What To Know About Expressing Your Dog’s Anal Glands, According To Vets

No more scooting!

dog scooting on grass

Has your dog been scooting across the floor?

Scooting can be pretty funny to see, but it can also be a sign that your pup has an issue with his anal glands.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian with Paramount Pet Health, and Dr. Corinne Wigfall, a veterinarian spokesperson for SpiritDog Training, to find out how to tell if there’s something wrong with your dog’s anal glands and how your vet will treat them.

What are dog anal glands?

Anal glands are two glands located in your dog’s butt that produce scent (which is why dogs like to sniff each other’s rear ends when they say hello). Dogs use the scent from their glands to mark their territory and to identify other pups.

“These glands contain scent,” Dr. Wigfall told The Dodo. “As the stool passes from the rectum through the anus, the pressure from the stool allows fluid from the gland to empty onto the stool, marking it with that dog's particular scent. This is why dogs like to sniff other dogs' poop.”

Signs of anal gland problems in dogs

You might be familiar with scooting, but there are other signs of anal gland problems in dogs.

“Symptoms [that] a dog might need their anal glands expressed include scooting, licking at their anal area, chasing their tail or appearing to be uncomfortable,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo.

Here are symptoms to look out for to tell if your pup has full, infected (abscessed) or impacted (blocked) anal glands:

  • Scooting
  • Straining to poop
  • Crying when pooping
  • Licking or chewing his butt
  • Odor
  • Blood or pus in stool
  • Discharge
  • Chasing his tail
  • Swelling and redness on his butt
  • Aggression when you touch his tail or butt

Causes of dog anal gland problems

There are a bunch of things that can cause your pup to have issues with his anal glands.

“Dogs with an underlying gastrointestinal disease can have anal gland problems,” Dr. Burch said. “Loose stool or diarrhea may not efficiently express a dog's anal sacs, resulting in inflammation and pain. Changes in stool consistency can be due to stress colitis, intestinal parasites, food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease.”

These are some factors that can cause dogs to develop anal gland problems:

Certain types of small dogs, such as Chihuahas, beagles, miniature poodles and cocker spaniels, are also more likely to have anal gland problems.

Why do dogs need their anal glands expressed?

Anal glands that become impacted are itchy and uncomfortable for your pup, and if they’re left untreated for too long, they can become infected.

“Dogs experiencing impacted anal glands need to have an expression to prevent continued inflammation, pain and possible development of anal gland abscess,” Dr. Burch said.

How do vets express a dog’s anal glands?

To express your dog’s anal glands, your vet has to basically manually pop them to let the fluid out.

“The vet will pop a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum and palpate the gland,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Once identified, the gland will be squeezed, and the fluid will be released. It’s a very smelly job!”

You can express your dog’s glands at home, but it’s difficult, and you’ll most likely need two people so one can hold your pup steady (plus, it’s kind of gross). So it’s probably a good idea to let your vet do it.

“Expressing anal glands is a delicate job, and a fair amount of skill is required,” Dr. Wigfall said. “If you try to express an infected or ruptured anal gland, you can cause your dog a lot of pain, so it’s best left to the professionals.”

How are infected and impacted anal glands treated?

If your dog’s glands are infected or they’re severely blocked, your vet will express them, then they may need to flush them out. This can be painful, so vets will sometimes sedate dogs for this procedure.

Your dog might need antibiotics to treat any infection as well as pain medication until he’s feeling better.

If your dog’s anal gland problems are caused by diarrhea, your vet might also recommend a high-fiber diet or fiber supplements to help him have firmer poop.

“Some vets also recommend stool-bulking products, such as Fibor or Glandex, to help increase the bulk of the stool to naturally stimulate the release of the anal glands,” Dr. Wigfall said. “Talk to your veterinarian to see if this is an option for you.”

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Another option is having your dog’s anal glands removed if he has repeated gland problems. Talk to your vet to find out if this is a potential solution for your pup.

How often should your dog’s anal glands be expressed?

Some dogs never need to have their glands expressed if they don’t develop any problems with them.

Other dogs will need to get theirs expressed regularly if they have frequent issues with their glands. This could be anywhere from every month to every few months. It’ll depend on your dog, so ask your vet what they think is best.

If you notice your dog showing any symptoms of anal gland problems, like excessively licking his butt or swelling, you should take him to the vet to see if he needs his glands expressed.

So next time your pup is scooting, you’ll know why he’s doing it, and you can take him to the vet to make sure he doesn’t develop any problems.

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