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How to Tell If Your Dog Needs His Anal Glands Expressed

July 12th, 2017 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

Miguel, the Chihuahua, has been doing a lot of licking lately. Here's how to tell if he needs his anal glands expressed.

You’ve been noticing some unusual behaviors in your dog lately…

Your dog is scooting on the carpet.

He (or she) is also licking his bottom a lot more than usual.

It’s possible your dog may need to have his anal glands expressed (aka, emptied)

Our Castle Rock veterinarians have put this article together to help you tell if your dog needs his anal glands expressed.

Keep in mind, if you’re noticing either of the behaviors described above, it’s important to visit a veterinarian.

There are other issues that can cause these symptoms. It’s important to rule them out!

Related article: You see bleeding or an abscess on your dog’s bottom… What does it mean?

What exactly are anal glands?

Anal glands — or more accurately, anal sacs — are scent glands located on both sides of your dog’s rectum.

Typically, they’re in the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions.

When your dog passes a stool, these glands usually express themselves naturally.

They put your dog’s scent in his stool.

Unfortunately, some dogs don’t express their glands when they defecate

The material builds up in these sacs.

The increased pressure causes your dog to want to lick his bottom and/or scoot across the carpet.

Sparky, the dog, has been scooting on the grass.

How can you tell if your dog needs his anal glands expressed?

Be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Your dog is scooting on the carpet.
  • Your dog is licking his bottom a lot.
  • If your dog’s glands are really full, they may leak out a stinky, pungent smell.
  • Sometimes you’ll see spots of brownish material in places where your dog has been sitting, such as on your carpet, your furniture or your lap.

Eventually, the glands will rupture. You’ll see some bleeding from that area.

Why does this happen?

There are different theories. It could be because:

  • The glands aren’t located where they’re supposed to be.
  • Your dog’s stools aren’t firm enough. (For example, we sometimes see it in a dog after a bout of diarrhea or in a dog that hasn’t been getting enough fiber.)
  • Your dog is overweight.

It can be one-time, never-again event.

Or, it can be a chronic issue.

It depends on your dog.

Are certain dogs more prone to needing their glands expressed than others?

Usually, our Castle Rock veterinarians see it in smaller breed dogs.

With that said, it’s possible for any breed to have an issue.

Sometimes, dogs that have inflammation issues — like dogs with food allergies — are more prone to anal gland infections.

Occasionally, cats have issues too.

You may notice your cat isn’t defecting as much, is vomiting and/or isn’t eating as much.

Joey, the Boxer dog, tilts his head at the camera with puppy eyes.

Where do you get anal gland expression done?

Our veterinarians or your groomer can express the glands.

Some of our clients have learned to do it themselves.

Initially, it’s a good idea to visit our veterinarians to:

  • Make sure the anal glands aren’t infected
  • Make sure that’s the source of your dog’s issue

If the glands are infected or they’ve ruptured, your dog will need some medical attention.

How often do people express their dog’s anal glands?

It truly varies by dog.

Some dogs never have an issue. Their anal glands express themselves naturally.

Some dogs get their anal glands manually expressed a couple times a year.

Some pet parents bring their dogs in every month (or more often), if their dogs have been having recurring issues.

The key thing is to monitor your dog for the symptoms.

See if there’s a pattern for your dog.

Is there a way to prevent this issue?

There aren’t widely-accepted preventive measures.

It’s always good practice to make sure your dog is a healthy weight and is eating a diet with enough fiber to firm up stools.

But these steps don’t always affect anal gland expression.

Our veterinarians are sometimes asked, can we remove the anal glands?

It’s possible to do so, but there can be side effects, such as:

  • Fecal incontinence
  • The fluid ducts getting blocked

So typically, this isn’t something we recommend.

We always appreciate your questions. Keep them coming!

A related article that may interest you

You see bleeding or an abscess on your dog’s bottom… What does it mean?

Is your dog scooting or licking his bottom?

Help your pup feel better. If you live in Castle Rock or the Denver area, call our veterinarians at 303-688-3757 or:

Book your visit here 

Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on how to tell if your dog needs his anal glands expressed. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2017, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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