Anal Gland Expression for Dogs

Dog Anal Gland


When it comes to caring for our dogs, many pet parents understand the importance of traditional grooming, nutrition and exercise, but anal gland expression… well that topic sometimes comes as a surprise. Impacted anal glands can be a painful experience for a dog, and it’s important for dog parents to recognize the signs and symptoms and know what to do should the problem occur.

Petco offers anal gland expressions as part of a full-service dog bath or bath with haircut or an add-on grooming option.

Dog anal gland expression: identifying the need and causes

Anal glands serve an important function in the social strata of canines. Also referred to as anal sacs, these scent glands are located on either side of a dog’s anus and release an oily substance that, to humans, has an unpleasant fishy smell. For dogs, however, it’s so much more.

When dogs meet and sniff around each other’s rear ends, the scents released by their glands reveal information about their hormonal status. Dogs may also express their anal sacs when they are scared as a reactionary response. Expressing their anal glands also allows a dog to leave a trail of their scent behind to stake claim to their territory in their home or yard.

How do you know if your dog needs their anal glands expressed?

Some of the more common signs that trouble is brewing include:

  • If you notice your dog scooting their bum along the carpet or on the grass by pulling themselves forward with their front legs, they are probably trying to help with the release of secretion buildup in their anal glands, or to help stop the itch that can come with impacted anal glands
  • Signs of painful pooping, like straining or whining while trying to defecate
  • Blood and/or pus either in their poop or left behind from wherever they may have been sitting
  • Extreme licking or being protective of their anal area
  • An unpleasant and ongoing fishy smell coming from your dog
  • The glands will appear swollen when viewed or when you run your hand over the area

Expressing dog anal glands

A normal bowel movement is usually all your dog needs to sufficiently express and empty their anal sacs. Additionally, most groomers perform anal gland expression as part of their traditional grooming routines, but it’s always a good idea to ask if it’s included. Petco offers anal gland expressions as part of a full-service dog bath or bath with haircut or an add-on grooming option.

What causes impacted anal glands in dogs

When anal glands are not emptied properly during a bowel movement or regular grooming sessions, secretions can build up, impacting the glands and potentially causing further issues.

Certain conditions and outside factors can increase your dog’s odds of having impacted anal glands. These include food and environmental sensitivities, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, bacteria, yeast and chronic skin infections, among other things. Certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Beagles and Chihuahuas, are also predisposed to anal gland problems. If your dog is among these breeds or already suffers from the conditions mentioned above, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to their anal glands to ensure they are functioning and expressing properly.

If left unattended, impacted anal glands in dogs can become quite a problem. They’re not only uncomfortable and itchy for the dog, but they can become abscessed and even rupture when not handled properly. It’s best to leave the treatment of an impacted anal gland up to a trained veterinarian who can ensure the glands are expressed thoroughly and properly to avoid any further trauma.

If you notice an ongoing issue with your dog and impacted anal glands, be sure to discuss the problem with your veterinarian, who can help you come up with potential treatment ideas to help alleviate the issue.

FAQs about expressing anal glands

Yes, Petco offers anal gland expression as part of a full-service dog bath or bath with haircut or as an add-on grooming option.

At Petco, anal gland expression is part of any full-service bath or groom. It can also be added on to any grooming service. You can check pricing for your dog during the online booking process or contact your neighborhood Petco prior to your appointment for an estimated price.

Yes, you can, but keep in mind that the expressed liquid has a very foul odor, so you’ll want to avoid getting it on your skin. You’ll also need to clean the area well after expressing the glands. The liquid may be anything from clear and smooth to brownish and grainy.

Dragging or scooting their posterior on the ground, licking or biting their anal area, having difficulty sitting or standing, and tail chasing are all signs that your dog is uncomfortable and may need to have their anal glands expressed. If their glands look particularly swollen and/or red, they may be impacted. DO NOT attempt to express them. Instead, check in with your vet about treatment. Also check in with your vet if you’re unsure if your pet really needs their glands expressed. Some dogs inadvertently express the glands themselves when they defecate or scoot in grass or, in some unfortunate cases, across your carpet.

A couple of tips first: Wear gloves and turn your face so it’s not directly in front of or close to the glands.

  • Lift the dog’s tail to expose the anus. Watch their body language for signs of discomfort.
  • Place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the anus. The anal glands are beneath the skin, just under the anus, at approximately 4 and 8 o’clock. If the glands are full, you will feel a slight bump.
    • Emptying the glands depends on pressing in the right place. Sometimes only one gland may be full. If the area is flat, do not try to express that gland.
    • Keeping your thumb and forefinger on the glands, gently apply pressure up and in toward the anus. Do not squeeze continuously, but rather use gentle pulses.
    • Watch your dog’s bottom for expressed liquid. If you are expressing correctly, the liquid should be coming out in slow drips.
    • If you’re not having success, try adjusting the position of your fingers, but do not overdo it. If the oil does not come out easily, stop and take your dog to see a pet stylist or your vet.
    • If the discharge is bloody or especially pasty, stop and see your vet.

Most dogs inadvertently empty the glands on their own, but some may need occasional help so they don’t become impacted and make defecation painful. If your pup continues having issues emptying their anal glands on their own, talk to your vet to make sure there is nothing serious going on.

Because most dogs take care of this on their own when they go to the bathroom, there is no exact time frame for additional assistance. During your at-home grooming sessions, check your dog’s anal glands to see if they appear swollen (and need to be expressed) or are flat (and don’t need to be expressed).