As a dog owner, your chief responsibility is making sure that your beloved canine stays healthy and happy. Most of the time, this is full of enjoyable tasks: long walks through the neighborhood, teaching your dog to roll over and play, and supplying them with yummy treats and exciting new toys.
The difficult part of being a pet parent is ensuring your dog’s health and, on occasion, can be downright gross. One of the most unpleasant—but also necessary—things you will ever have to do is express your dog’s anal sacs or glands. You likely will not need to do this too often, but you should be prepared for how to express your dog’s anal glands at home should the need arise. That’s the purpose of this how-to guide, so read on, diligent dog-parent.
Just What Are Dog Anal Glands?
Let’s start by talking about a dog’s anal glands and how they function. This is important to know since there will probably come a point where you have to express a dog’s anal glands. New to dog ownership? You might be surprised to know dog anal glands exist.
So here’s the scoop: The anal glands (also known as anal sacs) are two scent glands located one on each side of the dog’s anus. Both glands are filled with a fluid that gives your dog its own special scent. That’s right—no two dogs smell exactly alike.
Some of this fluid gets expressed when your dog poops. This is normal. What can happen, though, is that the fluid might get backed up if it isn’t expressed enough times. For dogs, clogged anal glands can lead to abscesses, infection, and rupture . Anal gland removal surgery might be necessary if this is becoming a chronic problem.
Causes of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs
One of the most common causes of anal gland problems in dogs is food quality. Think about what you’re feeding Fido. An impacted anal gland can result from soft stool, which is commonly found in dogs who are not getting the nutrients they need from their dog food.
Fiber is essential for dogs, and their food should have enough of it . This keeps your dog’s stools firm. Lack of fiber leads to softer stools which leads to lack of expression which leads to impacted anal glands.
More serious problems can arise if your dog is unable to expel this fluid from its anal glands. Things can get as serious as anal cancer. On a more positive note, anal gland problems can be prevented or eased from the comfort of your own home. It just involves getting your (gloved) hands dirty.
Breeds With Anal Gland Problems
Some breeds have more problems with anal gland secretion than others, although any size dog can have these issues. Smaller to mid-size dogs are more prone to impacted or infected anal glands. Basset hounds and dachshunds in particular experience anal glands issues quite a bit more. Toy poodles and chihuahuas are also prone.
Larger dogs rarely have anal gland problems, which might ease your mind if you own a bigger pooch. But there is always the off-chance that your dog could struggle with expressing its anal glands.
Does Your Dog Need Their Anal Glands Drained?
How are you supposed to know whether your dog needs their anal glands expressed? This isn’t a simple, casual procedure, so you need to pay attention to the warning signs.
The most common symptom you will observe is the booty-scoot—you know, when they drag their hind ends across the floor. This could be your dog’s way of trying to express their anal glands. If you see your dog licking or nipping at their hind region, this could be another way in which they try to express themselves.
The most startling and clear sign of a problem is the presence of pus or blood around your dog’s anus. This tends to show that your dog is experiencing an infection or quite possibly a rupture. This is cause for a trip to the vet, ASAP.
A How-To Guide On Expressing Your Dog’s Anal Glands
Alright, time to get down to the nitty-gritty details. Here are the steps you can take to express your dog’s anal glands without making a visit to the vet’s office. The process shouldn’t take too long but involves some preparation and clean-up.
Supplies You’ll Need
First, you will need some supplies. You need to wear some disposable gloves to keep your hands clean. Also prepare a soapy washcloth with warm water and grab some paper towels. Lubricants such as Vaseline are helpful but not required. You will need a second adult with you to help restrain your dog.
Where to Perform It
Get your dog into a comfortable room in the house. The bathroom or a laundry room with a tiled floor is most ideal for clean-up’s sake. Smaller dogs can be put on a table if needed, or you can just kneel behind your dog. A tub, walk-in shower, or sink would make for even less clean-up.
Positioning Your Dog
Once you have decided where to best place your dog, have your assistant hug your dog close to restrain them. You will want to wait until your dog is standing pretty still to get started. If your dog experiences anxiety, you will want to calm them down first. Check out so tips on how to sedate your dog for grooming.
Inserting Your Pointer Finger and Finding the Glands
Once your dog is calm and in position, you will need to ready your gloved pointer finger. Insert it into your dog’s anus. Expect them to wiggle around because this is more uncomfortable for them than it is for you.
Inside, you will find two firm lumps—those are the anal glands. You will find them at the bottom on either side of the anus. Normally, they’re about the size of a pea, but if they’re full, they could be bigger.
Emptying the Anal Glands One At a Time
Snag some paper towels and put them in front of your dog’s anal glands. Gently squeeze one anal gland with your thumb and pointer finger. Milk the liquid out until you cannot feel any more in the gland. You will catch a strong fishy scent as you do this; that’s normal. As the smell strengthens, you will know you’re getting the secretion out. Empty the first anal gland, then do the same for the second.
The Clean-Up Process
Now comes the clean-up process. Wipe their hindquarters down with that wet, soapy washcloth. Use gentle wiping techniques instead of harsh rubbing since this area is going to be tender for your dog. And they’re probably already tired of you poking around back there. If you have some doggie shampoo lying around, you can also use that to clean off their rear end. After your dog is all cleaned up, they might need to rest in the comfort of their dog crate or bed.
Checking the Fluid Excrement
Before you let your dog go on its merry way, check the fluid excrement. If you see a brown, thin fluid, then rest assured that is normal enough and not cause for concern. What should concern you is if you see something that isn’t brown, is chunky, or is thicker than usual. This could mean your dog has an infection and needs to be seen by the vet straight away.
How Often Should You Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands?
Just how often should you express your dog’s anal glands? If your dog goes to the groomer, you might choose to get them expressed while there. If not, you only really need to worry about doing this if your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above. If your dog is getting enough fiber from their diet, then they will not likely need an expression for a long time.
You’re Just Doing Your Duty
Remember, as repulsive as this task can be, you are doing your job as a pet owner. Expressing your dog’s anal glands when needed is part of ensuring their health. Of course, if this seems to be a serious issue for your dog, your vet will need to step in and assess the situation. You expressing their glands is a bad-case scenario, sure, but developing anal cancer or needing surgery is an absolute worst-case scenario for you and your dog.
Can I express my dog’s glands myself?
Yes, you can express your dog’s glands by yourself. As outlined above, you will need an assistant to help hold your dog in place while you perform the deed. This process only takes a few minutes and involves a little bit of clean-up. You might feel awkward the first time you have to do it, but it is a simple and safe procedure to do at home.
How do I know if my dog’s anal glands need to be expressed?
You will likely see warning signs if your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed. Pay attention to whether they scoot across the floor at home. They might also lick or nip at their anus in an attempt to express the glands themselves (which they obviously cannot do). If you notice blood or pus around their anus, your dog could possibly have impacted or infected anal glands that require immediate medical attention from your vet.
How often do dogs’ anal glands need to be expressed?
A dog’s anal glands do not need regular expression if they are not showing any symptoms of fullness. You can choose to get anal gland expression done whenever your dog visits the groomer, but it usually is not necessary. Smaller to mid-size dogs might need anal gland expression on a somewhat regular basis, but some never require it. Pay attention to the warning signs. If your dog repeatedly requires expression of the anal glands, you should make an appointment with the vet since more pressing issues could be at hand.
What is the easiest way to express a dog’s anal glands?
The easiest way to express a dog’s anal glands is to get another adult to help you hold your dog in place while you perform the task in a place that is easy to clean up. Glove your dominant hand and rub some Vaseline on your pointer finger for easier insertion into the anus. Locate the anal sacs, then express them one by one by gently milking the fluid out of them. The fishier the smell gets, the more fluid you are secreting. Remember to keep that paper towel handy for cleaning up the table, floor, or tub. And be sure to check the fluid color and consistency before you wipe it all up.
Expressing your dog’s anal glands is something you probably hope you never have to do. But, for some dog owners, it is necessary for keeping their dogs healthy. If you see any of the symptoms that your dog could have full anal glands, you will need to glove up and do the deed. It isn’t as horrendous as it might sound, and it shouldn’t be something that you need to do regularly. Remember, if anything strikes you as concerning, call your vet to make an appointment as quickly as possible. The quicker you deal with anal gland issues, the better.