Dog anal glands are probably the last topic any one of us really wants to think about, but it’s necessary to understand for dog owners. Anal glands in dogs give them a distinct signature. It’s a sort of ‘calling card’ to other dogs as a way to communicate many things. These stinky sacs, though functional, can become impacted and bring about discomfort for your pup pal.

The team at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is here to tackle the how-tos of expressing your dog’s anal glands. And, it isn’t as bad as it seems.

What Are Dog Anal Glands

Inside the anus are two small glands, or sacs, that are about the size of a pea. You can find them on either side of the anus, about 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock, give or take. These glands secrete a liquid that carries a strong, musky (often smelly) odor. A dog marks its scent with this liquid whenever they poop or are startled/scared. This scent tells other dogs that they have been there, among other messages.

When There Are Problems

Most of the time, anal glands in dogs stay healthy and dogs express them through the process of releasing excrement. But there are occasions, and especially in certain small breeds or obese dogs, that the glands don’t do the job of releasing the liquid.

If there is a problem with your dog’s anal glands, you may notice the following signs:

  • Scooting their hindquarters on the ground
  • Turning to look at the butt
  • Licking the area
  • Swelling of the anus
  • Blood on the area where they scoot

If you notice these problems, call us for an examination. This issue may be a result of impaction, tumor, abscess, or infection.

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

If your dog is scooting their behind, then you can help them release the glands by using a few simple techniques.

Expressing Externally

We normally advise dog owners to try expressing the anal glands externally first. You’ll need disposable gloves, a paper towel, and waterless shampoo for cleanup. After step 1 below, push up and out. Catch the liquid in the paper towel and use the shampoo to clean your dog.

Expressing Internally

If that doesn’t work, you have the option to express the anal glands using the internal method. You will need disposable gloves, vaseline or lubricant, a warm washcloth with gentle soap, and paper towels. It’s best to have someone else help restrain your dog during this process if they are especially anxious.

  1. Stand or kneel behind your dog and lift their tail up.
  2. Using gloved hands, place a dab of lubricant on the tip of the index finger and thumb.
  3. Run your index finger and thumb along both sides of the inside of the anus.
  4. Locate the small sacs on the lower-inside of the anus, on both sides. Gently squeeze the sacs to release the substance, in a milking motion.
  5. Make sure to hold a paper towel in front of the anus to catch the liquid.
    Note: Most of the time the fluid will be slightly thick and brown. Sometimes it will have an oatmeal consistency. Anything else should be evaluated by a doctor. Blood and green or yellow fluid are not normal.
  6. Once both glands are empty, use a warm, soapy washcloth around the area.
  7. Throw the paper towels in an outdoor garbage bin, as they can be foul-smelling. This is also why you should thoroughly clean your pet, and you may even want to shampoo them afterward.

We know this all probably seems unpleasant, but expressing your dog’s anal glands can avoid problems, such as an infection.

If you would like additional help on dog anal gland expression, please contact us or you may want to watch a video of a vet doing it. At your dog’s next wellness check-up, we can also show you the techniques.