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Anal Glands And Your Dog – Top Tips

Written by: Helena Lawrence



Time to read 3 min

Not the most pleasant of things to discuss and most certainly a very stinky problem when issues arise… anal glands are a very important part of your dog’s health. They can be quite problematic but, in most cases, issues are easy to treat.

However, if your dog's anal glands become blocked, over-filled or irritated it can lead to more serious problems such as infection and abscesses.

Where and What are the Anal Glands?

So, where can you find your dog's anal glands? Every dog has two of these near the anal opening – if you think of their bum like a little clock face, you’ll locate these glands at 4 and 8 o’clock.

The purpose of the anal glands is to mark territory. When your dog poos, the glands secrete a strong-smelling liquid to announce who they are.

They are also the reason your dog spends time sniffing other dogs’ bums! If your dog’s glands aren’t working properly, they can overfill and block.

What Causes Anal Gland Problems in Dogs?

Have you examined your dog’s poop lately?

If it is soft in consistency, there might not be enough pressure on the anal glands as the stool passes through. The glands rely on firm, bulky poop to push past and empty their foul-smelling liquid.

Is your dog a little overweight?

If so, it is possible that they have weak muscles around their bum coupled with fatty tissue gathering around the glands. If this happens, it makes emptying the glands a little difficult.

Small dogs can also struggle to express their anal gland as, due to their size, the glands are small and could block more easily.

Does your dog like to bite or groom excessively?

This could lead to trauma of the anal gland as they are quite close to the skin surface. In turn, this can cause infection and skin inflammation. Allergies can also manifest red and inflamed skin all over your dog’s body including the anal gland.

Signs and Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

There are many tell-tale signs that your dog is suffering with their anal glands:

A stinky fishy smell
Scooting – dragging their bums along the ground (and often leaving a stain)
Pain when pooing
Sitting or standing uncomfortably
Excessive licking or biting their bums to try and relieve the itchiness of full glands
Reluctance to have their bum touched

If you have spotted any of these signs, it is likely your dog has a problem. In addition, if you notice pus, red spots or a swollen area near the anus, it is possible your dog has also developed an infection.

What Can You Do At Home to Help With Your Dog's Anal Gland Problems?

It may be that your dog's glands need to be expressed and if they do it is important this is done properly by a professional who knows how to do this safely, such as your vet or your groomer. Whilst this isn’t a pleasant task, it is straightforward, and it is something you can do at home if you are shown how to do this safely by your vet or groomer. 

Even if you don't want to do this yourself it's important to understand what's involved and the steps someone will go through are:

  1. Have your dog on all fours and gently lift up their tail.
  2. Insert a gloved, Vaseline-covered index finger into your dog’s bum. They'll use their finger and thumb on the outside to feel for the glands.
  3. One they’ve located the pea to plum-sized gland, they'll gently squeeze and massage it. A brown liquid should leak from the bum.
  4. Repeat the process with the other gland.
  5. Wash you dog’s bum with warm soapy water to get rid of the smell.
  6. Your dog should then get a well deserved treat!

There are also preventative measures which you can do at home to try and minimise the risk of anal gland issues:

  • Ensure you give your dog a high-quality diet to give them healthy poop to support a healthy anal gland function.
  • Ensure your dog is getting the right amount of fibre in their diet by making sure there is enough in their food or they have a high fibre supplement.
  • Keep your dog slim so they retain muscle tone around their bum.

When to Seek Veterinary Help For Your Dog's Anal Glands

If you feel unsure about tackling anal glands yourself, it is quick and easy for a vet or groomer to do. Don’t hang about though, if left untreated, blocked anal glands can lead to more serious problems like infections and abscesses.

If you spot the signs of infection as we have discussed, contact your vet immediately.

We know this is not the most fun part of being a paw-parent but this is essential advice to ensure you have a happy, healthy pup. Make sure you regularly check the area to look for any abnormalities and act as necessary.