When dogs and cats sniff each other, it’s considered the canine and feline equivalent of social networking. Both species have anal sacs, or anal glands, as they are also often referred to, on either side of the anus, which emit an oily substance with an unpleasant smell. It’s this scent that gives information to the sniffer about the other dog or cat’s hormonal status. Further, it also allows the dog or cat to leave a scent trail to stake claim to territory in your home or yard.

A normal bowel movement is usually sufficient to express these sacs. This is nature’s way of maintaining them so that the scent is not too noticeable. But if they do not empty properly on their own, they can become impacted. Impacted anal glands can cause itching, a bad odor and can be very painful.

Symptoms of impacted anal glands

If your dog is scooting across the floor or grass, it may be a sign that he is dealing with the itch of impacted anal glands.

Left unattended, not only are impacted anal glands very uncomfortable, but in severe cases the anal glands can rupture. So it’s something that should never be ignored.

How to manage impacted anal glands

Expressing your dog’s anal glands is not something you should try and do yourself at home unless a veterinarian has offered you detailed instruction. Ultimately, it’s best left to a qualified veterinary technician or a professional pet stylist who has been trained how to do the procedure.

Most grooming salons offer external anal gland expression as part of a standard grooming routine. But be sure to ask if it is included. For internal anal gland expression, consult your veterinarian.


Some breeds are predisposed to anal gland problems. Impacted anal glands are more common in smaller - to mid-sized dogs, and cats of all sizes and breeds. But larger dogs are not immune.

Diet can be the cause of the problem. If the food you are feeding your dog produces a softer stool, there may not being enough natural friction between the stool and the glandular tissue to allow the glands to empty themselves. It also can occur if your pet has been ill and had diarrhea. Selecting a food that is high in fiber, or simply adding additional fiber to your dog’s diet can help to bulk up his stools.

Obesity can be another factor. Overweight pets often have less muscle tone as well as additional fat tissue in the anal area, preventing the glands from emptying properly.

If your veterinarian has diagnosed this as a chronic condition in your dog, be sure to let your pet stylist know. In extreme circumstances, there is a surgery to remove the anal glands.

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