Anal Glands 101

April 7, 2010
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What are canine anal glands?

Have you ever seen your dog scooting its butt on the floor with both hind legs up in the air? Did you shriek in horror? It’s understandable. Your dog was trying to clean or “pop” the clogged anal glands and needed to do something. Unfortunately that something was on your carpet. Scooting on the floor is always unpleasant to see and also means your dog is uncomfortable and trying to relieve the pressure that the clogged glands are causing him/her.

Anal glands, or anal sacs, are two small that produce a substance that is secreted through ducts just inside the rectum when pressure is put on the glands. This substance has a strong odor, which is very unpleasant to humans but is useful to animals for marking their territory.  Along with leaving a scent, the oil also helps lubricate the anal opening to help make passing stool easier. Dogs may also release a little oil when they are excited or feel provoked.

Anal glands are located in the 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock position of your dog’s anal circumference. If they are clean you may not even notice they are there, however, if they are impacted you may notice your dog licking more, scooting, and may see some reddening of the area. Your dog may also have some loose stool or diarrhea. Anal glands may become impacted due to diet. A good quality dog food can help prevent anal glands from becoming an issue.

If you notice any of these signs, it could mean that it is time to have your dog’s glands “expressed” or unclogged. The glands can be expressed in the following way:

1: take a warm washcloth and cover the dog’s rectum

2: with your forefinger and thumb apply gentle pressure to the pea-sized glands on either side like popping a pimple

3: as you apply pressure, take a deep breath and hold it

4: a small amount of oily liquid should emerge and may smell extremely strong

5: wipe the area with the washcloth gently

6: repeat steps 2 through 5 for the other gland

The oil may just rise out of the gland but sometimes it squirts. Aside from using the washcloth to wipe the area clean afterwards, it’ll also protect you from being squirted in the face. You do not want to be squirted in the face!

If this seems like something that your dog would not tolerate and that you cannot do without a diving tank and oxygen mask, have your vet take care of it. Most vets will unclog the glands for free or a small fee. Groomers will also do it. If the glands are particularly swollen and red, it’s also best to have your vet check them out in case there is an infection and your dog needs some antibiotics.

If your dog is eating a quality dog food that is balanced, then the chances of having blocked glands is lower than if you fed your dog junk food.  Some vets may suggest a diet that has higher amounts of fiber to make sure that preventative maintenance is taken if your dog seems to have chronic problems.

If you did not know what the anal glands were before reading this article, now you probably know more than you want to about them. Now, go eat lunch!


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