How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Glands Expressed?

canine anal gland
(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Like any pet owner, you enjoy seeing your dog looking happy and healthy. So it’s only natural to start worrying when you start seeing them exhibit irregular behavior like constantly scooting on their bum like it’s itchy. This often happens when your pet needs their anal glands expressed.

You see, every canine excretes a small amount of fluid after each time they make a potty, but they don’t always release all the fluid they need to. Hence some of it stays behind to cause discomfort over time, and this is precisely when they need to have their anal glands expressed.

What Are Anal Glands?

Around every canine’s anus, are two sacs known as anal glands, and their job is to release a tiny bit of fluid after every time your canine goes poo-poo. This liquid usually comes with a really stinky odor, hence it needs to be emptied out entirely. However, if your pet doesn’t properly empty this fluid, their anal glands will get clogged up, which you’ll notice by the smell and your pet’s constant itching and scratching.

If left untreated, this could lead to diarrhea and even infection. So it’s best to take action as soon as you start seeing a pattern in the weird behaviour. You can either express the glands yourself, or ask your vet to do it for you instead.

Some Causes Behind Anal Sac Issues

Although excreting anal gland fluid is a natural occurrence, not just for canines but for other mammals like skunks and opossums as well, when these glands get full they can pose a danger to their health. However, spotting causes early on can help you and your pet avoid it in the future. Here’s what you need to look out for to determine whether your pet’s glands need expressing:


As mentioned, the anal glands naturally empty out when your canine relieves themselves. However, if they pass a soft stool then the glands will not be able to express as they should, leading to clogging.

To keep your pet’s stool firm and healthy, feed them a healthy diet of good quality food with less grains and more protein and whole ingredients. Feeding your canine human food can also lead to clogged glands. So make sure to give them a well-balanced diet. This can go a long way to completely fix the issue in the long term.

Health Problems

Some medical conditions might lead to your canine experiencing diarrhea or having loose stools, which can then lead to difficulty expressing their glands. In such instances, you can use natural remedies like giving them fiber rich foods such as 100% canned pumpkin.

Another health issue that can lead to clogged glands, is having the anal sacs positioned in a way that makes it almost impossible to express properly. In that case, the anal glands may need to be removed in order to protect your canine from developing any more health complications related to this condition.

Signs That Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed

Once their glands become too clogged up, they will start exhibiting some unusual signs that’ll give you clues as to what the problem is. With most canines, these symptoms happen simultaneously and in combination, while others will only exhibit one or no symptoms at all. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your canine has anal gland issues:

A Strong Foul Odor

There’s no denying the odor that comes with clogged anal glands. It’s usually so intense that there’s no chance you’ll miss it, and the more time passes, the more it gets worse and so repugnant that it can even make you feel sick. But when it really gets bad, it’ll start smelling like rotting fish.

Scooting on the Floor

Once they really start getting uncomfortable, your dog might start dragging their but across the floor to relieve themselves. It might seem amusing at first, but when a dog starts constantly scooting on the floor, then you should probably report it to your vet so they can have their glands expressed.

Trouble Pooping

Whenever your pet finds it difficult to ‘relieve’ themselves, it’s a good idea to look into the condition of their anal glands. Being close to the anus, compacted glands can make it very uncomfortable for your pet to poop.

Excessive Chewing and Licking

A dog might try to relieve the stress of having clogged glands by chewing or licking at their behind. This is their way of trying to solve the problem themselves. If your pet starts excessively chewing and licking their behind in conjunction with another symptom like scooting, then it’s most probably a result of experiencing obstructed glands. The skin around the anal area may also start looking puffed up and red.

Expressing the Glands

So how do you actually express the glands? Well, you can do it yourself, it’s a fairly straightforward procedure. You can even request your vet to train you for it to next time you take your dog for a check-up. But if this is your dog’s first time experiencing this problem, then it’s best to ask your vet to do it just to be on the safe side. You might notice irregularities in your pet’s stool for a while after the procedure, but this is normal.


Should you be adamant to perform the procedure yourself, here are some tips on how to do it properly:

  1. Keep in mind that you’ll be touching your dog in a very sensitive area that’ll cause them a lot of pain. So try and keep calm and be gentle throughout the procedure.
  2. Put on some latex gloves and try to locate the glands. They’re typically located on either side of the anus, and will probably have a slightly bumpy or puffed up appearance.
  3. Softly apply pressure on the glands, while holding a small warm towel over the area, on which the liquid will be released. You certainly don’t want it to squirt all over the place, or on you.
  4. A bit of liquid will come out through the opening, after which you should wipe the area with the towel, and then reward your canine with a treat for being a good sport. Whatever you do, don’t repeat the process unnecessarily.


Once you go through the process of expressing your canine’s glands once, you probably won’t want to do it again, nor will you want to see your pet suffer through it either. The best way to avoid clogged up glands is to feed your pet a well-balanced diet that is high in protein and low in fat, while making sure to supply them with enough sources of natural fiber as possible.

Things like adding a little bit of bran to his meals each day can help to make it easier to express the glands naturally. Most importantly, always pay attention to your dog so that you’re able to notice any weird behavior and nip it in the bud.

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