The Importance of Anal Gland Expressions

If your dog experiences an affected anal gland, it may be very painful. It’s important as pet parents to recognize the signs and symptoms and to know what to do should this problem occur.

When it comes to caring for our pets, many pet parents understand the importance of traditional grooming, nutrition and exercise, but when it comes to anal gland expression… well that can sometimes come as a surprise. Impacted anal glands can be very painful if experienced by your dog. It’s important for pet parents to recognize the signs and symptoms and know what to do should this problem occur.

Brook Farm Veterinary Center offers anal gland expressions as part of a full-service dog bath or as an add-on to any service you’re having done.


Anal glands also referred to as anal sacs serve as an important function in the social ranking of canines. These scent glands are located on either side of your dog’s anus and release an oily substance that has a very unpleasant and sometimes fishy smell to us humans. For other dogs, however, it’s so much more than that. When dogs meet and sniff around each other’s behinds, the scents released by their anal glands reveal information about their hormonal status. Dogs may also express their anal sacs when they are scared as a form of a response. Expressing their anal glands allows a dog to leave a trail of their own scent behind to claim their territory at home or in their yard.

How do you know if your dog needs their anal glands expressed?

Common Signs and Symptoms:

  • If you notice your dog scooting their behind around on the carpet or on the grass by pulling themselves forward with their front legs in the seated position then they are probably trying to help with the release of secretion buildup in their anal glands, or are trying to help stop the itch that can come with impacted anal glands.
  • Signs of painful pooping, like straining or whining while trying to go.
  • Blood and/or pus in their poop or left behind from wherever they may have been sitting.
  • Extreme licking of the area or being protective of their anal area by lowering their back hips.
  • An unpleasant and ongoing fishy smell coming from your dog and left behind wherever they were seated.
  • The glands will appear sensitive when viewed or swollen if you run your hand over the area.

How do dogs express their anal glands?

A normal bowel movement is usually all your dog needs to sufficiently express and empty their anal sacs. However, some breeds are more prone to having backed up anal glands and they may need help manually expressing them. Anal gland infections and impactions are more often diagnosed in small breeds.  Poodles, Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles rank pretty high on the list of breeds affected by anal gland difficulties.

What causes anal glands to become impacted / infected?

When anal glands are not emptied properly during a bowel movement, pus like secretions can build up, impacting the glands and potentially causing further issues if not treated in a timely manner.

Special conditions and outside factors can increase your dog’s odds of having impacted anal glands. These factors can include food and environmental allergies / sensitivities, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, bacteria build up, yeast and chronic skin infections, among other things.  If you have any questions regarding your pet specifically, be sure to talk to your Brook Farm Veterinarian. 


It is important to know that certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Beagles and Chihuahuas, are predisposed to having anal gland problems. If your dog is among these few breeds or suffers from the conditions we’ve mentioned above, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to their anal glands to be sure they are functioning and expressing properly. If you notice any swelling, pus, or foul smell, give us a call and our team can help your pet get comfortable again with an anal gland expression. 

Untreated anal glands can lead to further issues.

If left untreated unfortunately, impacted anal glands can become quite a bad problem for your pet. They’re left not only feeling uncomfortable and itchy, but the anal glands can become abscessed and even burst when not handled carefully. It’s best to leave the treatment of an impacted anal gland up to our medical team who can ensure the glands are expressed thoroughly and properly to avoid any further trauma to the patient. Our medical team is fear free certified and either a technician or a veterinarian can help express your pets anal glands safely and efficiently.

If you notice an ongoing issue with your dog having impacted anal glands, be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian.  We can help you come up with potential treatment ideas to help alleviate this issue for your pet so they can continue living their best life. 

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