Love stinks: Expressing your dog’s anal glands

by Kira Garrett | January 07, 2014

While it certainly is not a glamorous part of being a pet owner, it’s important to care for even the smelliest parts of your pup. Anal glands play an important role in your dog’s life, and all dogs – no matter what breed – produce the pungent, musky fluid. This fluid identifies your dog to other dogs, telling them things like his gender, age and health status. While the odor is not pleasant to humans, it is helpful for dogs to communicate with one another.

Healthy anal glands will express themselves, but some dogs have difficulty releasing the fluid. In a healthy dog, the anal glands should be expressed when the dog defecates. A blocked gland can lead to a buildup of fluid in the anal sacs, which can be caused by genetic malformations or due to poor diet. If impacted glands are left unexpressed, a dog may experience painful bowl movements, infections or abscesses. If you notice your dog biting or cleaning the area, a strong odor, or he is scooting on the carpet, he may be trying to express his anal glands. You can visit your holistic vet or groomer to have the glands expressed. If your dog’s glands frequently require expressing, you can have your holistic vet teach you how to express the glands at home to save the trip and cost of a visit.

Expressing your dog’s anal glands is relatively easy. Apply a warm compress to the dog’s rectum before expressing the glands to help increase blood flow and soften the tissue. When you are ready to express the glands, be sure to have a surgical glove and plenty of paper towels – maybe even a bandana to cover your nose if you have a weak stomach. The smell can be overwhelming for some. Hold your dog’s tail up to expose the anus and use your thumb and forefinger to locate the anal glands – one is at 4 o’clock and the other is at 8 o’clock. Gently apply pressure to the gland, like you are milking a cow, and cover the area with a paper towel to catch the fluid.

Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet may help to express his glands naturally. With bulkier stools, some dog’s glands will release. Regular exercise may also help your dog. Exercise can help strengthen the rectal and abdominal muscles, making the glands easier to express on their own. If your dog continually experiences impacted anal glands, ask your holistic vet about other options for promoting anal gland health.