Expressing Anal Glands: The Good, The Bad and the Super Smelly
January 19, 2023
Anal glands are the scent glands located on both sides of a dog’s rectum. As the poop passes out of the rectum, it pushes against the glands releasing a smelly secretion. These glands are believed to be primarily for scent marking.
Dogs can also express this gland when they are frightened as the scent released is also a defence mechanism to distract an attacker.
When your dog poops, these glands will generally express themselves naturally.
Most of the time, your dog won’t need any help from you, but some dogs aren’t able to express them naturally, the material then builds up in the glands causing increased pressure.
If this happens, your pup may need intervention.
How To Tell If The Glands Need Expressing?
Our groomers are often asked to routinely express anal glands. We recommend leaving them alone if they are not causing problems.
Generally, if your dogs nutritional needs are being met they will express themselves and should not need any human intervention at all.
Routine expression is unnecessary and can cause long term issues for your pup.
If you notice your dog scooting (dragging their butt across the floor or ground) it might mean that they have an issue with expressing their anal glands.
If the anal glands don’t empty properly, they can swell up and cause discomfort for your dog.
If the glands are already full, they may leak (you will know if they are because the smell is very pungent). You may also see brownish material where your dog has been sitting.
If the glands become too full, it can lead to infection, abscesses or even a rupture, which requires surgery
Why Does It Happen
- Your dog’s stools aren’t firm enough. Soft poop doesn’t express the anal glands
- Your dog is constipated. If there is no poop, the glands can’t express
- The glands aren’t located where they should be and your dog is unable to express them naturally
- Your dog is overweight
Where To Get Anal Glands Expressed
Most issues can be solved by manually expressing the glands. All vets and some groomers can express anal glands or alternatively, you can learn to do it yourself.
If it is a new thing, it’s a good idea to first see your vet to make sure that the anal glands aren’t infected and to check on the cause.
How Often To Express
Expressing anal glands varies between dogs, some never need their glands expressed at all. Monitoring and looking for signs (such as scooting) will let you know if it needs to be done. It should only ever be done on an “as needed” basis.
Expressing too frequently can cause irritation and damage the tissues, which can lead to scar tissue blocking the ducts.
Prevention is always better, so it’s important to ensure that your pup has a healthy diet.
Just like humans, dogs are healthiest when they aren’t overweight and have regular exercise. Make sure your pup has plenty of drinking water as dehydration can also lead to constipation
Ensure that your dog is getting enough fibre in their diet. There are many commercially available fibre supplements that you can add to your dogs meals, or you can try high fibre veggies to their meals, such as:
If your pup continues to struggle with anal gland issues, you should make a visit to your local vet to be sure there are no underlying causes.