

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