How to Express Dog Anal Glands

small dog standing on its hind legs

Dogs rely on scent to navigate the world. They sniff new people, places, and dogs. Doing so helps them pick up pheromones that allow them to learn about their surroundings and who is in them. Dogs can even learn what other dogs have been in the area recently after they have left thanks to their powerful sense of smell.

There are many ways that your dog marks their scent for others to smell. Dog anal sacs secrete a strong smell that allows them to mark their territory and secrete a scent that tells other dogs about them. Sex, age, and health can all be identified by another dog thanks to the anal gland scent.

Anal glands are a part of every dog’s body and they must be maintained. If dog anal glands are not properly maintained, they may become full, impacted, or infected. These can lead to further health issues, which no dog owner wants for their pup. It’s important to express dog anal glands regularly to keep your pup as happy and healthy as possible.

What Are Dog Anal Glands

Dog anal glands are oval-shaped anal sacs on either side of the anus. The walls of the dog’s anal glands are lined with a large number of sebaceous glands, also known as sweat glands. Fluid is stored in these anal sacs and released through a small canal that opens just inside of the anus. Dog anal glands are present in both male and female dogs of all breeds.

Dog anal glands secrete certain chemicals that are territorial markers and let other dogs know that a specific dog has been there. The secretion is very similar to those produced by skunks, which are used to alert other animals of their presence and ward off enemies.

Dog anal glands squeeze out anal gland fluid with muscular contractions whenever your dog passes a bowel movement. This provides a unique odor, also known as individual scent signature, to their feces. This is why your dog may be so interested in smelling feces when out on a walk or in a park. They are trying to learn about who has been in the area before they have, and who might be close by.

Many dog experts also believe that the purpose of dog anal glands is to help pass bowel movements. It is often argued that the secretion from dog anal glands is used as a lubricant to help a dog pass a hard bowel movement. Dog anal glands may act as both scent markers and lubricants for stool.

dog laying in the grass

Dog Anal Gland Care

Just like any other organ or body part, dog anal glands need upkeep to keep your dog healthy. If they are not cared for properly, your dog may be at risk for a few different health issues because of this. Knowing the signs of possible anal gland issues, how to care for them, and when you need to express them are all important components of keeping your pup as healthy as they can be. We’ll go over all the dog anal glands’ basic information to ensure that you have all of the knowledge that you need when it comes to your dog’s health.

What Is Anal Gland Expression

Anal glands may become overfilled and need to manually be expressed on their own. This process can be done at home, by a vet, or even by a professional groomer. Anal gland expression empties the dog anal glands of excess secretion and prevents them from experiencing anal sac health issues.

Through anal gland expression, you will be removing the build-up of secretion and ensuring that the anal glands do not have any problems. Some dogs may need their anal glands manually expressed, while others do not. This varies by the individual dog.

How to Know If Your Dog Needs Anal Gland Expression

Some dogs need their anal glands expressed more often than others, and some dog anal glands don’t need to be expressed at all. Knowing the common signs of dog anal glands that need to be expressed is the first step in keeping your dog healthy. If you notice any of these signs, you will be able to choose your next step in having your dog’s anal glands expressed, whether at home, by a vet, or by a groomer.

dog on its hind legs looking at camera


Some owners may notice their dogs dragging themselves around on their floor in a sitting position. While seemingly harmless, this is a very common indicator that the dog anal glands need to be expressed. Your dog is likely dragging and scooting themselves in an attempt to ease the discomfort that their anal glands are causing them. If you notice your dog scooting around your home on its bottom, be sure to make a plan regarding anal gland expression. No one wants dog anal glands to cause their beloved pup to be uncomfortable or develop health issues!

Licking and Biting

Along with scooting, a dog who is licking and biting can be another common indicator that your dog needs its anal glands expressed. Licking and biting may be your dog’s attempt at easing the discomfort that their anal glands are causing them. Licking and biting can be dangerous for pups as they may cause harm to their skin in the process. If you notice that your dog is licking and biting its anal area, this may be an indicator of dog anal glands that need to be expressed and should be addressed.

Loose or Soft Stool

All dogs are prone to experiencing loose or soft stools at least once in their life. This can be caused by new treats, a change in diet, too much human food, or simply a sensitive stomach. Food allergies, obesity, and other health conditions may cause loose or soft stool to become consistent, and if this happens, be sure to talk to your vet.

When your dog is experiencing consistent loose or soft stool, this may be an indicator of a health concern that needs to be addressed. Dog anal glands that need to be expressed can cause this consistently loose or soft stool. When your dog’s stool doesn’t seem right, be sure to talk to your vet about the possible causes and treatments. With proper care of dog anal glands, your pup can avoid some very concerning health issues.

black dog laying in the grass

Red or Inflamed Anus

One of the most common signs of dog anal glands that need to be expressed is a red or inflamed anus. Dog anal glands can cause your dog some very serious discomfort and even pain when not properly cared for. If you notice a red or inflamed anus, as well as other signs of anal gland issues, be sure to talk to your vet or a grooming professional about expressing your dog’s anal glands. If you choose to express them yourself, finding the proper way to do so is essential.

Strong Odor

As stated before, dog anal glands secrete anal gland fluid that is used for a variety of things, such as lubricating bowel movements and marking territory. Because of this, dog anal glands can have a very strong odor. While this odor is normal, it can become overly potent when your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed. If you notice a strong fishy odor, be sure to check your dog’s anal glands. This is a very sure sign that they need to be cared for.

Anal Blood or Pus

One of the most serious signs of anal gland issues is blood or pus coming from the anus. Blood or pus are typically signs that dog anal glands have ruptured. This can have very serious concerns when dog anal glands rupture, and should be addressed immediately by a medical professional. If you notice any anal blood or pus coming from your dog’s anus, be sure to get them to the vet as soon as possible. Anal gland impaction is a very serious health condition that can have severe consequences if left untreated.

dog sitting in the grass looking up at the camera

Dog Anal Glands Expression Frequency

How often your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed can depend on a variety of different things. Some dogs need their anal glands expressed every three to four weeks, while others may never need theirs expressed. Keeping an eye on your dog’s pet health, including their anal glands, is an important pet owner’s responsibility. Keep an eye out for signs of anal gland issues to know if your dog needs to be expressed.

Some breeds are more likely to need frequent anal gland expression than others. Smaller breeds are more likely to need monthly manual anal gland expression. The Chihuahua, Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Beagle, Toy, Mini Poodle, and Lhasa Apso breeds are the most common ones to need monthly anal gland expression. However, dogs of all breeds and sizes may be affected by anal gland issues and can need manual anal gland expression.

Some dogs’ anal glands may need to be expressed monthly, while some may only need to be expressed every couple of months. This can all vary by the individual dog. A good rule of thumb is if you notice any signs of anal gland problems, be sure to check them out just in case they need to be expressed.

Anal Gland Issues

Dog anal glands can experience a variety of health issues if not properly cares for. Every dog owner should be sure to keep up with dog anal glands to avoid these potential health problems the best that they can. For dog anal glands, the most common health issue to experience is called anal sac disease. This condition is very common in dogs and should be taken seriously.

Anal sac disease occurs when dog anal glands become impacted due to inflammation. The secretion within impacted anal glands will thicken, causing dog anal glands to become swollen and distended. This causes bowel movements to become painful for your dog to pass.

The secretion within impacted dog anal glands also becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth, which can allow an abscess to form. Bacteria that already exist in dog stools can easily travel up the ducts and enter the dog anal glands. In healthy anuses, bacteria are flushed out when anal gland secretions are expelled during bowel movements. When dog anal glands are impacted, the anal gland fluid doesn’t empty normally and dog anal glands become infected. The fluid will become bloody and dog anal sacs will fill with pus, forming an anal sac abscess.

Anal abscesses will appear as a red, hot swelling on one of both sides of the anus. These anal abscesses can be very painful and uncomfortable for your dog to experience. If the anal abscess bursts, it will release a large amount of blood or pus. When left untreated, anal abscesses can quickly spread and cause severe damage to your dog’s anus.

One of the most common causes of recurring anal sac disease is changes in stool consistency. Food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and another gastrointestinal diseases can be the culprit for this. If you notice any signs of dog anal gland issues or other stomach health concerns, be sure to talk to your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to get your dog back on track to full health in a matter of no time.

dog sitting in the park

How to Express Dog Anal Glands

Dog anal glands can be expressed by a vet, a professional groomer, or even at home by a dog owner. Many owners may choose to have their dog’s anal glands expressed by a professional, while others prefer to do so themselves. Expressing dog anal glands at home can save you a trip to the vet or groomer and some extra money, especially when this needs to be done every month.

If you choose to express your dog’s anal glands at home, be sure to learn how to do so first. Improper anal gland expression can be very painful for your dog and even dangerous. When done properly, anal gland expression is not painful and will keep your dog healthy and happy.

To express dog anal glands, you will need a pair of disposable plastic or latex gloves, vaseline or another lubricant, paper towels, and a warm soapy washcloth. Having someone to help restrain your dog while you do this will make the process much easier. Though anal gland expression isn’t painful, it can be uncomfortable for your dog.

Once your partner is firmly but gently restraining your dog, stand behind your dog as they stand upright on all fours. With your dog’s tail up, place a lubricated and gloved finger on your right hand inside of the anus. Placing your thumb on the outside of your dog’s anus, bring your thumb and index finger together in a pinching position and run them up and down the side of your dog’s anus. Dog anal glands are located around the 4 and 8 o’clock areas on the anus. Dog anal glands are typically between pea and plum size, though most are around the size of a grape. Dog anal glands may be firm, while others are softer if they are not as full. Once you have located dog anal glands, begin to squeeze your thumb and index finger together. With your free hand, hold a paper towel in front of the anus to block anal gland fluid that is expelled.

Once you have emptied the first gland, you will perform the same process on the second gland. Some people prefer to use the same hand for both glands, while others prefer to express both dog anal glands with different hands. Do what feels most comfortable to you. Once you have finished expressing both glands, be sure to wash your dog down with a warm and soapy washcloth. Dog anal glands have a strong, fishy smell, so you will want to wipe your dog up as much as possible to avoid the smell from staying behind. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks or as needed when your dog begins to show signs of anal gland irritation.

happy corgi smiling

Wrapping Up

All dog owners want the best for their dogs when it comes to their happiness and health. We will do anything for them and can go to some great lengths to provide them with a fulfilling life. One very important component of overall health is dog anal glands. Dog anal glands must be properly cared for to avoid possible infections and ruptures.

Dog anal glands can be expressed at home, by a vet, or by a professional groomer. If you choose to do so at home, be sure to follow the proper technique. Doing so will make this process painless and easy for both you and your pup. With practice, expressing your dog’s anal glands will only take a couple of minutes and will prevent further health issues in the process. Be sure to reach out to your vet if you have any issues with expressing your dog’s anal glands or concerns about possible anal sac disease.

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