Why Some Dogs Need Their Anal Glands Expressed

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Why some dogs need their anal glands expressed, dog looking up

Pet parents of dogs have most likely heard the words “anal glands” before. Every dog has two of them. They’re located on both sides of the dog’s anus, just between the muscles. Each time a dog defecates, some of the liquid that accumulates inside of these sacs gets excreted, too. Dogs may also express their anal glands if they get spooked. The stinky odor, which some pet parents are familiar with, acts as a defense mechanism. 

For many pet parents, their dog’s anal glands are never a problem. However, some dogs need their anal glands expressed manually periodically during their lifetime. Without it, a dog could develop a potentially serious problem. Here, pet parents will learn why some dogs need their anal glands expressed and what symptoms to watch for that could indicate an issue. 

Why Do Some Dogs Need Their Anal Glands Expressed?

Not all dogs require an anal gland expression. Others, however, might require a monthly appointment with the vet or dog grooming professional. They can manually express the fluid from the anal glands, which can help to avoid significant problems. 

There are a few reasons why some dogs need their anal glands expressed. Some of the most common include:

  • The glands aren’t where they should be 
  • The dog is overweight
  • The dog’s stools aren’t firm enough

What Types of Dogs Are More Likely to Need Their Anal Glands Expressed?

All dogs, male and female, can experience issues with their anal glands. Some dogs, however, are more at risk than others. Generally speaking, small breeds are more likely to have problems with their anal glands than larger ones. That includes breeds such as:

  • Chihuahuas
  • Toy and Miniature Poodles
  • Lhasa Apsos
  • Beagles
  • Cocker Spaniels

Certain health factors can also contribute to an increased risk of anal gland trouble. For instance, obese dogs or dogs with environmental or food-related allergies are more likely to experience issues. In rare cases, a tumor can block the glands, preventing proper expression. 

Can Anal Glands Cause Problems?

In short, yes, improperly emptied anal glands can lead to some significant trouble. If the fluid can’t leave the sacs, it continues to accumulate, which can result in uncomfortable swelling. Additionally, bacteria can begin to build up, leading to an infection. In some cases, an abscess can form. The longer the issue goes untreated, the greater the risk that the glands rupture, creating a messy and painful situation. 

For some dogs, the issue can become extremely severe. Others may experience chronic anal gland problems. In these situations, a vet may recommend surgically removing the anal glands. While dogs don’t necessarily need those glands, the procedure is complex. There is a risk of permanent nerve damage. As such, a vet may only recommend it in more serious cases. 

Symptoms That Can Point to a Dog Needing Their Anal Glands Expressed

Fortunately, there are some signs that can point toward a problem with a dog’s anal glands:

  • Scooting along the floor or carpet
  • Licking their hind end more frequently
  • Redness and swelling around the anus
  • A strong, unpleasant odor
  • Straining (or showing signs of pain) while defecating 
  • Blood or pus in the dog’s stool 
  • Blood, pus, or fluid from the anal glands running down the dog’s backside or where the dog sleeps

If a pet parent notices any of these symptoms, they can reach out to the Fuzzy Veterinarian Support Team for dog care advice 24/7. An online vet chat can be helpful for pet parents to get answers to their dog health questions and dog behavior questions when their primary vet isn’t available. 

Can Pet Parents Express Their Dog's Anal Glands Themselves?

Some pet parents do express their dog’s anal glands when necessary. For those who’ve never done it before, however, they should ask their groomer or vet for advice. Incorrectly expressing the sacs or doing it too often can lead to irritation or tissue damage. If a pet parent feels uncomfortable or experiences difficulty (even if they’ve expressed their dog’s anal glands before), they should stop and schedule an appointment with a professional. 

When Should Pet Parents Seek Dog Health Advice?

If a pet parent notices any signs of anal gland issues, they should contact their primary vet or an online vet for dog health advice. While it might not be severe at the time, addressing the problem sooner can help to avoid significant complications later. 

For dogs with chronic anal gland issues, a thorough exam can help get to the root of the problem. Working with a vet, a pet parent can treat the underlying cause and potentially reduce the need for regular manual anal gland expression. 

Training & Behavior