How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed?

How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed?

You dog will make it very clear that his anal glands are full and that they need emptying through uncomfortable body language. While this problem seems weird and embarrassing, it is normal among all canines. For many dogs, the anal glands empty a small amount of fluid every time they go ‘No. 2.’ However, they don’t always empty enough or naturally and as such, the glands fill up leading to discomfort. This can also lead to leaking at inconvenient times, impacting or even infections if not treated.

About Anal Glands

Every dog has two anal glands, which are also known as anal sacs. They are found in the area around your dog’s anus, and every time your dog goes to poop, the sacs empty a small amount of fluid that appears markedly dense and has an intensely bad smell. Clogged anal glands can occur if the sacs do not empty that smelly substance.

This often occurs as a result of runny fecal matter and raises a serious concern of emptying the anal glands. You should consider asking your vet to get it done if you do not know how to handle the task. You can also request for training on how to express your dog’s anal glands so that you can do it yourself in future.

Why Express And What Are The Factors That Lead To Anal Sac Issues?

As previously noted, the anal sacs are found inside the anus of canines, and most mammals. They secrete a fluid-like material with a foul smell. It is normal for these sacs to empty some of that material when an animal is defecating as a way of scent marking. This also happens when an animal is stressed or scared. In the case of opossums and skunks, the anal glands are mainly a defense mechanism.

Opossums express their anal sacs to play dead as the foul-smelling fluid material gives them a rotting smell, making it more likely for potential predators to believe that they are dead. While they play an important role for many animals, they can also be a nuisance especially when full.

One of the factors that lead to issues with your dog’s anal sacs is the quality of their diet. Naturally, the glands are expressed as your pooch passes stool. The glands will not express as they should if the stool is not firm enough. Adding a pumpkin supplement can help resolve such issues by increasing fiber in the diet.

Improving the quality of your dog’s diet with a high fiber dog food can resolve the issue completely with time. Check out our recommendations for the best high fiber dog foods. It is also important to note that what builds up in the anal sacs is sometimes a direct consequence of what your dog eats. For instance, expressing material that’s too thick can prove difficult thus leading impaction when the fluid-like substance blocks the duct that drains it. This can lead to more complications in dogs, especially small breeds, as compared to cats.

Medical issues that cause loose stool or diarrhea are also one of the leading causes of anal gland expression problems.  The positioning of the anal sacs themselves can also be a cause for concern. In some dogs, the glands may be in such a way that even with proper diet and care, natural expression is hard. While this is not common, it may warrant complete removal of the anal glands to prevent any complications.

If not expressed properly, complications of the anal sacs such as impaction can occur. This ultimately leads to infections if the situation is not handled immediately. Expression at this point may reveal blood and pus in the material build. Proper healing will require the help of a professional veterinarian. If the anal sacs are not expressed in time, the glands may abscess.

This leads to swelling of the area around the anus, and if not treated, the abscess may rupture leading to a sore drainage through the opening. This condition is severe and requires a surgical operation to heal properly. A basic understanding of the anal sacs is very important as some of the above issues are very painful for the dog.

Fiber Supplements to Reduce Anal Gland Issues

In addition to replacing your dog’s food with a dog food with higher fiber content, you can supplement their diet with these high fiber snacks specifically designed to support healthy anal gland function:

Image Product Details
Glandex Soft Chews
Glandex Soft Chews
  • Pumpkin, probiotics, & peanut butter
  • Promotes healthy stool
  • Given as a treat

Check Latest Price
Zesty Paws Anal Gland Scoot Away
Zesty Paws Anal Gland Scoot Away
  • Chicken flavored
  • Contains VitaFiber
  • Given as treat

Check Latest Price
VetriScience Express Ease
VetriScience Express Ease
  • Duck flavor
  • Given as treat
  • 1 chew per 30 lb

Check Latest Price

Signs And Symptoms That Your Dog’s Anal Glands Need Expressing

There are many signs that your dog needs anal sacs expressed. The severity of the symptoms varies from dog to dog. Many dogs that have impacted anal glands tend to exhibit a variety of symptoms and in most cases, putting all of them together is what allows you to know when you should relieve the little guy. It is also important to note that some dogs may have anal glands that need expressing without actually giving off any hints.

Some of the signs you may observe include:

  • Problem passing stool: If your dog seems to be having problems passing stool, it could be an indication that he is suffering from impaction. Your dog may also exhibit weird behavior every time someone accidentally brushes his rear.
  • Severe odor: You may find yourself wrinkling your nose throughout the day if your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed. The yuck-inducing smell from your pet’s backside will be too much to endure. You will know if it is time you emptied your dog’s sacs if the smell is extremely heightened and reminiscent of old fish.
  • Licking and chewing: A common way for dogs to deal with clogged anal sacs is to try and lick or chew at their rear to express the glands themselves. If you observe excessive licking and chewing in conjunction with some of the other symptoms like scooting, you should know that it is more than just the usual grooming. It is also highly likely that the skin around the anus will take on a swollen and irritated look.
  • Dragging: Any anal sacs that are too full will not sound great, and there is no way that they will feel great to him too. If clogged, the tension in the glands will increase leading to extreme discomfort for your dog. This discomfort may become evident in the form of your dog dragging his derriere all over the living room floor.

Who Should Empty the Anal Glands?

You can have a local groomer or veterinarian handle the task if you do not feel like emptying the glands yourself or if the issue is not frequent. It is a simple procedure that takes as little as five minutes to complete. Alternatively, you can opt to express your dog’s anal sacs with a little know-how as well as patience. It is important that you go to the vet to check for underlying infections, especially if it is the first time your dog has clogged anal glands. A good vet can teach you how to express the anal glands next time you need to.

How to Express Anal Glands

Emptying your dog’s anal glands is a relatively easy task to accomplish if you know what to do. It is something that can ensure the health and comfort of your pooch. While a professional vet can help with expressing, knowing the basics can help save you trips to the vet’s office. The most important thing to remember is that you should visit the veterinarian before attempting this by yourself.

Prepare to express the anal glands

There are several things you can do to prepare for this procedure. Such include:

Looking for signs of anal gland issues – If the anal glands are clogged, a dog may exhibit certain symptoms. Some of those signs are discussed in the above section. It is important to note that these symptoms are not always a sign of full anal sacs. They are sometimes an indication of underlying issues.

Have a vet demonstrate the procedure: before you can try expressing your dog’s anal glands, you should consider asking a professional veterinarian to demonstrate the process. You can also try emptying them in the presence of a vet who can give you a few pointers.

Gather what you need: You will need three or four damp towels, as well as a pair of towels to express anal glands. You may also need shampoo if you want to wash the dog before the procedure. Latex gloves are better suited for dogs because they are more sensitive and thinner, thus making the ideal for palpating the anal glands. You should also consider wearing old clothes if you do not want the stinky smell getting on your good ones.

A helper will come in handy: While expressing can be done alone, recruiting a family member or friend to help can be good.

Secure your pooch in a small room: The bathroom often works fine for this purpose, especially if you use the bathtub to wash him. The idea is to make sure that the dog does not run away in the process of expressing his anal glands. The procedure can be messy so ensure that you do this on an easy-to-clean surface.

Express the glands externally

To get started, ensure that the dog is in a standing position with his rear facing you. You can have your partner secure the dog by wrapping one hand around the neck and body. Roll up the tail to expose the anus of the dog. You should make sure that you are at level with the dog’s bottom while ensuring that the position is comfortable to maintain.

Despite the fact that it is a simple procedure that doesn’t take much time, it requires a lot in regard to patience. It is also important that you take cues from your dog’s body language as with the swelling and pain, there is a good chance he is overprotective of his rear. Make an effort to maintain things as relaxed as possible by talking or stroking your dog.

The next thing is to locate the anal glands. To do so, place your forefinger and thumb on either side of your dog’s anus, and if they are full, you will feel a cherry-sized bulge just below the anus when you press inwards. If only one gland is full, this could be an indication of an underlying infection or another issue. In that case, consider consulting a vet and antibiotics.

With the two fingers on glands, apply pressure in the direction of the anus. Ensure that you squeeze up and in, in gentle pulses rather than continuously. Apply as much pressure as you would apply to your closed eye and no more. The liquid should start coming out in slow drips if you are expressing correctly. Try adjusting the position of your fingers if nothing comes out. You should consider seeing a veterinarian immediately if the discharge is pasty or bloody or suspect a possible infection or impaction.

If nothing comes out after a few tries, you should stop as repeated milking can lead to painful bruises. Anal sacs located too deep in the body should be expressed by a professional vet via an internal procedure. Otherwise, keep milking until there is no more liquid coming out. Wipe the bottom with a damp towel and be as gentle as possible. You may also want to give your pooch a bath once done.

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Removal of anal glands

In cases where clogging has become so severe and led to impaction or other complication, vets often recommend complete removal of the anal glands. You may observe fecal inconsistent as a side effect of this procedure.

Changing your dog’s diet to a high residue one can help transform your dog’s stool from soft and watery to solid and firm. Adding one or two tablespoons of bran each day to his food can also help bulk the stools out. These solutions help the anal glands express themselves naturally.

Knowing a little about expressing anal glands, when to express them and how to empty them is vital to ensuring optimal health care for your dog. The knowledge goes a long way in ensuring that complications like impaction or abscess do not occur.

5 thoughts on “How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed?”

  1. First time my dog got her anal glands expressed , I noticed several blood drops after she pees…is this normal. ?

    She eats and plays normally, but I’m worried about the blood..

    Thank you


  2. I have noticed from time to time this “old fish” smell coming from my dog’s butt. It is not consistent though. Does this mean that he is expressing his glands on his own? He could smell one day, then somebody wipes him with a doggie wipe, then it could be days even a week or two until he gets that smell again. He is on a raw diet so his stool is never soft or loose, and I do notice that after he does #2, just as he finishes, a little drop of liquid comes out.


  3. Hello, what are some good dog foods that might fix this issue? I’m not 100% sure if it is a real issue at this point she doesn’t chew at her rear or scoot the only thing is that nasty fishy smell


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