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How To Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands in 10 Steps

How To Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands in 10 Steps

When we become dog parents, we look forward to long walks in the park, long cuddle sessions on the couch, and so much more!

However, when we think about all of the less-than-ideal things we have to do for our dogs, that lengthy list isn’t quite so “warm and fuzzy.” Cleaning up when they have diarrhea on the rug or vomit in the car is no walk in the park, but we love them, so we deal with it. Unfortunately, those aren’t even the stinkiest things your dog could conjure up.

When our dogs’ anal glands release, they smell similar to that of a very stinky fish. This usually signals that we need to express their glands to provide them with relief. Plus, this will clear up the smell in the air.

This kind of treatment is often available at your bi-yearly veterinarian check-ups (or sometimes at the groomer) for an additional price and can be very helpful. Yet, some dogs are more prone to impacted anal glands than others, and twice a year might not be enough.

This is where learning how to do it on your own comes into play. Keep reading to learn more about how to express your dog’s anal glands at home!

What Are Anal Glands?

The anal glands — also referred to as anal sacs — are scent glands located on both sides of your dog’s rectum. When your dog poops, these sacs usually empty out a small amount of fluid that passes your dog’s scent into their stool.

Dogs can express their anal glands involuntarily, too, not just when they are going to the bathroom. This might happen because your dog is scared or anxious and is always followed by an extremely pungent odor. It’s hard to miss the smell; it isn’t nearly as sweet smelling as a new puppy.

How Do They Become Impacted?

An impacted anal gland will have difficulty expressing on their own. They can become clogged and infected if they don’t express themselves, and your dog’s behavior might raise a few concerns. Pups might scoot around on the ground trying to find relief as a full anal sac can be very uncomfortable.

Anal sacs become impacted due to inflammation in the anal ducts. This inflammation thickens the ducts and causes a backup because anal fluid cannot secrete out. If this becomes the case, it’s time to take our dogs to the vet to get checked out.

Do Dogs Express Anal Glands on Their Own?

Normally, your dog will express their anal glands on their own every time they poop. This happens naturally, as a little bit of liquid is supposed to come out every time they go. They might mistakenly express when anxious, but these are the only two ways they can do it on their own. If there is an issue with their expression, dogs will need help from humans.

How Do You Know if Anal Glands Need To Be Expressed?

Your dog might become visibly uncomfortable if they have issues with their anal glands. An impacted anal gland can be swollen and irritated to the point that it is painful. Your dog might try to scoot their rear around the carpet or outside on the grass, searching for relief. They might begin to lick at their bottoms incessantly because of this irritation.

Additionally, your dog might have difficulty going to the bathroom, to the point that they are straining very hard when pushing. You might notice blood in the stool or near the rectum if the discomfort is that bad.

Anal Gland Expression at the Vet’s Office

Dogs can get their anal glands expressed when they go into their veterinary check-ups. Usually, this has an additional cost, but it is so worth it if your dog is prone to issues.

This is also the easiest way to get your dog’s anal glands expressed because your vet knows what they are doing. But what if your dog has a frequent need for anal gland expression?

Learning how to do it at home can be very valuable:

How To Express Them at Home

Expressing them at home doesn’t seem ideal, but it will bring comfort to your pet. Plus, as dog lovers, we have to be prepared to do anything for our furry friends… including expressing their anal glands.

What You’ll Need

You will want a solid surface to place your pet when expressing their glands. Small dogs can be placed on a table, and larger dogs can sit on the ground.

Some supplies you’ll want to consider are:

  • Disposable medical gloves
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Towel for underneath your dog
  • Paper towels
  • Washcloth and warm soapy water
  • Trash bag
  • Someone to help you keep your dog calm and still
  • Lots of treats!

This process can feel intimidating the first few times you try to do it with your dog, but the more often you do it, the better you’ll feel about it. (PS: Sometimes, having a lick mat filled with peanut butter can help to distract your dog.)

Expressing Anal Glads Step-by-Step

The process of expressing anal glands at home is not always fun — for your dog or you.

Every dog and situation is unique, but here are some general guidelines:

  1. First, load up your lick mat with peanut butter and place your dog on a flat surface.
  2. Have the person who is helping you gently restrain your dog. They can do this by placing one arm underneath and around your dog’s neck and the other holding onto their body.
  3. Put on your medical gloves and put some petroleum jelly onto your index finger and thumb.
  4. Think of your dog’s anus like a clock (it might be weird, but trust us, it will likely help). The anal glands are located at the 8 and 4 o’clock positions. Lift your dog’s tail and place your lubricated index finger about an inch into your dog’s rectum.
  5. Bring your thumb and index finger together to begin releasing your dog’s anal glands. You will feel for a firm pea-sized object.
  6. Once you have located the anal sac, you will place a paper towel in front of the area to capture any oil that comes out. They are known to squirt outwards at you, so be prepared!
  7. Slowly squeeze until you can no longer feel the gland. Once it’s gone, that means the sac has been fully released.
  8. You will repeat these steps when doing the other anal gland.
  9. Afterward, use warm soapy water to clean the area. This will help to limit the fishy smell that comes out.
  10. Praise your dog and give them lots of treats and loving.

Have More Questions?

You may find that you’re asking yourself lots of questions when it comes to your dog’s health and behavior. Regardless of if you’re a long-time or brand new pet parent, your dog will surprise you with what they can get into. While most dogs are generally healthy and happy, issues and concerns may arise that you need answers to.

With AskVet, you can talk to a Pet Coach who can help answer any questions that pop up about your pup (or your fish, cat, horse, lizard, or more).

When you sign up for a membership with AskVet, not only do you have 24/7 assistance from our expert veterinarians but also access to the  AskVet community, and One Pet ID.

Not only can we answer your questions, but we can create personalized treatment and behavioral plans to help with training or pain management. Join AskVet, and the next time you need to express your dog’s anal glands at home or need any other guidance, we’re here.



Description Of The Bacterial Microbiota Of Anal Sacs In Healthy Dogs | NCBI

A Cross-Sectional Study On Canine And Feline Anal Sac Disease | NCBI

Anal Glands in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know | American Kennel Club


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