How Do You Know if Your Dog Needs Glands Expressed
Pet Care Advice

How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Glands Expressed?

Has your dog’s bum been a bit smellier than usual lately or are they scooting along the carpet? It might be because they are needing their anal glands expressed and fortunately (or unfortunately) for you, it is easy to do without needing to go to the vet

Table of Contents:

What Are Anal Glands, And What Do They Do?

The anal glands are two little sacs that are located on either side of the dog’s anus. They are lines with a special liquid that is full of pheromones which then transfer onto the dog’s feces when they go to the restroom, flushing out bacteria in the process. 

This information is then smelt by other dogs that come across this area, it is also why dogs sniff each other’s backsides in order to get to know one another – so in the dog world, anal glands are quite important!

Both female and male dogs have anal glands and sometimes can suffer from impaction which is when the fluid in the anal sacs is not emptied when the dog poos.

If the anal sacs are impacted, it can lead to an infection which will make the anal glands inflamed and irritated which can then lead to an abscess or even eventually rupture which is when surgery is needed. 

Having impacted anal glands is also the first stage of anal sac disease which is when the anal glands become swollen and very painful for your dog to poo. This is known as sacculitis and is often when bacteria start to grow and cause infection. 

Then, if there is still no action taken, there is a good chance that an abscess will form before bursting and releasing an ooze that further spreads infection. It can get very serious and even leave a hole next to the anus which needs surgery to treat. 

What Leads To Impacted Anal Glands? 

Some breeds are more likely to get impacted anal glands which mainly include small breeds such as cocker spaniels, beagles, toy poodles, and chihuahuas

Dogs that are obese or senior are also at a higher risk of it which can be due to them being less active and not having as much muscle mass. 

Other possible causes of impacted anal glands are not having enough fiber in their diet, having food or environmental allergies, chronic skin dermatitis, and genetics. 

How Do You Know If They Need To Be Expressed?

Luckily, our dogs make it quite clear when their anal glands are needing to be expressed. One of the most common signs is the dog dragging its backside along the ground as well as licking and chewing its anus excessively.

If the glands have been impacted for a bit longer, you will also likely smell a strong odor that smells a bit like rotten fish and is hard to miss, especially if it has been dragged along your carpet. 

Your dog may also struggle to pass stools as their anus is sore and swollen by the blocked glands. If they do manage to pass a stool, there might be some blood or pus evident in the poo. 

If you think your dog has impacted anal glands, but you are not completely sure, you should take your dog to the vet to be checked over.

They will ask you what symptoms your dog is showing that makes you think that they are having issues including changes in diet and behavior.

Then, they will carry out a physical examination including a rectal exam to get a better idea of what is going on. By doing these tests, they will be able to tell straight away if the glands are impacted and will then express them. 

If your dog has been getting impacted anal glands on a regular basis, your vet will want to get to the bottom of why it is happening in the first place and will run some tests such as blood work, an anal swab, and a stool analysis. 

By carrying out these tests, the vet will be able to rule out certain conditions which could uncover something more serious. Other times, having frequent anal gland problems may be due to abnormalities in electrolytes, hormones, and chemical levels. 

How Do You Express Anal Glands?

If you are sure that your dog has impacted anal glands, and you are comfortable doing it yourself, now is the time to express them. Prepare for very smelly work and make sure to wear latex gloves before you do anything. 

This will be much easier if you have someone to help you and hold your dog still as they stand up on all fours.

Once your dog is in position and calm, start by carefully inserting your finger into your dog’s anus and bending it to make a hook toward either one of the anal sacs which are placed at the right and left of the anus opening.

You will know when you meet the anal sac as it will feel like a small pea. 

When you feel the sac, give it a gentle squeeze and some brown liquid should come out of the anus. It will smell quite foul, so it is best to catch it with a paper towel before it gets on anything. 

Repeat this same process for the other anal gland but if at any moment, your dog starts to show signs of pain or discomfort, you should stop and give them a break before continuing if you are able to.

As well as this, be aware of the color of the liquid because if it is clouded or discolored then it may be a sign of infection. 

When you have finished expressing their anal glands, it is a good idea to wash their backside with warm, soapy water to get rid of the strong smell. Also, don’t forget to give your dog a tasty treat as a reward!

Preventing Impacted Anal Glands

There are some ways that you can prevent your dog from getting impacted anal glands which involves good grooming.

Expressing your dog’s anal glands on a routine basis such as once a month will prevent them from getting impacted, but you should not do it too much is it can make them irritated and sore. 

Treatment And Recovery Of Impacted Anal Glands

Usually, treating impacted anal glands can be as easy as expressing them and moving on. But having impacted anal glands can lead to something more serious when it becomes infected.

How Do You Know if Your Dog Needs Glands Expressed (1)

In severe cases such as this, your dog might have to be sedated so that your vet can use saline to flush out the anal glands.

They may also advise you to make regular visits in order to keep on top of their anal gland secretion appointments which prevents it from happening again.

Having impacted anal glands reoccur can make the ducts that lead out of the sacs more damaged every time and therefore become a chronic problem. 

If your dog is suffering from inflammation around the anus, they will probably be given oral or topical steroids to help relieve it as well as take away some pain.

If there is an abscess, antibiotics, as well as surgery and a hot compress, can be used to treat it as well as pain medication. 

Changes in your dog’s diet can help to re-establish anal gland health and firm up the stool which makes it able to squeeze the anal glands naturally as the dog passes it. 

In some cases, the anal gland issues do not go away, and the dog will get impacted glands time and time again, in this circumstance surgery is one of the few ways that it can be treated.

This surgery consists of removing the anal sacs completely, and since they aren’t necessary for their quality of life it does not alter them in any way other than the fact that they won’t be able to mark their territory with their poo. 

General anesthesia is usually used for this surgery and therefore can carry some risks for your dog such as nerve damage. It may also lead to fecal incontinence, so it should only be used as a last resort. 


Even though having a stinky bum is an issue in itself, the fact that it means that your dog has impacted anal glands can open the door to a lot more issues such as inflammation and infection which may need surgery to fix it. 

However, knowing the signs that your dog needs their anal glands expressed means that you can fix the problem before it gets worse all in the comfort of your own home, just remember to put some gloves on first!