How do you know if your dog needs glands expressed?

Did you just catch your dog licking his butt? It could be an indication that your dog needs to undergo the anal gland expression procedure. Other than this, there are other signs as well which indicate the need for gland expression. Stay with us, as we’ll be sharing every important detail with you. 

In this article, you’ll read about: 

  • Anal glands 
  • Signs to know if your dog needs glands expressed 
  • Anal sac illness 
  • Causes of anal sac illness 
  • Gland expression procedure 
  • Frequently Asked Questions 

So let’s get started! 

What Are Anal Glands? 

A pair of tiny oval shaped sacs that are present on either side of the dog’s anus are known as anal glands. The glands’ job is to secrete a fluid that has an extremely unpleasant odor, and is different for each dog. 

This fluid also helps dogs to communicate with each other. Whenever dogs feel scared or under pressure, they express their anal sacks and try to mark their territory. 

Almost 90% of canines don’t get anal gland infection ever in their life. However in some cases, these glands get clogged, infected or filled with debris. In such cases, the pet owner is suggested to take their dog to the vet for anal gland expression. 

But how does one know if their dog is experiencing anal gland issues? There are symptoms that you can look out for in your dog. 

Signs To Know When Your Dog Needs Anal Gland Expression 

Below is a list of signs that indicate the need of anal gland expression in your dog. 

Stinky Smelly Fluid 

When anal galnds of your pooch are overactive, they secrete a foul smelling fluid that is untolerable. You might notice the smell coming from your dog or some furniture where your dog might have sat. This will have an odour quite similar to that of faeces, but it will be considerably stronger. 

It is unquestionably something that will come to your attention. If you notice this odour, it may be a warning that your dog’s anal glands are not correctly emptying on their own and that you should get your dog’s anal glands expressed.


There is a possibility that you will find stains on areas in your home where your dog sits or sleeps down, such as on your furniture, carpets, or even your own lap. 

Do not ignore these symptoms, as this could be an indication that your four-legged friend needs glands to be expressed. Get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible. A correct diagnosis from your veterinarian will also help you discover the specific cause of the problem.

Defecating Issues

In some dogs, the anal glands might swell and get enlarged to a point where they start causing severe discomfort. In this case, your dog could act as if he does not want to defecate. 

If your dog gets affected by this condition, you might notice behavioural changes, skin around anus getting red and sudden illness. Take your dog to the vet if you observe such signs as it could be a possible indication for gland expression. 

Butt Dragging 

When a dog begins to drag his butt, it is one of the most prevalent indicators that the dog has impacted anal glands. Anal glands that are swollen and bloated not only make your dog feel uncomfortable but they also give off an unattractive appearance. 

Your dog may experience a great deal of discomfort as a result of the rising pain on these glands. It’s possible that they’;; demonstrate the issue they are facing by dragging their butt across the floor.

Butt Licking And Biting

Dogs frequently make an effort to express their own anal glands by repeatedly licking and biting them. If you find your dog licking or trying to bite their butt, it is an indication that something is wrong. 

This could be quite painful for your dog and could also lead to other infections in their body. If you notice that your dog is licking and biting himself excessively, this may be an indication that they need to have their glands expressed. 

Anal Gland Infections  

If the sac doesn’t empty on its own, it might get impacted, resulting in unpleasant bowel motions and pain. This condition is known as anal sac infection. 

The fluids that are held in the anal sacs are breeding ground for germs and infection. Thus, the longer it remains inside the sac without getting expressed, the greater the likelihood of your dog getting some kind of health issue. 

What Happens In Anal Sac Impaction?

At first, the glands become inflamed, which causes them to enlarge and become itchy. Dogs that have reached this stage of anal sac illness will have difficulty passing bowel motions and may have an unpleasant odour. 

If the illness gets severe, the anal gland will start to discharge pus, blood or faecal fluids. At this stage, it is essential for the dog to get medical assistance as soon as possible. 

Once taken to the vet, the dog is examined thoroughly. The vet checks the severity of the infected anal glands and starts to treat the painful region. 

When the dog is finally treated and relieved from all the pain and discomfort, the vet starts the gland expression procedure. 

Causes of Anal Gland Impaction In Dogs

A dysfunctional sac or gland expression issue could be the result of: 

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Hereditary biological issue
  • Chronic skin dermatitis 
  • Obesity
  • Insufficient dietary fiber 
  • Chronic soft stool
  • Food and/or environmental allergies

Low thyroid function and presence of tumor culd also be the cause of anal gland illness. Sometimes, vets or groomers put extra pressure on the anal glands which develops a scar tissue. This scar tissue stops the glands from being able to drain on their own. 

If you think this might be the case with your dog, talk to the groomer to make sure that your dog’s glands aren’t being expressed every time they are groomed. 

Gland Expression Procedure

To manually express a dog’s anal glands, the following process is followed: 

  • Putting a gloved index finger into the rectum to identify the gland
  • Gently squeezing the gland to expel the fluid present in the dog anal glands
  • Cleaning the area with cotton and safe cleaning wipes

Always Remember: To avoid the issue of anal sac illness, make sure you get your dog’s anal expressed regularly during their grooming sessions. 

You could perform this procedure for your dog at home. However, make sure you get proper guidance from a trained vet before you do it. If your dog gets scared and tries to run, it is advised to let the vet express your dog’s anal glands. 

If you are performing the Anal Gland Expression Procedure at home, you will need the following items: 

  • A pair of disposable latex gloves
  • Dog safe lubricant (you can also use vaseline)
  • Paper towels 
  • Wash cloth dipped in warm soap water

Note- Always keep a helper with you to restrain your dog from running away while you perform the procedure. 

How To Prevent Anal Gland Problems In Dogs?

Talk to your dog’s vet about a diet plan that you should follow to help prevent issues with dog’s anal gland. The vet may suggest you to include fish oil in your dog’s food and to increase the amount of fiber they consume. Some other common dietary additions for anal gland sickness include cooked pumpkin, non salted pumpkin seeds or canned pumpkin without xylitol. 

Quick Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions that’d help you understand the topic better: 

What Does Excretion In Dogs Mean? 

When the dog has a bowel movement, anal sac fluid is released from the dog’s anal sacs and this process is known as “excretion”.

What Is The Importance Of Anal Gland Fluid? 

This fluid serves as a territorial mark for dogs and has a unique smell which allows other dogs to identify a dog’s sex, health and age. It also works as a lubricant that makes it easier for dogs to pass a stool during constipation. 

What Other Health Risks Are Associated With Anal Gland Illness?

A type of anal gland cancer known as adenocarcinoma can start to develop in dogs anal glands. Older dogs are more prone to this disease. Thus, it is essential for you to take your dog to the vet if you see any possible indications of anal sac illness.

Which Dog Breeds Are More Prone To Anal Gland Issues?

Infections related to anal gland are more common in small to medium sized breeds. Such breeds include Beagles, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Toy Poodles and Lhasa Apsos. 

Final Words

Overweight dogs are more likely to experience anal sac difficulties because their anal sacs do not empty effectively. If the problem of anal gland expression is recurring frequently, you can go for surgical removal of anal glands. This surgery is completely safe and does no harm to your dog’s body. 

We hope this article helped you gain some essential information about anal gland expression. 

Happy Petting! Don’t forget to say hi to your furry buddy from our side. 

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