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Guide to Emptying Your Dog's Anal Glands

30 CommentsTuesday, 21 July 2015  | 

For most dogs the anal glands (also known as anal sacs) will empty a small amount of anal gland fluid each time the dog toilets. But sometimes the anal glands do not empty naturally or do not empty enough and this can lead to the glands filling up and becoming uncomfortable, leaking at inconvenient times or even becoming impacted and infected if left untreated.

dog scooting due to full anal sacs

Why anal glands do not always empty

The dog’s diet may be to blame for anal sacs that do not empty on their own. A large firm stool will usually trigger the anal glands into releasing. A small or soft stool may not activate the anal sacs and if this continues the sacs will continue to fill up.

Signs that anal glands may need emptying

Does your dog drag his bottom along the floor (scoot)? Does he try to scratch or bite at his bottom? Do you sometimes notice a strong fishy smell on your soft furnishings or coming from your dog? Does your dog lick his bottom and then have fishy smelling breath? Has he stopped wagging his tail, does he seem depressed, does he object to his tail being handled or lifted? If yes, it could be that your dog’s anal glands are not emptying on their own.

The dog will try to solve the situation by rubbing his bottom along the ground, licking or biting. He needs your help.

There is a common misconception that a dog will drag his bottom along the floor when he has worms. In reality, it is most likely to be because of full anal sacs. The dog is trying to release the fluid build-up. If the anal sacs are emptied and the dog still scoots even a few days later, then investigate other causes such as worms.

Who should empty them?

If it is an infrequent problem or you do not fancy trying to empty the anal glands yourself, your vet or your local dog groomer can empty your dog’s anal glands. It is a relatively simple 5 minute procedure. Alternatively, you can empty your dog’s anal sacs yourself, with a little patience and know-how. But for the first time it is best to visit your vet just so the vet can check your dog for any underlying problems or infections. Once this is ruled out or treated, the vet will usually agree that in future you can empty your dog’s anal sacs yourself. A good vet will be happy to give you some instructions on how to do this.

Emptying the anal sacs yourself

where are a dog's anal glandsThe key is to relax (you and the dog) and to take it slowly. Do not rush or panic or go at it with too much vigour. Be gentle. Be patient. Let’s begin.

To help you successfully empty the anal glands you need to be aware of where they are and where they drain from. The image shows where the anal glands are situated and where the openings are.

You will need a latex glove (a household rubber glove is alright to use but they are less sensitive for you to be able to feel through), some kitchen roll and preferably another person to help. Stand your dog on a safe, easy to clean surface. Have the other person gently hold your dog still in a standing position so your dog doesn’t walk off or sit down. But try not to frighten or panic your dog. Ensure they are relaxed. This makes the dog less likely to squirm or clench their bottom.

You must be as level with the dog’s bottom as you can and try to be a comfortable position yourself. Do not sit or crouch in a way that is going to have you jumping up after a few minutes.

Emptying a dog’s anal glands is easy once you get used to it but, especially to begin with, it can take time and patience. If you don’t succeed the first time, take a break and come back to it another day.

emptying a dog's anal glandsThe external method is as follows. With your ungloved hand gently hold your dog’s tail up and out of the way. With your gloved hand, gently place two fingers (thumb and forefinger) either side of and slightly below your dog’s bottom (see second image).

Full anal glands will feel like two large peas. Sometimes only one sac will be full rather than both. This can indicate that the glands were generally emptying alright on their own but for some reason one has become impacted and maybe also infected. A course of antibiotics and some pain relief may be required. Seek advice from your vet.

Now that you can feel the anal glands, gently milk the glands in a slightly upward motion. Review the first image again so you can see exactly where the anal glands open. That is the direction to milk the sacs. Do not continually squeeze or apply too much pressure. The key here is to gently milk. Watch the dog’s bottom and if nothing comes out, adjust your fingers slightly and adjust the angle of the ‘milking’ and try again. Be patient and keep trying a few times until you see a drip of fluid escape. You can now keep your fingers in that position and continue to milk the glands in and up until they are emptied. You will know when you are finished because the sacs will feel deflated and the fluid will stop coming out.

handy wipes for your dog's bottom, face and pawsThe anal gland fluid usually smells potently of fish and can be anything from a clear or white smooth consistency to more of a brown grainy substance. Gently wipe your dog’s bottom to remove any dribbled fluids and give him a nice treat.

However, if after a few tries you are unsuccessful, stop and try again another day. Repeated milking of the glands can cause pain and bruising. This can make the problem even worse. If you still do not have success please ask your vet for advice.

Another method of expressing a dog’s anal glands, often used by vets, is to insert one lubricated gloved finger gently into your dog’s bottom to feel the sacs and empty them one at a time. This is the internal method. I find it more intrusive for the dog and trickier to do so I always use the external method.

Schedule in your diary a reminder to check your dog’s anal glands regularly (say once a month) and empty them whenever they feel full.

Video demonstration

Removal of anal glands

This operation can be performed in certain circumstances but due to complications it is not recommended as a general solution. Faecal incontinence is a recognised side effect of anal gland surgery.

Other solutions

As mentioned above, check your dog’s stools for size and firmness and adjust their diet to a high residue (cereal based) diet if the stools are too small or soft. You could try adding bran to firm up the stools and bulk them out. A couple of teaspoons a day for a medium sized dog should suffice. Reduce your dog’s weight if he is overweight. These solutions aim to aid natural anal gland emptying.

By Jenny Prevel

© D for Dog
This article belongs strictly to D for Dog and we do not authorise the copying of all or any part of it.

Useful product links

Disposable Latext Gloves x100
£8.50  -  £9.60
Coachies Dog Training Treats
£2.69  -  £3.49

Maxine Swift
Saturday, 15 August 2015  |  9:04

very well explained ,great advice ,thankyou.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015  |  0:41

Thanks for the help

Petty and Rizla
Wednesday, 26 August 2015  |  7:47

Now I know why my rizla moans when we touch his bum at times. Over 7 years I've smelt the fishy stink ONCE only so it's good to know wall is ok. This video is brill! At least we can have ago ourselves. Thankyou

Monday, 31 August 2015  |  4:38

Excellent job !!! Very helpful

Thursday, 24 September 2015  |  15:09

Very informative. Love the accent in the Viideo, too. Now to try on my 3 lb. chihuahua, Chico!

Linda Loukos
Monday, 28 September 2015  |  0:30

Thanks for the excellent video. My Cali has this problem often. My hope is to have success at getting her some relief. 😋

Saturday, 3 October 2015  |  11:44

Yes, this was very helpful.
Thank you

Steve Davies
Tuesday, 6 October 2015  |  18:17

Very clear to follow, will be able to try and clear 2 of my dogs taking your advice, thanks.

D. Chris
Thursday, 8 October 2015  |  3:45

OH MY GOSH! Where has this article been for the last year!? We knew something was wrong and resorted to using a waterproof blanket on our bed for our dog to sleep on. We would wake up smelling that foul smell and had no idea what was causing it! We will definitely visit with our vet. Thank you so much!!

Friday, 9 October 2015  |  9:59

Thank you

Saturday, 10 October 2015  |  12:48

thank u very much

Sunday, 11 October 2015  |  22:54

Hi my dog had his analysis glands done for the 1st time 3 days ago,at my groomers,since then he has not been himself.does not want to go out.sleepy.and smells so bad of fish at back end.have kept wipeing with wet cloth but still only 14 months old a shitzo.

D for Dog
Monday, 12 October 2015  |  9:05

If the anal glands are still leaking, it sounds as if they have not been fully emptied. Did the groomer have good reason to be doing them? I would take your dog to the vets to see what is happening and have them emptied professionally.

Maureen Shepherd
Wednesday, 14 October 2015  |  14:08

thank you ,very informative

Sunday, 18 October 2015  |  18:17

Great explanation. I have a shih tzu that has always needed this done. After several trips to the vet I decided to try on my own. Poor Sam Sam he is so good and patient. Occasionally Sam still needed a trip to the vet due to an impacted gland. After expressing it you could see a little plug (yuck) come out. The vet then recommended that prior to expressing the gland I massage his glands with a warm towel to help dissolve slight obstruction. I am happy to say that this worked great! Happy dog.

D for Dog
Sunday, 18 October 2015  |  19:50

What a great idea. Thank you very much. I am sure others will find that helpful too :-)

Tuesday, 3 November 2015  |  17:49

Thank you so much for this video. My poor little Shugie has a terrible problem. My vet said he had never seen glands fill as fast as hers. I have contimplated having the surgery, but now that I know the side effects, we won't be doing that. I will definitely be trying the external method. Again, thank you for this video

D for Dog
Tuesday, 3 November 2015  |  19:09

You are welcome. We also said no to the op for Berkeley. Once you get used to doing them, it is a 2 minute job.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015  |  14:51

OMG, I seen liquid coming from my Niko's behind, but since he had it since puppy I didn't think too much about it, and every now and then I would smell fishy smell, and I thought he needed to go to the groomer!! Well now I know he needs to see his vet, and I will get him there as soon as possible!! Can't wait for him to feel better, when he is down, I'm down too, he really is my best friend!! Thanks for such a great video!!

On Behave of Bart
Friday, 13 November 2015  |  10:46

Thank you so much for the video, and explaining about emptying the annal gland, very useful, and clear.
Thank you again.

Kathleen Marsh
Saturday, 14 November 2015  |  19:29

Thank you ,tried a few times but no luck yet ,will keep trying

Wednesday, 18 November 2015  |  5:18

Excellent instructions, I feel like I can do this now. You have no idea how bad an alpha-male bullmastiffs' full anal glands reak. Or do you

David Moore
Friday, 20 November 2015  |  15:33


Joe Foley
Tuesday, 24 November 2015  |  1:03

Thanks for the great advice, as this is the second time our dog has had this done at the vet. Any advice on how to prevent it from recurring?

D for Dog
Tuesday, 24 November 2015  |  9:17

You are welcome. As mentioned above, the dog’s diet may be to blame for anal sacs that do not empty on their own. A large firm stool will usually trigger the anal glands into emptying naturally. So if your dog has soft stools you may want to look at why. The reasons are various and many, from a poor quality food, intolerance i.e. a food that doesn't suit their digestion or other reasons which may be medical.

Handy Hubby
Tuesday, 24 November 2015  |  10:06

Fantastic, great video and very clear instructions,
Now I have a happy dog.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015  |  17:14

Does thus condition occur in cats too? If so, is the procedure the same? Your recommendations and comments, please.

D for Dog
Wednesday, 25 November 2015  |  17:43

I'm sorry, I have no idea about cats. You will have to ask your vet.

Andy C
Friday, 27 November 2015  |  19:40

Thank you for the fantastic article on how to fix this gland issue. I've just done it for my dog Penny. Really easy to do works exactly like you discribe and I'm positive Penny is over the moon too. I'll pass on your website to all my friends with dogs, 100%

Maria R
Sunday, 29 November 2015  |  18:25

My dog, Sam, has this problem and I take her to the vet every two to three months to have her glands expressed at the cost of $30. If I can do this successfully, it will save me some money, and I will not have to wait for an appointment. Thank you for this very helpful video.