Dog Anal Glands Guide
Table of Contents
As dog owners, we care deeply about the health of our pets. Seeing our dogs experience something we have no control over can be disheartening. Anal gland problems are one such issue.
This small body part can be the cause of big problems for your furry friend.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a dog’s anal glands & what they do.
What Are Anal Glands in Dogs?
Your dog may face several anal gland issues over the course of its lifetime. Therefore, it is important to know and understand the anal gland anatomy before you try to treat or prevent any related health issues.
A dog has two anal glands or anal sacs. These are paired sacs, very small in size and not easily visible from the outside.
The glands secrete a smelly fluid with an oily consistency, which is stored in the anal sacs and released every time a dog defecates. The fluid is usually yellow, tan, or brown in color and varies in consistency from thin and watery to thick and paste-like. This fluid is what other dogs are smelling when they greet each other by sniffing their backside. It is a type of ID for dogs.
There are a few theories on the purpose of anal glands in dogs:
According to one theory, dogs have anal glands for lubrication, which makes it easy for them to pass hard stool.
Another theory says that the secretion from anal glands allows dogs to mark their territory and warn other pets not to invade.
Where Are A Dog's Anal Glands?
As for the dog’s anal glands’ location, they are inside the rectum. These small glands are located below the anus, and their secretion is stored in the sacs present between the internal and external anal sphincters.
The sacs are flushed out through two small openings located on either side of the anus. When the stool is about to be passed, the anal muscles dilate while the sphincter muscles contract and the anal gland’s fluid is secreted onto the stool.
Both female and male dogs have anal glands.
Anal Sac Problems in Dogs
These health issues can become serious if not treated immediately and lead to discomfort and pain for your beloved dog.
• Anal Sac Disease in Dogs
Normally, the anal fluid is squeezed out of the gland as the dog passes stool. Anal gland problems develop when this doesn’t happen and the sac is not emptied.
The fluid that accumulates inside becomes thick, sticks to the openings, and results in blocked anal glands. These clogged glands form the first stage of anal sac disease, and are medically known as impacted anal glands in dogs.
Fortunately, the impacted stage is easy to deal with for a vet.
Swollen anal glands in dogs also show up as a sign of impaction. These swollen and inflamed anal glands cause pain to the dog when passing stool, and this stage of swelling and inflammation is called anal sacculitis.
If left untreated, these dog anal gland problems can worsen and lead to an infection.
• Infected Anal Glands in Dogs
An anal gland infection occurs when bacteria starts to grow on the swollen part. If the infection persists, an abscess forms in the sac. And if this severe infection prolongs, the sac bursts open, and fluid from the abscess oozes out.
Infection becomes worse in the case of a ruptured anal gland and spreads to the rectum and anus, forming a hole besides the openings.
At this stage, an anal gland infection usually needs surgery.
This issue must be treated at the earliest to avoid serious health problems.
What Causes Anal Gland Problems in Dogs?
Some dogs can be avoid these problems completely, but others may struggle with their anal glands repeatedly. Here’s why:
Problems with anal glands are most commonly found in obese dogs. Slimmer and fitter dogs have fewer cases as compared to those which are overweight.
This could be because in overweight dogs, there is extra fat around the anal gland region, which decreases the pressure that stool should apply to the sac as it passes out.
• Breed and Genetics
Although some experts believe genetics plays a part in anal gland issues due to a specific inherited bone structure, there is little evidence to support this theory.
However, it is observed that toy and small breeds are more prone to getting anal sac disease compared to bigger dog breeds.
Most Commonly Affected Breeds:
Dogs like Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas, and Beagles are most affected by the disease.
Age and gender don’t seem to have an effect on which dog suffers from anal gland problems.
• Diet and Nutrition
A diet low in fiber is one of the main causes of anal sac problems. The stool should be able to put firm pressure on the anal walls for the gland to push out.
Fiber in food helps the stool reach the right consistency to squeeze the anal gland’s fluid out. If the dog is not getting enough fiber, it’ll face difficulty passing stool, which will eventually lead to anal sac problems.
• Excessive Gland Secretion
If the anal gland is secreting excessive fluid, all the fluid may not be able to pass out at the right time.
The extra fluid left behind can clog the openings of the gland, leading to swelling, infection, and rupture of the anal gland.
Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?
A fishy smell from your dog is likely caused by dog anal gland disease or impaction.
A clogged anal gland holds fluids inside, causing a bad, fish-like odor.
If your dog smells like fish, you need to take your dog to a vet or groomer for an anal gland expression.
Anal gland expression in dogs is a quick procedure to remove the anal gland’s fluid manually.
Other reasons for fishy smell include an overgrowth of yeast or just plain bad breath.
How To Get Rid Of Fishy Smell In Dogs?
If your dog smells like fish, you can get rid of it quickly via anal gland expression in dogs.
When the fluid stored inside the gland is removed manually, and the anal sac is emptied, the dog anal gland smell subsides.
Fishy smell from the dog usually goes away after the anal gland’s expression. But if the dog still smells after gland expression, it could indicate a job done poorly. This is possible in case of a home cleaning — it’s best to leave it to a vet or groomer with experience.
Some dogs also need expression more than once as the fluid keeps filling up, which could be the reason for a lingering smell.
How To Tell If A Dog Needs Its Glands Expressed
These signs mean it’s time to take action right away.
• Redness or Swelling
Any inflammation or swelling under dog’s tail could be a symptom of an anal gland issue.
If your dog’s butt is red, or you notice a sore on your dog’s bottom, this can also be a sign of anal gland problems.
• Licking or Itching the Anal Region
If your dog is consistently trying to lick or itch their anal region, it could be due to irritation inside or near the anal glands.
• Straining to Defecate
This appears as a dog crying while defecating or showing signs of painful defecation, like barking and displaying other abnormal behavior.
Painful defecation is a tell-tale sign of anal gland issues.
• Blood, Pus, or Discharge in the Stool
Any sign of blood or pus in your dog’s feces could mean anal gland issues.
In such a case, also keep an eye out for brown or yellow discharge coming from the dog’s rear end.
It’s best to make a vet appointment when faced with abnormal stool from your dog.
• Strong Odor
Notice if there is an unusually strong odor when your dog defecates. An abnormally foul odor in feces could be a sign of anal gland issues.
In the case of some or all of these symptoms, take your pet to the vet for a full anal gland checkup.
How To Express Anal Glands in Dogs
Dog anal glands need to be expressed, or cleaned, for any issues to resolve. You can attempt this at home, although it is better to contact a vet or a professional groomer.
1. At Home
Although it is not recommended, dog anal gland cleaning can be done at home. This is not recommended as it can be a messy process with a terrible smell.
The anal glands can also be infected, in which case, there would be blood or pus in the stool, and the dog will need to be seen by a vet ASAP.
What You’ll Need:
If you decide to express your dog’s glands at home, be sure to gather gloves, anti-odor spray, paper towels, lubricant, and a muzzle if your dog is not easy to handle.
What To Do:
Begin the anal gland expression in your dog by putting on the gloves, at least on one hand. Next, spread a paper towel below for the excess material to fall on, and fold another one around your finger. Then, apply lube to the tip of the finger and insert it into the anus, taking it further until you reach a small opening. This is where the excess fluid is stuck.
To drain the dog’s anal gland, begin by slowly squeezing your dog’s anal glands. Keep at it until the first gland is flushed out. Then, move on to the other gland and repeat. Wipe off any excess material dropping down the dog’s rear end and spritz out the anti-odor spray to prevent or at least tone down the foul smell.
2. By the Vet
This is the better and recommended option. A vet will be able to better judge your dog’s condition and treat it appropriately.
If your dog has an anal gland infection, and you clean it at home, you can disrupt the infection and aggravate it. It’s best to take your dog to the vet in such a case. Your vet will carry out the expression carefully, with experience.
Other treatments include topical or oral steroids and antibiotics. If an abscess has formed, your pet may require surgery. The vet may also recommend dietary changes like incorporating more fiber into the diet. Pain medications can also be prescribed.
The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the less serious the treatment needed will be. Expression by the vet can be quick and easy.
Canine Anal Gland Removal
Anal glands in puppies or adult dogs can sometimes require surgical removal. This process is called anal sacculectomy and will permanently relieve the dog of any infections or anal gland issues.
Pain medications and antibiotics are usually prescribed along with the surgery to prevent any infection and help ease the pain.
An anal sacculectomy of an adult dog’s or puppy’s anal glands costs around $1,000 to $2,000, depending on factors like your location and the complexity of the procedure.
Why Do Dogs Have Anal Glands?
Anal glands have a few notable functions in dogs: The anal gland fluid helps dogs with their bowel movements. If the secretion of fluid doesn’t happen, it can make passing stool difficult or even painful.
Another function of the dog’s “scent glands” is to inform other pets about a dog’s territory and to let other dogs know about its gender, age, health, and other characteristics.
Anal glands may also secrete some fluid when a dog is anxious or scared.
Can A Dog Express Their Own Glands?
Yes. Natural anal gland expression in dogs is possible.
However, in most cases, the expression will need to be done manually.
To increase the possibility of the anal glands emptying on their own, add more fiber to your pup’s regular diet.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other's Butts?
Dogs sniff other dogs’ butts because there is a smelly fluid inside their rectums that helps one dog identify another’s gender, age, health status, and more.