Expressing a Dog's Anal Glands: What You Need to Know

Expressing a Dog's Anal Glands: What You Need to Know, how to express dog's anal glands

Most dogs can go their whole lives without any concerns about their anal glands. Normally, when dogs poop, it expresses their anal glands naturally, releasing anal gland fluid from their anal sacs. Dogs may also involuntarily express their own anal glands when they are scared or stressed.

Expressing their own anal glands allows a dog to leave their scent behind to claim their territory near their home or in their yard during a normal bowel movement. A normal dog will release their own anal glands naturally. When dogs meet, they sniff each other’s hind ends and anal glands to gather information about the other dog’s hormonal status.

There are times, though, when these anal glands become full, impacted, or infected. Impacted or infected anal glands can be painful, so it’s important to recognize the signs of an issue and know what to do when it happens. Having healthy anal glands is crucial for your pet. When signs of anal gland infections or disease persist, you should contact your veterinarian to schedule an exam for your dog.

Here’s what you should know about anal glands in dogs, from how they work and how they’re expressed to the signs of anal sac disease and when to go to the vet.

anal gland expression in dogs

What Are The Dog Anal Glands?

Dogs have two small glands located near their anus, called anal glands. These glands produce a scent marking fluid that helps dogs communicate with each other. However, sometimes there are anal gland issues, and the anal sacs can become impacted and need to be expressed manually. In this blog post, we'll discuss what you need to know about expressing a dog's anal glands.

Under normal circumstances, when stool passes through the anus of a dog, it applies pressure to the anal glands and releases (expresses) the fluid.

Both male and female dogs, as well as cats and other animals, have anal glands. These glands are not essential to your dog’s health, and they can live without them if they need to be surgically removed for medical reasons.

Why Do A Dog’s Anal Glands Need to Be Expressed?

dog in pain

Most dogs involuntarily express their anal glands. If a dog’s nutritional needs are being met with high-quality food, and they maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise, they should not need to have their anal glands expressed. Healthy dogs typically do not have anal gland issues. If your dog is not having an issue, there is nothing further you need to do.

Anal glands can become impacted due to a variety of reasons, including dietary changes, food allergies, obesity, and certain medical conditions. When this happens, the glands in the anal region become swollen and produce a strong, unpleasant odor. If left untreated, the impacted glands can become infected, which can lead to pain and discomfort for your pet, as well as recurring anal gland issues.

What Happens During Anal Gland Expression?

Anal gland expression is a simple procedure that involves manually squeezing the glands to release the fluid and anal gland material. Your veterinarian or a trained professional will perform this procedure using a gloved finger or a specialized tool.

The process usually takes only a few minutes and is generally not painful for the dog. However, if the glands are infected, your pet may experience some discomfort during the procedure.

How to Prevent Dog Anal Glands Impactions

Some dogs, however, require their glands to be manually expressed. If the consistency of your dog’s stool changes, their anal glands will not be naturally expressed. Then the liquid in the glands will thicken, making it harder to be able to express. If this happens, the glands can become irritated, inflamed, infected, and even impacted.

Once your dog starts to have issues with anal gland infections, impaction, or abscessation, it is usually best to have their glands expressed every 3-4 weeks to prevent the issue from happening again. Your dog’s anal glands can be expressed by your veterinarian, a veterinary technician, or even some dog groomers.

One of the best ways to prevent anal gland impactions is to maintain a healthy weight for your pet. Obesity can put extra pressure on the glands, which can cause them to become impacted. You should also provide your pet with a well-balanced diet that is high in fiber to help promote regular bowel movements.

There are anal gland supplements, fish oil supplements, oral antibiotics, and special measures you can take with your dog's diet to help lower the gland problems in dogs. Overweight dogs and smaller breed dogs are more prone to recurrent anal sac disease. Additionally, it's important to monitor your pet's behavior and watch for any signs of discomfort, such as scooting or licking the anal area.

Read Also - Home Remedies for dog scooting

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

If your vet has agreed that your dog requires their anal glands to be expressed routinely, they might instruct you to do so at home if you are comfortable doing it yourself. Make sure that you are confident that your dog will not react aggressively.

If you see blood or pus around your dog’s anus, or if your dog seems very uncomfortable, do not attempt to express their anal glands at home. Your dog suffering is not the goal here. Instead, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

To express your dog’s anal glands at home, you need:

  • Latex gloves

  • Petroleum or a water-based lubricant

  • Another person to help restrain your dog

Follow these steps to express your dog’s anal glands: 

  1. If your dog is small, you can place them on a table or counter in front of you. If you have a large dog, you can kneel behind them. 

  2. If possible, have another person hold your dog by placing one arm underneath and around their neck, and the other arm around the rest of your dog’s body, hugging them close. 

  3. Put on a pair of latex or similar gloves and lubricate your index finger with petroleum jelly or a water-based lubricant. 

  4. Lift up your dog’s tail and gently insert your index finger into the rectum approximately 1 inch. 

  5. Feel with your index finger and thumb for a firm pea- or marble-sized object at the 5 or 7 o’clock positions. 

  6. When you have found one gland, place a paper towel between the dog’s anus and your hand and gently milk the gland’s contents outward by applying pressure on the farthest side of the gland and squeezing toward you. Do not use more pressure than you would feel comfortable applying if you were pressing on your eyes, for example. 

  7. You should barely be able to feel the gland when it’s empty. 

  8. Wipe the anal area clean.  You can use our gentle wet wipes! 

  9. Repeat on the other side for the other gland. 

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance

veterinary assistance, cleaning dog's anal glands

If you suspect that your pup's anal glands are impacted, it's important to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the best course of action, which may include expressing the glands to prevent anal gland problems, or prescribing oral antibiotics if the anal glands are infected.

Additionally, if your pet experiences frequent impacted anal glands, anal gland infection, anal gland abscess, or anal gland issues, your veterinarian may recommend a surgical procedure to remove the glands.

Signs of Dog Anal Gland Issues in Dogs

sighns of Anal Gland Issues in dogs

The most common signs your dog may be having anal gland problems include:  

  • Scooting

  • Excessive licking

  • Swollen anal glands

  • Frequently turning to lick or bite their hind end

  • Straining to poop

  • Showing discomfort when pooping (dyschezia)

  • Fecal incontinence

  • Not wanting to sit

  • Anal discharge

Dogs might also have the following signs:

  • Crying or whimpering

  • Becoming withdrawn or lethargic

  • Not wanting to eat or drink; showing no interest in dog food

  • Swelling or redness in the anal area or anal sphincter

If these symptoms persist or affect your dog’s behavior, they should be examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible. If left untreated, anal gland impactions, infections, and abscesses can become major problems. A simple rectal exam and sampling of the dog's stool can diagnose any of these conditions.

Are Certain Dog breeds More Prone to Anal Gland Issues?

It’s true, anal gland problems are predominantly a small dog breed issue, but they can affect larger breed dogs as well. Toy and Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles rank high on the list of breeds affected by anal gland conditions. Overweight dogs tend to be seen more often for an anal gland problem or anal gland impaction.

Other factors that may increase the chances of anal gland issues include: 

  • Chronic skin conditions (seborrhea, skin infections, or itchy skin) 

  • Obesity or overweight dogs

  • Inadequate dietary fiber  

  • Change in stool consistency: soft stool, diarrhea, or constipation 

  • Parasites (both internal and external) 

  • Dog food and/or environmental allergies 

  • Genetics (more common in small breeds)

  • Stool consistency

  • Blocked glands

In conclusion, expressing a dog's anal glands is a simple and relatively painless procedure that is often necessary to maintain your pet's health and comfort. By understanding why and how this procedure is performed, you can ensure that your pet stays healthy and happy for many years to come.

Eating a diet with adequate fiber can help keep your dog’s anal glands healthy. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and proper stool formation. The force of the firm, bulky stool against the colon wall near the anus can help express the anal glands during bowel movements. 

If you have any concerns about your pet's anal glands, be sure to consult  with a veterinarian for the best advice and treatment options.


PRIDE+GROOM was born because 4 New York City dog lovers wanted the same level of grooming products for their dogs that they themselves enjoyed. They looked (hard) but nothing was up to snuff. Or sniff. Like so many, we love our families and take pride in our homes, and we consider our pets to be integral parts of those entities. That said, we could not find an effective way to coif them that was on par with the way we tended to our children, our homes, or ourselves. These beloved pets are allowed on the furniture and in our beds, and yet even when fresh from the groomer, we knew they did not smell or feel as good as they could.

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Paige Chernick is a Social Media and Communications expert living in NYC. For 10 years, she ran her own consulting company called PaigeKnowsFirst where she managed social content & strategy for many brands, finding her niche within the pet industry.

Paige has been a guest contributor for several publications and featured in articles on her successes with pets and social media. Paige’s rescue dog, Charlie, famously known by her social media handle @puppynamedcharlie, has accumulated hundreds of thousands of fans and made her a successful pet influencer early on in the game. Paige is also one of the Founders of The Pet Summit, a conference in the pet industry for creators and marketers, where she used her experience to create programs and classes to help guide and teach others.

In 2022, Paige became the Social Media Director for PRIDE+GROOM. She is now the Senior Vice President of Communications and remains very immersed in the pet industry on both the corporate side and the influencer side.