The best dog food for anal gland issues

Updated 30 May 2024
Read time: 9 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer

We rave a whole lot at Pooch & Mutt about the importance of healthy dog poop, but today, we’re talking butts.

Does your dog scoot their bum along the floor sometimes? Do they seem irritated by a sore or itchy butt? If so, they could have issues with their anal glands.

In this article, we’ll go into the various anal gland issues for dogs and their link to nutrition and diet. With our help, you can find the best food for your dog’s anal glands and get to the ‘bottom’ of the problem.

What are anal gland issues?

Firstly, what does it mean for a dog to have anal gland issues? Let’s start with the purpose of anal glands in the first place…

The anal glands sit where you’d expect them to, just inside the anus. These anal glands have important functions: they secrete a stinky liquid that allows dogs to mark their territory, and also a lubricating mucus to help your dog’s poop pass through easily.

Issues occur when these anal glands get overly full or become blocked, which can cause discomfort in your pooch and lead to infections.

Here are some examples of anal gland problems in dogs:

Impaction - When mucus thickens and hardens inside the anal glands, causing swelling and blockages.

Infection - This can happen when the glands aren’t expressed properly, or the pooch gets a yeast infection (potentially from an unhealthy diet or food allergies).

Recurring expression problems - Some dogs have anal glands that regularly dysfunction and need continual treatment and attention.

Abscesses or fistulas - If anal gland issues go untreated, it may lead to more acute symptoms such as abscesses.

Tumours - This is rare, but some anal glands might be affected by a tumour(s) developing in the anus. If they have issues with their anal glands, you might find your dog drags their butt along the floor. This is because they likely feel discomfort or pain and are trying to soothe themselves. You may also notice:

  • General behavioural changes
  • A foul smell
  • Excessive licking/grooming of the bum
  • Swelling or redness
  • Trouble pooping
  • Changes in appetite

A cute, golden Pomeranian dog looking over their shoulder with their fluffy bum towards the camera.

Does diet help to manage anal gland issues?

Anal gland issues in dogs can be caused by a number of things, so you should always see a vet to diagnose them properly. Though it’s not always the cause, diet can have a significant impact on whether problems develop, worsen or reoccur.

Food allergies or intolerances can increase the risk of your pooch getting an infection in the anal glands, as can too many fatty, sugary foods.

A diet that is low in fibre, or otherwise lacking in nutrients can also contribute to blocked anal glands in dogs. This is because fibre and a healthy balance of nutrients create poops of a firm consistency, which will naturally express the anal glands as they pass. Soft or loose stools caused by a lack of nutrition will move right through, meaning the glands aren’t used and become overly full.


Nutritional requirements for dog food for anal gland issues

If your pooch tends to get anal gland issues, putting them on a nutrient rich diet that supports their condition should be a top priority. These are the essential factors when choosing a diet for dog anal glands:

High fibre. Fibre is your dog’s best friend when supporting healthy digestion, bowel function and poops. High fibre foods such as sweet potato, apple and broccoli create firm poops which will naturally express the anal glands.

Quality proteins. Lean, high-quality proteins like turkey, chicken and fish will help your pooch stay full while maintaining a healthy weight. Avoiding weight gain or obesity in your dog helps reduce strain on the anal glands.

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as in fatty fish or salmon oil is a super healthy ingredient in the diet. It plays an important role in reducing inflammation in the body, as well as promoting skin, organ and gland health.

‘Superfood’ such as pumpkin is great for dogs, as it’s packed with fibre, has a high water content and is a natural dewormer (it contains cucurbitacin which helps kill off parasites in your dog’s digestive tract).

Hydrating foods will increase moisture content in your dog’s diet, contributing to healthy digestion and poops.

Lots of fresh water in bowls around the house, and available on walks, should help your dog get plenty of hydration to aid healthy digestion and defecation.


What food can I give my dog with anal gland issues?

So what can you give to your pooch that will avoid, rather than trigger, their anal gland issues?

  • The easiest option is to choose a premium-quality, commercial dog food that is high in fibre and aimed at improving digestive health. Be shrewd about which dog food brand you choose. Unlike cheap dog foods on the market, specialist dog food for digestion will be made up of beneficial, bowel-supporting ingredients that will encourage firm poops - and in turn, natural anal gland expression. Our range of digestion focussed functional food and treats could really help.


  • At Pooch & Mutt we encourage a grain-free diet for dogs for most health issues, however, some dogs with specific problems with poop consistency may benefit from a grain-inclusive diet. Speak to your veterinarian about this.


  • Some pooch owners opt for a homemade diet. This can be preferable for those who like to know exactly what their dog is eating, however it can be tricky to get the balance of nutrients right when your dog has such specific needs. If you choose to prepare dog food at home, make sure this is under the guidance of a vet or pet nutritionist.



An aerial shot of a wooden board on an orange background display slices of Pooch & Mutt's Chicken, Pumpkin & Pea Wet Food. The packaging sits alongside it, as well as a pod of peas.


Gastrointestinal dog food for anal gland issues

Dogs who suffer from anal gland issues because of food allergies or intolerances can thrive on a grain-free diet, grain being a common trigger for digestive issues and infections. Our Veterinary Food for Food Allergies is suitable for dogs with anal gland issues because of its gut-soothing ingredients that avoid common allergens.

Our dog food for sensitive stomachs may also work wonders, as it’s full of healthy, digestive ingredients that contribute to improved gut function and regular, firm stools. Our Health & Digestion Wet Food, for example, contains quality proteins turkey and herring as well as a burst of prebiotics.

Ingredients to Avoid:

If you’re gathering new foods to support your dog’s healthy anal glands, here are some ingredients you should be avoiding:

Low quality filler ingredients, such as those found in cheap dog food. This is only going to stress your poor dog’s body and mess with their digestion. Low quality ingredients as well as preservatives, sugars and nasties will exacerbate anal gland issues.

High fat, sugary foods as they can slow down digestion and contribute to unhealthy poop consistency, resulting in full or blocked glands. Unhealthy fats and high levels of sugar will only worsen anal gland issues, so lean, high quality and nutritious foods should be a priority. Avoid human leftovers and fatty or sugary treats.

Common allergens such as red meat, grain, dairy etc. could trigger your dog’s body and contribute to inflammation or infection in your dog’s glands. Be sure what you feed your dog is nutritious, safe, and easy for their body to process.



Transitioning to a diet for anal gland issues

When you know that your pooch has anal gland issues and you’ve picked out new food, it’s important to transition them slowly into their new diet to avoid a stomach upset.


  • Gradually introduce their new food, perhaps mixing it with some of their old food for a few days and seeing how they react to it. Eventually you can transition completely and phase out their old food.

  • Check your dog’s behaviour, as well as bowel movements, after they’ve been put on their new food. Has their stool consistency improved? Are they still scooting around on their butt? Note improvements and dips in their condition to report to a vet.

  • Update your vet on how things are going - vet appointments are an essential part of treating and diagnosing anal gland issues, as they can be caused by underlying health conditions. Your vet can offer advice or guidance to keep anal gland issues at bay.

  • Tailor their diet. All dogs are different levels of picky! If they don’t warm to their new food, it can be tailored to suit them. Discuss this with your vet, too.

  • Conclusion

    Your dog’s butt-scooting could be due to impacted or full anal glands. If your pooch gets frequent anal gland issues, some adjustments to their diet might be needed.

    A diet for healthy anal glands in dogs is usually high in fibre, full of high-quality proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. They should also get plenty of hydration from water and/or moisture-rich foods.

    Food allergies can exacerbate anal gland problems - it could be worth putting your dog on a grain-free diet in order to curb common food allergens. Chat to your vet for more about this.

    Always take your dog to a vet for a proper diagnosis of their anal gland problems. It could be due to diet, but there may also be an underlying health condition or illness.



    How can I tell that my dog's anal glands are full?

    Your dog might have full anal glands if they seem distressed or uncomfortable in the butt area. They will show this by scooting their bum along the ground, excessively grooming or licking the area, having trouble pooping, or showing a change in appetite. There might also be an unpleasant smell.

    How often should you express dogs' anal glands?

    Anal glands should express naturally when poops of a healthy consistency pass through. If they are full or blocked and need to be manually expressed, this should usually be done by a professional such as a vet, and they will know how often this should occur. Get in touch with your vet as soon as you notice anal gland issues in your dog.

    Can wet dog food help to relieve anal gland problems in dogs?

    Hydration is really important for boosting your dog’s digestive function, as moisture ensures poops are of a good consistency and pass through easily, which is good for the anal glands. You might choose to switch from dry food to wet food to boost moisture in your dog’s diet - make sure you do this gradually over 7-10 days to avoid them getting a stomach upset.

    What is the impact of food allergies on anal gland health in dogs?

    If your dog has food allergies, this can negatively impact anal gland health in a few ways. For one, if your dog’s allergies lead to poop inconsistency, this can mean their anal glands don’t get adequate natural expression and may become full or infected. Secondly, inflammation of the digestive tract (due to your dog’s body trying to fight allergies) may mean your dog’s anal glands become inflamed or infected, too. If your dog gets food allergies, they will likely benefit from a specialist dog food for allergies so they only receive gentle, non-triggering ingredients. 

    Can pressure on the anal gland affect a dog's comfort?

    Yes - if the anal glands are impacted or infected, it might cause your pooch discomfort to have pressure put on them (during defecation, or through manual expression of the glands, for instance). The anal glands must be expressed if they’re full or blocked (by a professional, such as a vet), so that pain or discomfort for your dog is lessened.

    Is grain-free dog food a great choice for dogs with anal gland issues?

    Dogs that are sensitive to common food allergens, such as grain, may be more at risk of developing anal gland issues. In this instance, going grain-free could be a beneficial move for your dog’s diet - and therefore bum health.

    That said, some pooches have continual issues achieving healthy poop consistency, and may require a grain-inclusive diet to help with this. Chat with your vet about your individual circumstances, and they can suggest the best route for your pooch.


    To pack your dog’s diet full of high-fibre foods, try Pooch & Mutt’s Health & Digestion range - made with nutritious, whole ingredients to boost a dog’s digestion and ensure healthy, firm poops.


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