How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Pet Health


November 16, 2020

Dogs suffer from a series of different health-related problems as they grow old. As an owner, you will want to make sure that you make it as easy as possible for the animal to live its life in peace.

However, there are some serious issues that dogs usually suffer from. In many cases, they are able to express their problem in one way or another.

You might notice a subtle change in the way the animal walks or moves, or you might notice that the animal becomes a bit less expressive. In some cases, especially if it is an internal issue, the dog might stop eating as much as well, and lethargy is likely to set in over the passage of time. One of the issues that your dog might experience is related to their anal glands.

Understanding the Problem

The dog’s anal glands are located on either side of their anus, and they usually fill up with a liquid that the dog expresses when it passes a bowel movement. This liquid has a scent that is unique to each dog, and it is one of the main reasons why dogs tend to prefer sniffing around each other’s poop so much. They are just trying to get the “signature scent.”

This is a normal thing that happens. The anal glands are expressed every time the dog passes a bowel movement. However, if their stool is relatively small or if the dog is not able to express their anal glands properly, they may start feeling a bit of discomfort. This is shown when the dog suddenly begins to scoot along the carpet to wipe its butt. If you see your dog scooting around the house, you may need to take it to the vet.

Why Does it Happen?

The liquid that is stored in the anal glands is generally quite thin and can be released easily. However, if for some reason, the dog is not able to release the liquid due to its bowel movements, there is a risk that the liquid will begin to thicken, and it will cause a blockage, thus preventing it from release.

With the passage of time, this will cause an infection as the liquid won’t be able to release on its own. This is what happens when the anal sacs get impacted, and soon after, become infected. Impaction is incredibly uncomfortable for the dog, and will drastically increase the chance of an infection.

An abscess might form over time, and it is highly likely that the abscess is going to rupture the skin if it is not treated. Because the impacted material can’t be impacted normally, you might need to learn how to express dog anal glands yourself, or take your dog to a vet to do it.

Express the Dog’s Anal Glands

You might have noticed that your dog often licks its behind when it is in discomfort or is unable to express its anal glands. But, can dogs express their own glands by licking? The chances of that happening are incredibly low. The force generated by a lick is simply not enough to break through the impaction and allow the dog to express its own anal glands.

Therefore, you might have to do it. Going to a vet every time the dog becomes uncomfortable is obviously a bit costly, and most people simply don’t want to pay this much money. But, if you were to learn how to do it yourself, you won’t have much to worry about. But, what about cats? Do cats have anal glands? Yes, they do too! But, because cats have smaller hips, expressing their glands isn’t a problem.

But, you should know that when this problem begins to develop, intervention by humans might be needed. The impacted anal glands may prove to be a serious issue for your dog, and it can affect their ability to move around freely. You don’t want your dog in pain, so manual intervention is perhaps the key step.

A Step-by-Step Guide

There are a series of steps that you can take to express the dog’s anal glands yourself, but it’s important that you evaluate yourself first. Do you think that you will be able to do the job? It’s a bit disgusting, but if you love your dog, you won’t have any problem doing so. If you are not fully sure, the best thing to do is to take the dog to a vet. Otherwise, here are some simple steps to follow.

Step 1: Suit up

You are going to have to wear appropriate protective gear before you begin. Ideally, you should consider buying heavy-duty rubber gloves that are clothespin. On top of that, you might want to put on a welder’s apron (the cloth ones will just start smelling bad), and you will need to put on rubber boots.

Some people might think of it as overkill, but you should know that the liquid in the sacs has a terrible odor, and you really don’t want to get that on your clothes. Even a pair of old clothes that you don’t need will do the trick. But, you will definitely need nose plugs (that fluid is nasty!).

Next, you are going to need a bunch of old paper towels and fold them properly. You need a huge wad that is capable of absorbing the liquid properly to prevent it from getting everywhere.

Step 2: Stand Your Dog

You need to put your dog on a safe and easy to clean surface. You have to make sure that you have someone with you who can hold the dog still while it stands (another family member will do the trick). You need to make sure that the dog doesn’t sit or begin to wander off while you are going to do the procedure.

More importantly, it’s important that you calm your dog down. Otherwise, the dog is only going to clench its bottom, thus making the problem harder for you.

Also, you need to get on level with the dog’s bottom, so make sure you position yourself comfortably before you decide to proceed with the expression. Don’t slouch or sit yourself in a position that will get uncomfortable after a little while.

Step 3: The Process

You need to first begin by using your non-dominant hand to lift up the dog’s tail. This will ensure that the tail remains out of the way. Now, using your gloved hand, you need to gently place two of your fingers at the 4 o’clock and the 8 o’clock position of your dog’s behind. Ideally, using your index finger and your thumb is the best way to do it.

When the anal glands are full, you might notice that they are a bit harder (they will feel like a couple of peas). There is also the possibility that only one sac is full and the other is empty. This usually indicates that the glands were emptying properly on their own, but due to a problem, one of them got impacted.

Then, you need to gently rub against the anal glands. Never, ever squeeze the anal glands, as it will cause severe pain for the dog. Instead, you should just use a gentle motion. You need to gently milk the glands using a standard upward and downward motion. Never apply excess pressure, as it could cause serious problems.

Step 4: The Dog’s Bottom

As you begin to express the anal glands, always keep a close eye on the dog’s bottom. Within a few moments, you will notice a few drops of fluid escape from there. You need to gently continue milking the dog to ensure that the anal sacs are emptied. It’s important to note that in some cases, the fluid might squirt out as well.

That is why you have to wear appropriate equipment to prevent any of it from getting on your clothes. Once the fluid stops coming out, use that large wad of paper towels and clean the dog’s behind properly. In some cases, you might even have to insert your finger slightly into the dog’s anus and get the liquid out from the inside.

That’s all you have to do.


There is also another option if you don’t want to get your hands dirty and do this every time the dog becomes uncomfortable: you can surgically have the dog’s anal glands removed. But, you need to be absolutely sure about this before you decide to go ahead with it.

These are just a few things that you should know about expressing your dog’s anal glands on your own. You can also resolve this problem by feeding your dog more fiber in its diet, as it increases the size of the stool.