Tail Tips: Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Doggie anal glands

Every dog parent dreads the day when Fifi drags her bottom across the carpet. Not only does the potential resulting stain have most pet parents racing to shoo Fifi away, but the concern automatically settles in – could it be worms?!This doggie urban myth has been around forever. Is it true? Does booty-scooting really mean your dog has worms?

If your dog is scooting his bum across the floor, it’s a good reason to ask some questions, but you can relax a bit since it doesn’t always mean your pooch has undesirable parasites. For new dog parents, it only takes a little while before they learn the many “ins and outs” (no pun intended) of expressing the dreaded doggie anal glands.

That’s right folks, as if picking up your pooch’s poop wasn’t enough!

What are anal glands?

As the name suggests, they are two sacs located just beneath and on either side of your dog’s rectal opening, at about 4- and 8-o’clock positions. The glands serve the purpose of “marking” in the same way that urine does, but instead of lifting a leg to let others know who’s boss, your pup does the old squat-and-release. As he releases his feces, the pressure from the fecal matter exiting the rectum pushes against the anal sacs, thereby expelling the anal gland fluids. “Wait, fluids?!” you might ask; yup, there are fluids.

While marking his territory or when meeting a new pooch on his daily walk, your dog secretes a very special aroma that’s all his own. You might call it his doggie “business card” of sorts, which he passes out oh-so-generously. To us humans though, that is one smelly business card. The fluid that’s expelled from the anal glands is brownish in color and tends to carry an incredibly foul smell.Under normal circumstances, when your pooch goes about his business, the fluids are released in small amounts as needed to “mark” and “greet.” In fact, some lucky pet parents are not aware of the unpleasant fluid because their dog’s secretion is so minute. Unfortunately though, many pet parents, especially those with smaller breeds, most likely recognize the odor all too well.

When a pooch finds that they can’t excrete their anal gland fluids under normal circumstances, the anal glands get full and can become impacted. This can happen for several reasons, but one prevalent cause is loose stools that aren’t hardened enough to apply the proper pressure to help facilitate normal secretion of the glands. Impacted glands are uncomfortable and sometimes painful for a dog, and indicate that your pooch needs a hand to help him do what nature intended.

To figure out whether your dog’s anal glands are impacted, look for these signs:

  • Licking or chewing the area around the anus
  • Chasing his own tail
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Soft or mushy feces
  • Unpleasant smell emanating from the rectum
  • Drum roll, please! The dreaded scooting

So booty-scooting’s not just a wormy worry. If truth be told, more often than not, it’s more of an indication of anal-gland impaction than tapeworms. If any of the above symptoms are true for your dog, there are a few things you can do to help relieve his anal gland woes:

Keep your dog’s anal area clean; consider using wipes after he goes number two.

  •  Increase your dog’s daily exercise to better stimulate proper digestion.
  •  Increase your dog’s fiber intake by placing him on a high-fiber dog food, which will then help make your dog’s feces bulkier for better pressure on the anal glands.
  •  You can also supplement your dog’s diet with bran, canned pumpkin or Metamucil.
  •  Maintain your dog’s weight with a high-quality dog food and proper servings for his size; obese dogs tend to have more problems with anal glands.
  •  The folks at vetinfo say, “Dog digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation are often improved by the addition of a probiotic supplement. These supplements will increase the beneficial bacteria naturally present in your dog’s gut.”
  •  Lastly, but most importantly, have your dog’s anal glands expressed.

Expressing a dog’s anal glands can be done by your groomer or veterinarian. To save the expense, many pet parents do the job themselves. Isn’t this just the type of doggie-human bonding you’ve always dreamed of? OK, maybe not. Have your veterinarian demonstrate how to do this at least one time before attempting it on your own.

The process goes more or less as follows:

1. Raise your pooch’s tail and locate the anal glands.

2. Using a warm towel, tissue or gloves, place your thumb and forefinger below the glands and push in and upward while squeezing.

3. The gland fluids should empty onto the tissue. Expect an extremely foul smell when the fluids squirt out.

Though your dog can potentially express his own impacted glands by scooting across the carpet, you will most likely want to avoid this. If expressing isn’t performed by a human, your pooch might do it in unexpected areas like your carpet, couch, or even pant leg while cuddling. Because the fluid smells so strongly, it might leave behind very unpleasant odors in all the wrong places. Expressing the glands yourself will allow you to better control the situation.

How often you express your dog’s anal glands depends entirely on your dog.

Every dog is different; one might need every two weeks, while another might need it once and never again.Either way, it’s important to stay vigilant and watch your dog’s booty mannerisms. If impacted glands are left untreated, they can lead to abscesses that can rupture. When the anal glands are infected, it means that bacteria has made its way to them via the ducts that connect them to the rectal opening.

At this point, you must absolutely contact your veterinarian since he will most likely have to drain the anal glands using a minor surgical procedure and prescribe antibiotics for your dog.Although they are rare and usually minor, make sure to consult with your vet about potential complications from this procedure. Signs of gland abscesses include bleeding, pus, and signs of pain. For some dogs, the problem can be chronic and your vet might recommend complete removal of the anal glands.

So you’ve expressed your pooch’s anal glands, but he’s still scooting. Double-check the glands and make sure they are completely empty. If so, it could possibly be worms, but it can also be any other number of other things, such as itchy skin, fleas, lower back pain, ulcers or rectal polyps.If the scooting continues, it’s time to take your dog to the vet to make the proper diagnosis, and remember that no matter the information discussed in this article, it’s always important to seek your vet’s professional opinion about your pup’s unique situation.

Michael Bergins

My name is MIchael Bergins and i study veterinary at Ohio State University. Veterinary is what we would call the ideal profession for anyone who loves animals and wants to deal with them. We are dealing with the health and care of your little roommates. Understanding the particular role your pet plays in your family, we are committed to being healthy and happy people!So you decided to add another member to your family. Welcome it, giving it your attention from the early stages of your life! Their care is in your hands!And remember ... Beyond and above all, they need your love!

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