Dog’s Anal Glands: Common Problems & Treatment

Updated 03 June 2024
Read time: 5 mins

For some individual pets, anal glands can become problematic and owners must be aware of what they are and what can go wrong with them.

What are anal glands in dogs?

Dog anal glands are small sacs; about the size of a cherry, that sit inside the anus. If we were to say the anus was a clock face, the glands are found at about 4 and 8 o’clock.

The sacs are lined with sebaceous glands and they produce a strong, foul-smelling liquid that dogs use to mark territory and communicate with other dogs in the vicinity.

Anal glands cannot be seen externally and can only be felt by inserting fingers into the anus.  This is done with a gloved hand, using lubricant to minimise discomfort.


What causes anal gland problems in dogs


  •  Blockages

Sometimes, the fluid inside the gland is not expressed and it builds up, causing a blockage.
    • Infections

      The gland can become infected, leading to discomfort, an elevated temperature and swelling of the gland.
    • Ruptured abscesses

      An advanced infection can cause the gland to swell with pus and to then ulcerate onto the skin. The owner will see a small hole in the skin that is oozing blood and pus.
    • Cancer

      An adenocarcinoma is the most common type of tumour to affect the anal sac. These tumours frequently cause elevated calcium levels and signs such as excess thirst and weakness.


    Symptoms of blocked anal glands in dogs

    One of the quintessential signs of anal gland issues is ‘the scoot’. Scooting or bum dragging is a dog’s way of trying to relieve the irritation they are feeling. Many owners mistakenly assume that this is a sign of worms, but it is simply an indication that the anal area is very irritated.

    You might notice your dog sitting down abruptly and/or quickly looking behind them with an alert or concerned expression on their face.

    A swelling may be visible around the anus and we might also detect a fishy smelling, brown discharge being leaked from the anus.

    Some dogs will stretch to lick and chew at their back end. While some can reach, others may lick and chew their rump and legs instead. This can lead to fur loss and red skin.


    Are any breeds at increased risk?

    We see anal gland issues much more commonly in small breeds, due to their conformation. They seem to be more prone to narrow openings of the anal glands. Obese dogs are also at higher risk. This is thought to be due to them having weaker muscles.

    It is relatively uncommon for larger breeds to suffer with chronic anal gland issues, but it certainly happens.

    Pedigree dogs are at highest risk. This is likely due to the fact that atopic dermatitis (allergies) is more common in these dogs and anal gland issues go hand in hand with atopy.


    How to express dog anal glands

    Anal glands will need to be squeezed and emptied if they are impacted. This is something owners can be taught to safely do at home. We should only empty glands that require emptying; if the dog has no anal gland issues, there is no need to empty them.


    • When emptying glands at home, prepare yourself before getting your dog. Make sure you have disposable gloves, paper towel and some lubricant such as KY jelly or vaseline. 
    • The easiest place to empty glands is in the bath! Ideally you would have one person holding the dogs shoulders forward and praising them. They can also reward them with high value treats las they stay calm.
    • If you imagine the anus is a clock face, each gland is located at 4 and 8 o'clock. Gently insert your thumb into the anus, steadying the anal gland with your pointer finger, which will be on the outside of the anus. 
    • Squeeze with firm pressure, releasing all of the contents onto a tissue. You will feel the gland shrinking from the size of a grape to a small 'empty balloon'.
    • As this can be a strange sensation, your dog may try to run or jump, so ensure they are being held firmly.
    • Reward your doggy. You are done!


    Many owners are (understandably) not confident to empty the glands at home and this is always something a vet will be happy to do. Some dogs require their glands to be emptied very regularly (every 4 to 6 weeks), while others may only need it a few times in their life.

    If there is an infection, the dog will need a course of antibiotics and anti inflammatories.

    A dog who is licking at their back end due to the discomfort should be given a buster collar to protect the surrounding skin and tissue.

    Uncommonly, surgery is needed to treat ongoing anal gland issues, particularly if they cannot be managed medically and are significantly affecting a dog’s quality of life.


    How can you prevent dog anal gland issues?

    Thankfully, there are lots of things we can do to help prevent anal gland issues. This includes:


    • Feeding a high quality diet with ample fibre and supplementing the diet with fibre if needed. This helps keep the stool solid, ensuring the glands are naturally expressed when the dog passes stool.
    • Providing ample exercise. Not only will this prevent a dog becoming over-weight, exercise aids in gut health and helps promote healthy bowel movements.
    • Preventing obesity. Consider a slimming diet such as Pooch & Mutt’s Slim & Slender if your dog is over weight. This high fibre weight loss diet helps stave off hunger and can speed up weight loss.
    • Schedule regular check ups. You can ask your vet to check your dog’s glands during their routine checks and you may also need to book them in for regular ‘anal gland checks’.



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

    Your dog will usually let you know something is amiss by scooting their bum along the ground and stopping abruptly to look quickly at their back end. They may also lick or chew obsessively at their back end.

    What happens when a dog’s anal glands are full?

    Full anal glands cause discomfort and can quickly become infected, leading to an abscess forming. If not treated on time, the abscess can burst out onto the skin.

    How often should you express dogs’ anal glands?

    Most dogs never need their glands expressed. The fluid is released naturally when they pass stool. However, some dogs will need their glands emptied for them. This can be an infrequent occurrence (once or twice a year) or something that is done every 4-6 weeks. It all depends on the individual.

    Comments (38)

    Pooch Admin

    Hi Lynn, it might be worth adding in some of our Bionic Biotic supplement to see if this helps with their anal gland trouble, to help firm up the stools and also help with digestion, along with the benefit of additional prebiotics to aid in gut health. :)

    Team Pooch - Sep 22 2023

    We have a 3 year old red fox labrador. We are having to empty his anal glands every 4 weeks, usually get a sign of a fish smelling odour/discharge.

    Is this normal? Is there anything we should include or exclude from his diet?


    gregory - Dec 13 2023

    My 1 year and 5 month puppy, as her anal gland empty today. How long will the discomfort last

    Keisha - Dec 13 2023

    I have a 10 month old pocket bully female and she was on a raw diet but started refusing to eat it. She is now on kibble and meat. She has solid toilet everyday but she let’s of her anal glands nearly everyday and will do it anywhere ie sofa, car etc. I have ordered her some fibre and help would be good please 🙏

    Laura - Dec 13 2023
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Gregory,

    It all depends on the individual and some dogs do need their anal glands expressing every 4-6 weeks. We would advise ensuring they are on a high fibre diet such as our Health & Digestion dry food, which contributes to firm stools and the natural expression of anal glands. :)

    Team Pooch - Dec 13 2023
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Keisha,

    Your pooch should only feel discomfort for around 24 hours, any longer than this we would advise speaking with your vet. :)

    Team Pooch - Dec 13 2023

    My dog had a smelly discharge, some leakage, occasional scooting. Took her to the vet today and she has one infected gland. She was prescribed an antibiotic, should I have asked for anti inflammatory meds too? We have a great veterinarian, I just worry about discomfort. She’s had the smelly discharge for a couple weeks so I’m worried she’s been in pain this whole time. The only reason she only saw her vet today (two to three weeks after i noticed the scent) is because we couldn’t get an appt two weeks ago due to holidays. But now I’m worried she may be in pain. She got her first dose of flagyl a few hours ago.

    Corey - Jan 10 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Corey,
    Sometimes vets do prescribe an anti-inflammatory alongside other meds and it might be worth contacting your vet about this if you are concerned she is in pain, so they can re asses her needs to include any if needed. :)

    Team Pooch - Jan 10 2024

    Hi There!
    I have an 8 year old, 9.6 kg westie mix who was diagnosed with IBD a few month back. He still on prednisone we tried to reduce it as much as we could but he had flare ups on 1.25 so now he is back on 2.5mg. He has been diagnosed with reflux at age 3 and he always needed his anal sacks expressed at least every 4 weeks. He never in his life had a loose stool. My question is could it be that his occasional IBD/reflux flare ups are linked to his anal glands? Thank you so much, Linda

    Linda Billege - Jan 17 2024

    My one-year-old male Chow, Fozzie Bear has had his anal glands release three times in the house. I think it’s happening because he gets scared when a stranger comes into the house. I don’t know if this is indicative of a problem or just normal because he’s scared. My last two male chows couldn’t empty their anal glands themselves, I had to have them manually drained. I gave one of them Metamucil twice a week to help. Should I try this with Fozzie?

    Christa - Jan 17 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Linda,

    We would advise raising this with your own vet, as they know your pets history and would be best to comment on this. If there is anything we can help with in relation to your dogs diet, please let us know :)

    Team Pooch - Jan 17 2024

    Our 6 year old Maltese started dropping little poop nuggets (size of a marble; normal consistency) after eating, sleeping (dropping them all day – recently). She does have pancreatitis, so eats a low fat prescription kibble diet. She seems unaware that the nugget is beginning to come out – and begins to shake as it finishes forming (I believe she thinks she’s done something wrong). The vet has cleaned her anal glands and suggested adding psyllium powder to her food. We’ve done this for a couple of months, but it seem to have done nothing at all (and sticks all over in the hair around her mouth). We quickly take her outside to let her finish (after one falls) – but she never thinks she has anything left to excrete. 10 or 15 minutes later, it will be the same thing. We can almost walk behind her, and use a tissue to catch them as
    they fall out. Is there anything that you can think of that would help? Thank you.

    Kathy - Feb 08 2024

    My dog has an annul abcese and is on antibiotics and anti inflammatory but has not been able to pass a poo for 24 hours is this normal

    Shirley - Feb 08 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Kathy, as you have tried what the vet has already suggested, we would advise checking back in with them for further advice, as they will know your pets history and be in the best place to advise. :)

    Team Pooch - Feb 08 2024

    Hello, my vet thought my dogs anal glands were infected so she prescribed antibiotics and anti inflammatory medications. He seemed to feel better, was licking the area less but now he’s back at the licking of his anus. Could it take another round of antibiotics to clear an infection? I need to bring him back In for a recheck
    He has never had anal gland issues in his 8 wonderful years of life – we rarely ever need to express his glands, I think he has had it done twice.

    Jen - Mar 07 2024

    Hi my female dog wake up with pee spot we’re she lays every night.. usually on my you another load of laundry

    Lorraine - Mar 05 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Jen,
    We would advise speaking to your vet regarding this as they know your pets history. It might be that they need a higher fibre diet, to help with the emptying of their anal glands. :)

    Team Pooch - Mar 07 2024

    My 4 year old dog got an anal gland removed 5 weeks ago and he is still oozing out of the surgical wound. He has been back on antibiotics but he is still oozing. Is this normal. How long does it take for the wound to heal.

    Christine - Mar 13 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Christine,
    We would advise speaking with your vet regarding this, as every dogs recovery is different and they would be best to advise. :)

    Team Pooch - Mar 13 2024

    Is there always an underlying cause for anal leakage? My dog was severely overweight (due to her prior owners) & has since lost about 25 lbs. She also just had corkscrew removal surgery. Now her anal glands have become a huge issue. Her poop is solid and her glands were empty when the vet checked. The vet said that this was part of her new “construct” & just something I would have to deal with. The surgeon said everything looked great and she retained full sphincter control.
    So my basic question is do dogs anal glands leak for no reason? Shouldn’t there be a reason why this is happening? It doesn’t seem like something that I should just have to “deal with”. Thanks

    Sophie - Mar 21 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Sophie, it’s also to do with the dogs build etc, as well as diet. This does sound like it could potentially be an issue you may have to deal with if the anal glands were empty and that is what the vet has advised, but adding a pro-biotic may help potentially here. :)

    Team Pooch - Mar 21 2024

    My dog’s anal gland we emptied by the vet 2 days ago since he was having discharge and licking his end after the discharge. He has had no relief after 2 days. His glands are still discharging throughout the day. I keep think they can not be impacted since they were released and also since they keep discharging. This happens all day. Any suggestions

    Christine Ireland - Jul 02 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Christine,
    As you have recently visited your vet and had their glands emptied, we would advise contacting them regarding this and hopefully they may be able to offer some help.

    Team Pooch - Jul 02 2024

    I have a pug, and I just had her expressed and she is already scooting and looking back as if something is bothering her. She gets her glands expressed monthly , I am very worried that something is wrong . She also has allergies and gets a shot every six weeks , we have just started those again and she’s had two so far , also she has had bladder stone surgery twice and can only eat a canned food that I get from my vet , . She has been eating cooked chicken ( no skin ) with her food for the past 9 months , I checked with my vet first and he thought it was ok. Ok so I have a six year old baby that I’ve spent a ton of money on but that’s ok , I love her and I chose her and she is my best friend. This acting like her booty hurts has me super worried tho . Please give me any info or tips . Thank you Brenda J Bolin

    Brenda Bolin - Jul 09 2024
    Pooch Admin

    Hi Brenda,

    Due to your vet advising specific food for your pooch, it would be best to speak with them in regards to any advice on whether there is any supplements or specific food you could give them to help here, hopefully they can offer you some advice. :)

    Team Pooch - Jul 09 2024

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