HomePet GroomingAnal Gland Expression: What You Need to Know

Anal Gland Expression: What You Need to Know

As a pet owner, it is important to be aware of all aspects of your furry friend’s health. One aspect that is often overlooked is their anal glands. These small glands are located near the anus and are responsible for producing a strong-smelling fluid that is used for marking territory and as a warning signal to other animals.

While most dogs naturally express their anal glands during bowel movements, some may require manual expression. This process, known as anal gland expression, is essential for maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about anal gland expression, including its purpose, signs that your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed, how it is done, and when to seek professional help. We will also provide tips for at-home anal gland expression.

What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are small pockets located on either side of a dog’s anus. They are lined with glands that produce a foul-smelling fluid. The main function of these glands is to mark territory and serve as a warning signal to other animals. It is a natural instinct for dogs to use their anal glands in this way.

The fluid produced by the anal glands is usually released during bowel movements. As the stool passes through the anal glands, it helps to empty them. However, in some cases, the fluid may become thick and not easily express itself. This can lead to a buildup of fluid in the anal glands, causing discomfort and potential health issues for your dog.

Why do Dogs Need their Anal Glands Expressed?

Anal Gland Expression What You Need to Know

In some cases, dogs may require manual expression of their anal glands. This could be due to various reasons such as:

  • Inactive or weak anal glands: Some dogs may have inactive or weak anal glands, making it difficult for them to empty on their own.
  • Soft stools: When a dog’s stool is soft, it may not be firm enough to express the anal glands naturally.
  • Small breed dogs: Smaller breed dogs are more prone to having issues with their anal glands as they have smaller anal openings.
  • Allergies: Dogs with allergies may experience inflammation in their anal glands, making it difficult for them to express on their own.
  • Poor diet: A poor diet lacking in fiber can lead to constipation, which in turn can cause problems with the anal glands.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Dogs who are not very active may also have difficulty expressing their anal glands naturally.

Signs that a Dog’s Anal Glands Need to be Expressed

Anal Gland Expression What You Need to Know

It is important to monitor your dog for any signs that their anal glands need to be expressed. Some common signs include:

  • Scooting: If your dog is dragging its rear end across the floor or ground, it could be a sign that their anal glands are full and need to be emptied.
  • Licking or biting at their hind end: Dogs may try to relieve the discomfort of full anal glands by licking or biting at their hind end.
  • Foul odor: A strong, unpleasant odor emanating from your dog’s hind end could indicate that their anal glands need to be expressed.
  • Swelling or redness around the anus: In some cases, the anal glands may become infected if they are not regularly expressed. This can cause swelling and redness around the anus.
  • Discharge from the anal glands: If your dog’s anal glands are infected, there may be a discharge of pus-like fluid from the glands.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to address them promptly to prevent further discomfort and potential health issues for your dog.

Risks of Untreated Anal Gland Issues

If a dog’s anal glands are not regularly expressed, it can lead to a range of health issues. These include:

  • Infections: As mentioned earlier, if the anal glands become impacted or not emptied regularly, they can become infected. This can be painful and may require antibiotics to treat.
  • Abscesses: If an infection in the anal glands is left untreated, it can progress into an abscess. This is a pocket of pus that forms under the skin and can be extremely painful for your dog.
  • Tearing of the anal gland: In some cases, the anal gland may rupture if it becomes too full and cannot be expressed. This can cause pain and discomfort for your dog and may require surgery to repair.
  • Fecal incontinence: In severe cases, untreated anal gland issues can lead to fecal incontinence, where the dog is unable to control their bowel movements.

It is important to note that even with regular expression, some dogs may be prone to recurring anal gland issues. This is why it is essential to monitor your dog’s anal glands and address any issues promptly to prevent further complications.

How Anal Gland Expression is Done

Anal gland expression should only be done by a trained professional such as a veterinarian or a groomer. It is not recommended for pet owners to attempt this procedure at home unless they have been properly trained.

The process of anal gland expression involves applying gentle pressure to the anal glands from the outside to help empty them. The following are the steps involved in anal gland expression:

  1. Identify the anal glands: The first step is to locate the anal glands which are located on either side of your dog’s anus. They are usually pea-sized and can feel like small bumps beneath the skin.
  2. Position your dog: Your dog should be standing or lying down on its side for the procedure. Make sure your dog is comfortable and calm before proceeding.
  3. Apply gentle pressure: Using your index finger and thumb, apply gentle pressure to the anal glands, starting from the bottom and moving upwards towards the top of the gland. It is important to use a gentle but firm pressure to avoid causing any discomfort or injury to your dog.
  4. Express the glands: As you apply pressure, you should see the fluid being expelled from the anal gland. If this does not happen, stop and consult a professional as there may be an underlying issue.
  5. Clean up: Once the glands have been emptied, use a clean cloth or wipes to gently clean the area around the anus.

It is important to note that anal gland expression should only be done when necessary and not as a routine procedure. Overexpression can lead to further issues with the anal glands.

When to Seek Professional Help

While some pet owners may choose to express their dog’s anal glands at home, it is always best to seek professional help. This is especially true if your dog has a history of recurring anal gland problems or if there are any signs of infection or inflammation.

A professional will be able to properly assess your dog’s condition and provide the necessary treatment or advice. They may also recommend more frequent expression if your dog is prone to anal gland issues.

Tips for At-Home Anal Gland Expression

If you have been trained by a professional to perform anal gland expression at home, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use proper technique: Make sure to follow the correct technique for expressing the anal glands, as incorrect method can cause injury or discomfort for your dog.
  2. Be gentle: It is important to use gentle but firm pressure when expressing the anal glands to avoid causing any harm to your dog.
  3. Keep your dog calm: It is crucial to keep your dog calm and comfortable during the procedure. If they become agitated or try to resist, it is best to stop and try again later.
  4. Use proper equipment: Make sure to use clean gloves and have clean wipes or cloths on hand for the procedure.
  5. Seek professional help if needed: If you are unsure about anything or if your dog is showing signs of discomfort, it is best to seek professional help.


In conclusion, anal gland expression is an essential aspect of maintaining your dog’s health and well-being. Regularly monitoring and addressing any issues with your dog’s anal glands can prevent discomfort and potential health problems. If you notice any signs that your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed, it is important to address them promptly. Seek professional help if needed and follow proper techniques if performing at-home expression. By keeping your dog’s anal glands healthy, you can ensure they stay happy and comfortable.


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