How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs to Have His Anal Glands Expressed?

Avatar photo

Published by Catharina Hjorth

Updated on

I Love Veterinary blog is reader-supported, and we may earn a commission from products purchased through links on this page, at no additional cost to you. Learn more About Us and our Product Review Process >

How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs to Have His Anal Glands Expressed?

Have you ever noticed your dog scooting across the carpet on his but? Or a weird smell coming from your furry friend? Of course, there can be many reasons, but one of the most common causes are blocked anal glands. This condition can be quite uncomfortable for your dog. Luckily though the glands can often be easily expressed. Either by yourself or a veterinarian!

How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed - I Love Veterinary

What are anal glands and how to tell when they need to be expressed

The anal glands are two small sacs placed on either side of your dog’s anus. Every time your dog goes to defecate, these glands empty a smelling liquid. This liquid tells other dogs everything they need to know about your dog. Including gender, age, health, and much more – it’s quite impressive!

But, sometimes these glands can become unable to empty themselves. This can especially happen when the dog has loose stool for too long. The loose stool might need to be addressed separately. But, the glands can luckily often be dealt with easily. First, though, you need to know the symptoms and signs of when the glands have become clogged.

Dragging its butt

One of the most common symptoms of the anal glands being full is when the dog starts dragging its butt. Often it will be on the ground, across the carpeted floor or outside.

Bulldog dragging its butt on the carpet; How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs Their Glands Expressed? by I Love Veterinary

Licking and chewing its butt

If your dog is licking and chewing excessively at his/her rear? You should definitely check his gland situation.

A weird smell

If the glands don’t get expressed, the build-up can cause your dog to smell. It will smell like feces but a lot stronger. It’s definitely something you’d notice.

Unable or having problems passing stool

Sometimes the glands will get so swollen it will be painful for your furry friend. In that case, it is likely that your dog will seem unwilling to pass stool. This is to try and avoid putting pressure on the glands. Which ironically can make it worse!

Dog pooping - I Love Veterinary

How do you express your dog’s anal glands?

So now you are pretty sure that your dog is having anal gland issues, what can you do about it? It is always recommended to consult a veterinary professional when it’s to do with your dog’s health. The vet will be able to express the glands. But, they can also determine whether there are any underlying issues that need addressing. Also, remember that it’s a dirty and smelly job. If you are in any way in doubt, contact your veterinarian.

But of course, the glands can at times be expressed at home by yourself as well.

Dog needs its glands expressed by the vet I Love Veterinary - Blog for Veterinarians, Vet Techs, Students

Guide to expression a dog’s anal glands

  • Have one person hold your dog still, standing on all fours
  • Put some latex gloves on along with some petroleum jelly to smoothen your finger
  • Insert your index finger into your dog’s anus
  • Bend the finger to meet your thumb on the outside. You should feel a pea-sized sac between your fingers.
  • Gently squeeze. A brown smelly liquid should come out. Catch it with a clean paper towel.
  • Repeat on the other side.

If the dog seems in pain, always stop. Also, if the liquid is in any way discolored or clouded, contact your veterinarian as it may be a sign of infection.

What happens if the anal glands aren’t expressed?

If your dog is suffering from clogged glands it is important to have them emptied. Either by yourself or your veterinarian. If not, they can become infected. This can in worst-case scenarios lead to abscesses forming. This can become very painful and difficult for your dog to deal with.

But, as much as it is important to empty clogged anal glands. It is also important not to do it too often or when it is unnecessary. Doing it can cause irritated anal glands, which in itself can be very uncomfortable for your dog. Whether the glands need expressing and how often varies a lot from dog to dog. Some dogs never have issues, some need to have it done once a year and some dogs need help more often to deal with it.

Are some dogs more prone to having full anal glands and can it be prevented?

It is possible for any breed to have anal gland issues. But, often it is seen in smaller breeds. Other factors like obesity and allergies can also increase the risk of anal gland issues. Also, some dogs are born with their anal glands positioned wrongly!

Most importantly clogged anal glands are due to loose stool or diarrhea. The normal stool should be hard enough to express the glands automatically. When the stool is too loose it cannot press out the liquid from the glands. To try and prevent this from becoming an issue it is important to feed your dog with high-quality dog food. A fiber supplement can also be given along with the food to help ensure the stool remains firm.

Removed dog anal glands - I Love Veterinary
From Lori Packard: “Just some super juicy anal glands.”

Can the anal glands be removed?

In some cases where the dog’s anal glands keep getting clogged, it can be necessary to remove them. As will all types of surgeries there is a risk when putting a dog under anesthetics. Extracting the anal glands is specialized and delicate surgery. Especially as the glands are near some of the nerves surrounding the anus. This means it can bring its own complications for some dogs afterward. Some dogs experience fecal incontinence and issues with their stool. This is why surgery is rarely recommended, except in the worst cases.


Having clogged anal glands is never very comfortable for your furry friend. It is thus important to keep an eye on your dog’s butt, as weird as it may sound. And should issues arise, it is important to deal with them. Either at home yourself or seeing a veterinary professional. To keep your dog happy and with a healthy butt!

Sharing is caring!

Avatar photo


With a veterinary master's degree from the University of Copenhagen in 2023, this accomplished writer's academic journey culminated in a thesis focused on the "Feasibility of using ultrasound of the abdomen for early diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis in neonatal pigs." Additionally, their dissertation delved into the intriguing topic of "Mercury accumulation in Greenlandic sleddogs." Beyond her academic achievements, her passion for animal health seamlessly merges with her love for writing. She excels in harmonizing clinical precision with literary expression, crafting articles that resonate with the heartbeat of her veterinary profession.


World Veterinary Day

Celebrating World Veterinary Day 2024

5 min read

how long can a dog go without pooping

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Pooping?

9 min read

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Drop your email below to join I Love Veterinary squad and enjoy regular news, updates, exclusive content, new arrivals and more!