As a pet owner, it’s your duty to make sure that your dog stays healthy. Sometimes this is a pleasant task, one full of long walks through the neighborhood and ensuring that your furry pal gets exactly the right treats. In other cases, though, ensuring that your dog stays healthy can be a little gross.
One of the more unpleasant tasks you’ll face as a dog owner is learning how to deal with your dog’s anal glands. Though not necessarily a procedure you’ll have to do often, it’s smart to learn how to deal with full anal glands at home. Luckily, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about this part of your dog’s life.
What Are Anal Glands, Anyway?
While people don’t really talk about their dog’s anal glands all that often, most dogs will have to deal with some kind of anal gland problem at some point in their lives. If you’re a relatively new dog owner, though, you might not even know that these glands exist.
The anal glands, or anal sacs, are two scent glands that lie on either side of your dog’s anus. These glands are filled with a fluid that gives your dog his or her own unique scent. In fact, these are the glands that make other dogs so apt to smell your dog’s butt when they first meet.
These anal glands are constantly filling up with that scented fluid, but the good news is that they should also be emptying out on their own. When your dog poops, he or she also expresses a bit of this fluid at the same time. Unfortunately for both dogs and their owners, though, these glands can get clogged up when they don’t get expressed often enough.
Though this might not seem like a big deal, clogged anal glands are a lot worse than clogged pores. Impacted glands can get infected, develop abscesses, or even rupture. If the problem gets bad enough, your dog might even have to undergo surgery to get his or her anal glands removed.
What Causes Anal Gland Problems
As with so many other health issues, your dog’s anal gland problems come from his or her diet. Impacted anal glands generally come from a soft stool, which itself is a sign that your dog isn’t eating quite the right foods.
Most dogs that get impacted anal glands are eating dog food that doesn’t have quite enough fiber in it to keep your dog’s stool hard. This, in turn, means that your dog’s anal glands aren’t getting regularly expressed. If your dog can’t naturally express his or her anal glands while pooping, you’re eventually going to run into anal gland problems.
With that said, there are a host of other problems that can cause anal gland issues. These problems tend to be more serious, as they include things like anal gland cancers or other problems. For the most part, though, impacted anal glands are simply a natural problem with which you are going to have to learn to deal.
What Kinds of Dogs Have Anal Gland Problems
Strictly speaking, all types of dogs can have anal gland problems. From the biggest to the smallest dogs out there, anal glands are a universal issue.
With that said, you do see more common infections and impacted anal glands in smaller and mid-sized dogs. Breeds as varied as dachshunds and basset hounds tend to be frequent sufferers, while even chihuahuas and toy poodles can have their own issues.
The good news for owners of big-breed dogs is that their giants rarely have anal gland problems. That might come as a relief to many, especially given the steps needed to drain your dog’s anal glands.
Figuring Out If Your Dog Needs His or Her Anal Glands Drained
As you might imagine, expressing your dog’s anal glands is unpleasant for both you and for your dog. As such, you won’t be going around casually performing this procedure. Instead, you’ll want to look for some common signs that your dog needs his or her anal glands expressed.
The biggest sign that your dog needs some help is the all-too-familiar scoot. When your dog picks up his or her hind legs and starts dragging his or her rear on the ground, there’s a good chance that he or she is trying to express his or her anal glands on their own. Likewise, a dog who keeps nipping or licking at his or her rear is probably trying to empty out his or her anal glands.
A much surer sign – and bigger problem – is the presence of blood or puss anywhere near your dog’s anus. This is a sign that you’ve moved past your dog’s anal glands merely being too full and into the territory of a serious infection or possibly even a rupture. You should absolutely make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible if you see either of these signs.
How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands: A How-To Guide
Let’s assume that your dog is uncomfortable, but not in an unsafe space. Your dog is scooting around on the carpet and making a mess, but there’s no blood or pus. That means that it’s time for you to learn how to safely express your dog’s anal glands at home. Though unpleasant, it’s a remarkably quick task that you can do in a few simple steps.
Before you get started, you’ll probably want a few basic supplies. A pair of disposable gloves are a must, as are some paper towels and a warm, soapy washcloth. Many dog owners choose to use a lubricant like Vaseline to make the job easier on their dogs, but it’s not technically absolutely necessary. Finally, you’ll want to have someone else around to help you restrain your dog, as he or she absolutely will not like what is going to happen next.
You’re going to start by getting your dog somewhere comfortable. Some owners put smaller dogs on a table, while others choose to kneel behind their dogs. Given the mess, it may also make sense to do this job in a walk-in shower, a tub, or even in a sink.
Now that your dog is in position, it’s time to get him or her restrained. If you’re new to the process, have your helper restrain the dog by hugging him or her close. In time, you may actually get good enough at this procedure that you can do the work one-handed and hold your dog still at the same time.
Now comes the unpleasant part. Get your gloves on, put some Vaseline on your pointer finger, and insert your finger into your dog’s anus. As you may imagine, your dog’s going to be squirming during this part, but you’re actually getting fairly close to done.
Now that your pointer finger is in place, you are going to locate your dog’s anal sacs with your thumb. You should notice them towards the bottom and on either side of the dog’s anus – there should be two firm lumps there, each of which should be about the size of a pea but they could possibly be larger if they are very full.
Grab your paper towel and place it in front of your dog’s anal glands. You will lightly squeeze the gland with your thumb and pointer finger, milking out the liquid until you can barely feel the presence of the gland. Don’t be put off by the fact that you’re going to smell a hot, fishy smell while you’re doing this – that’s how your dog’s anal secretions smell and you’ll know that you’re getting rid of them as the smell gets stronger. Once you empty out the first anal gland, you can move on and repeat the process with the second.
Once the anal glands are empty, you’re definitely going to want to make sure that you clean up your dog’s hindquarters. The smell can be a bit overwhelming, but that soapy cloth that you had prepared is going to allow you to clean it up without much mess. As you may imagine, of course, your dog probably won’t be too happy that you are doing anything around that same area. Use some warm water and maybe some shampoo to wash it off – you’re done!
As a note, it’s generally a good idea to look at what you were able to squeeze out of your dog’s anal glands once you are done. A thin, brownish fluid is generally normal and should show you that there’s really no cause for alarm. If the material is any other color, seems unusually thick, or has any chunks in it, your dog almost certainly has an anal gland infection. If this is the case, you’ll want to call your local vet right away.
How Often Does Your Dog Need His/Her Anal Glands Expressed?
Many people choose to get their dogs’ anal glands expressed every time that they get groomed. If you’re doing it on your own, though, you may wonder about the schedule on which this needs to be done.
The good news is that you absolutely do not need to express your dog’s anal glands unless he or she is showing one of the symptoms that were listed above. Expressing your dog’s anal glands absolutely does not have to be part of your regular cleaning process and a healthy dog who has a proper diet may go years without needing any outside help when it comes to anal gland expression. This is only a job that really needs to be done in a worst-case scenario.
Doing a Dog Owner’s Duty
Expressing your dog’s anal glands is unpleasant for both you and your dog, but it’s important for your canine friend’s health. While this job can be done by a vet or a groomer, learning how to do it at home can save you money and allow you to give your pet some relief without having to wait for an appointment. Once you do the job once, you’ll learn that it’s actually quite easy and subsequent draining should go significantly faster.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if your dog needs his glands squeezed?
Your dog will probably be very obvious about his anal glands needing to be squeezed. The most common behavior you’ll see from a dog is ‘scooting’ – the dog will drag his rear around by his or her front legs, likely in the hopes of expressing his anal glands on his own. If you don’t see this behavior, you might see your dog biting or licking at his or her rear, again probably trying to do the job on his own. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll notice a foul, fishy odor coming from where your dog is sitting because your dog is actually managing to express his anal glands successfully.
Can I express my dog’s glands myself?
Yes, you can express your dog’s anal glands yourself. While it might not always be the most pleasant procedure, it is something that you can do at home with no special tools. So long as you have some gloves, some Vaseline, and a paper towel, this is a do-it-yourself kind of job. Many people choose to get help from a partner to hold their dogs still, but those who have been doing the job more often can actually handle restraining the dog and expressing his or her anal glands on their own. If you’re not comfortable with the procedure, though, this is something that you can get done professionally.
What dog breeds need their glands expressed?
Many dog breeds need anal glands expressed. Though it largely varies by what you feed your dog and the overall health of the animal, you should generally expect to have to express the anal glands of any small or medium breed dog. Beagles, dachshunds, basset hounds, and toy breeds of all sorts tend to be the most likely to have anal gland problems, but any dog that isn’t getting enough fiber might need some help in this department. The only exceptions are the giant breeds, which almost never need their anal glands expressed.