Why do some dogs need their glands squeezed?

  • By: Mick Whitefield
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Just like kids, our furry friends also need medical care to ensure that they are always healthy. Unfortunately, dogs are prone to some conditions. Take for instance that appalling, fishy odor from their rear you noticed while grooming them. Ever wondered where that’s coming from? While it may not be the kind of conversation to have over a dinner party, knowing how to pick out such problems will go a long way to helping you spare your dog a fair amount of misery and discomfort.

So why do some dogs need their glands squeezed? For dogs, the anal glands secrete a tiny amount of fluid every time they poop allowing the dogs to identify each other. Sometimes the glands don’t push out enough fluid to empty the sac and this can gradually lead to an overfilling of the anal gland sac, this swelling which leads to discomfort for your dog and in more severe circumstances infection and/or impaction. One great way to remedy this condition is by manually squeezing the anal glands to eliminate excess fluid and ease your pet’s irritation.

In this post, I will tell you about dog anal glands, how the condition comes about, and the dog’s symptoms to watch out for. You will also learn how to best to treat the problem and the consequences of failing to do so. I will also point out here at the beginning that this should really be done by someone experienced like a vet, however this is not always possible and it is better to resolve this issue, rather than to leave any problem to get worse.

Your dog will make it very clear to you that his anal glands are full and require emptying through a variety of body language movements. Although this condition may come across as embarrassing, if not weird, it is quite common among canines.

For dogs, the anal glands secrete a tiny amount of fluid every time they poop. Sometimes however the glands don’t always empty enough fluid, which over time causes them to fill up and lead to discomfort for your dog.

This can lead to unwanted leaking, impacting, and worse infections, if not managed early enough. To understand this better, let us first consider what dog’s anal glands are:

What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are two small glands located on either side of your pet’s anus. Every time your dog poops, these glands naturally produce a small amount of thick, oily, and to us what can seem a foul-smelling fluid secreted by glandular tissue that dogs use for identification purposes and for marking their territory.

Anal Gland Cartoon

You know those bizarre meet and greet sessions by our canine friends where they smell each other’s bottoms?  Well this is often how they identify their friends and foe alike. They will know where along the pathway their friends have been.

Well, clogged anal glands come about if the glands fail to empty enough of this pungent smelling substance as they leave their trail.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Problematic Dog Anal Glands?

There are a number of behavioural signs that will tell you your dog needs their anal glands expressed. The severity of these symptoms usually varies from one dog to another.

Many dogs suffering from impacted glands tend to display a range of symptoms which when combined, can enable you to know when to help your animal friend get some relief.

NB: You should know that some dogs may need their glands expressed without necessarily giving off any obvious hints, check when you see your vet.

Some of the common symptoms you may observe with your dog could include:

•    Difficulty Passing Stool– If your furry friend seems to be straining to have a poop, is possibly lethargic, with a lack of appetite; these could be pointers that he is struggling with impaction (Impaction is a fecal blockage in the rectum and or colon passage). Your pet may also display some unusual behavior whenever someone brushes their rear accidentally, they may be sensitive their.

•    Dragging (Scooting)– When clogged, the tension in the sacs increases, causing extreme levels of discomfort for your pet. This irritation will be clear to you when your pet starts dragging his behind all over the floor.

Dog Scooting 1

•    Very Foul Smell– If you find yourself crinkling your nose every time you are grooming your dog, then maybe his anal sacs need to be expressed. That pungent smell emanating from your pet’s rear end will be too much to handle. You will definitely know it’s time to squeeze the sacs when this overwhelming smell reminds you of old fish.

•    Licking and Chewing– One common thing that dogs do to relieve their irritable clogged anal glands is to reach under and try to lick or chew at them in an effort to express them on their own.

If you notice an excessive struggle to lick and chew alongside other signs like scooting, this should tell you that it could be more than just the usual self-grooming efforts.

·    Swollen Glands-There’s also a possibility that the skin tissue around the anal opening will be swollen or have an irritated appearance.

•    Brown/Grey Anal Discharge– Your dog can actually go through the entirety of his life without experiencing anal glands problems, but not all pets are as lucky. The normal anal fluid usually tends to have a yellow to tan coloration and has a watery consistency. Impacted anal discharge, on the other hand, assumes a brown or grey colour and is thick with occasional signs of blood or pus to indicate infection.

What is the Solution to Dog Anal Glands?

One way to handle your dog’s impacted anal sacs is to manually squeeze out the fluid. This is a relatively simple procedure if you know how to work your way around the dog’s bottom. While you can get professional help from a vet, it is possible for you to learn the basics and save yourself the frequent trips to the vet’s office. The main thing to remember is to consult a vet before you attempt this procedure for the first time.

Preparing to Squeeze your Dog’s Glands


There are a number of things you can do in preparation for this procedure including:

•    Look for symptoms of anal sac issues like I have discussed in the above section. It is, however, crucial to remember that these signs don’t always point at just full anal glands. They may at times indicate further underlying issues, so if it is very recurrent, go to the vet.

•    Gather tools of the trade! You want to have three or four damp towels and a pair of dry towels to do the job. A bottle of shampoo will also come in handy in case you want to wash your pet before the procedure. You will need latex gloves for palpating the anal sacs and consider wearing old attire to prevent the foul odor from getting on your new ones.

•    Find an assistant to help you with this. A friend or family member will come in handy to distract your dog or hold him at the collar as you carry on with the anal sac squeezing.

•    Find a small room to secure your pooch. Normally, the bathroom will do just fine. The purpose here is to prevent the dog from making a run for it in the event he can’t bear the discomfort from his sacs getting squeezed. The procedure can also be messy so you need an easy-to-clean surface.

Squeezing Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Follow this step-by-step guide below to express your dog’s anal glands:

Step 1: Ensure your pet is in a standing position with his derriere facing you. Have your partner secure him by wrapping one arm around the dog’s neck or abdomen. Roll up the tail so that the anus is clearly visible and get yourself on the same level as the dog’s behind for a more comfortable position to maintain.

Even though this is a relatively simple and quick procedure, it does require its own share of patience. You want to pick cues from your pet’s body language as he reacts to the swelling and pain of the glands. It’s likely he’ll be fidgeting the whole time so you want to take it easy for your canine’s sake. Your partner can try to relax him by whispering sweet words and stroking him as you continue with the procedure.

Anal Pic 2

Step 2: Locate the anal sacs. To do this, position your thumb and forefinger on either side of the dog’s anal opening; if they are impacted, you will feel a bulge the size of a cherry just below the anal cavity when you push inwards. If you notice only one full gland, this could indicate an underlying infection or a totally different issue. Consult a vet in this case.

Step 3: With both fingers on the sacs, exert pressure towards the anus; be sure to squeeze up and in, in a slow and alternating motion instead of continuously. Apply enough pressure while doing this until you see the fluid start oozing out gently in drips. Try changing the position you are squeezing if you see nothing coming out. If the fluid coming out is bloody or pasty, consider seeing a vet immediately; it could be an infection.

Step 4: If there is nothing coming out after continuous milking, stop as this can cause painful bruises. Anal glands that are situated deeper in the body need to be handled by a professional through an internal procedure. Otherwise, continue squeezing until the fluid comes out. Wipe your dog’s behind with the damp towels as gently as you can. A clean bath after the procedure may be a wise move.

What Causes Dog Anal Glands?

One of the leading causes of problematic anal glands is the type of diet your dog eats. Naturally, the sacs are squeezed as your dog passes stool. These glands will, however, not express the way they should if the poop is not solid enough. A softer and less bulky stool may be the consequence of feeding your dog pet food with low-quality ingredients.

This problem can be resolved by improving the food quality you are giving your dog. Remember also that what accumulates in the anal glands may sometimes be directly credited to what your pooch eats. For example, expressing very thick material can prove too difficult, causing impaction when the liquid substance clogs the passage that drains it. This can be a huge concern, more so to small dog breeds.

You want to manage your dog’s diet by feeding him foods that produce firm, clay-textured poop almost every time he goes. Try high fibre diets such as broccoli and cauliflower. Canned pumpkin is another good source of fibre that can help to remedy the situation. Alternatively, feed your dog supplements like Analglandz, Glandex, and Scoot away bites for anal glands; all of which can be bought on Chewy.com.

Anal Pic Glandex

NB: Too much softening of the stool can lead to a relapse of the problem. Anal glands will fare best when the poop has a normal consistency. Dogs with severe constipation can suffer anal sac impactions.

Another leading cause of gland complications is medical issues that lead to diarrhoea or loose stool, making gland expression a challenge. The placement of the anal glands can also be a concern. Some dogs have their glands positioned in such a way that makes natural expression hard; even with proper care and diet. Although this isn’t common, such an occurrence may necessitate removal of the glands altogether to prevent infection.

What happens if Anal Glands are not Treated Properly?

If anal sacs expression is not done properly, the problem can lead to complications such as impaction. This eventually causes infection when the condition is not managed correctly.

Expression at such a time may reveal pus and blood in the discharge and proper healing will necessitate professional help from a vet. Any delayed expression may cause the glands to blister.

You will notice an inflammation around the anal region that if not treated early enough, will rupture and lead to a painful drainage through the anus. This is a critical condition that needs a surgical operation to repair properly.

Getting yourself acquainted to the basic anal sacs issues is crucial to saving your dog some of these very painful effects.

Why are Anal Glands Completely Removed?

In the event clogging of the anal sacs has become too severe or evolved with too much impaction, vets will sometimes resort to completely removing the anal glands. As a consequence of this procedure, you may notice fecal inconsistency on your dog as a side effect.


The occurrence of anal glands issues can be a nightmare for your dog, filled with pain and discomfort. Having the basic knowledge of full anal glands, when to do something about it, and how to squeeze them when need be is crucial to ensuring good health for your cute canine. This will also go a long way to ensure that problems like impaction and abscess are kept well at bay. 

If this is something that you do not wish to attempt then please take your dog to your vet or ask at the grooming parlour as some parlours will also do this as an addition to the haircut.


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