Dogs Anal Glands, How Do i Empty Them?

Dogs Anal Glands & How to Empty Them

Possibly one of the most unpleasant subjects in the canine world, emptying a dogs anal glands isn’t a pretty job. However, it is essential if your job suffers from issues with their glands. You might notice that your dog smells like fish or they sometimes wipe their bum along the floor; these are both tell-tale signs that your dog’s anal glands need emptying. But how do you do it, and when it is time to think about emptying your dog’s glands? This guide will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know. 

Do my dog’s anal glands need emptying?

While impacted anal glands are a common condition in canines, it doesn’t affect every dog. Dogs have two anal glands — anal sacs — which appear on either side of the anus. Inside each one, fluid fills the gland with a unique smell, which serves to mark the dog’s territory and give information to other dogs. This is also why dogs smell each other’s butts! When a dog goes to the toilet, these sacs empty themselves. The problem occurs when not enough fluid is released and begins to clog, or get impacted. This could result in infections, abscesses or ruptures, which can only be solved with surgery.

Why do some dogs have difficulty emptying their glands?

In some cases, impacted anal glands are caused by soft faeces that are a result of a poor diet. If dogs aren’t eating enough fibre to harden their stools, they won’t be able to naturally express the fluids in their anal glands. Diarrhea can also cause loose stools, as can misplaced anal glands or anal cancer in very serious cases. 

The signs that a dogs anal glands need emptying

It’s quite easy to tell when it’s time to empty a dog’s anal glands. By observing your dog closely, you may notice the following behaviours:

  • They might begin to scoot, which is where they drag their bottom along the floor.
  • They might begin to scratch, lick or bite at their bottom to get relief.
  • You might notice their butt smells like fish, especially if they’ve been licking their anus.
  • They might wag their tail less.
  • They might appear depressed.
  • They might not allow you to lift their tail or even touch them.

Both the scooting and the fishy smell are big indications that your dog needs its anal glands emptying. This is because your pet is trying to relieve the discomfort by releasing the fluid themselves. And if you’re wondering what actually causes the fishy smell, it’s because the anal glands are full but are leaking a small amount of fluid. If this becomes a frequent problem, it’s time to help your dog empty its glands. 

Where can I find the anal sacs?

It’s really important to understand the location of the anal glands so that you can successfully express them yourself. To make it simple, they are located about 5 and 7 o’clock from the anus. The openings point inwards above each sac — this is where you need to drain the fluid from.

How to empty a dog’s anal glands

With a little patience, you can successfully empty your dog’s anal flands at home. It might take a few attempts, but be gentle, relax and perhaps grab another person to help you out at first. If you’re not keen on doing it yourself, get your vet or a dog groomer (if you have one) to give it a try instead.

Firstly, find a surface for your dog to stand on — preferably something easy to clean and definitely not a carpet that might spoil. You’ll need to be able to keep them still too, which is where another person might come in handy to help hold them steady. Your dog must also be kept relaxed so they don’t clench their bottom. 

Position yourself in a way that means you’re comfortable, but can also see your dog’s bottom clearly. Aim for eye level if possible. 

The method:

  1. Firstly, pop a latex glove on your dominant hand. With the other, hold your dog’s tail up and out of the way. Using the now-gloved hand, place your thumb and forefinger either side of and slightly below your dog’s bottom.
  2. When you feel the glands, they will likely feel like two large peas — you’ll definitely be able to tell that they’re full. Don’t be alarmed if only one is full, but it could indicate that just one gland is having trouble emptying. Antibiotics may be needed, so contact your vet straight away. 
  3. Do not squeeze the anal gland. This is a common misconception but all you need to do is gently milk them in a slightly inwards and upwards motion. Where the anal glands open is the direction in which you need to milk the sacs, but make sure you only apply a very gentle pressure to do so.
  4. If no fluid is coming out of the sacs, try adjusting the angle and giving it another go. You’ll need to be patient, but once you’ve got the angle right you should find it a bit easier. Be warned: fluid can sometimes squirt out unexpectedly and make you jump. Try really hard not to squirm if this happens as you’ll scare or potentially harm your dog — remain relaxed at all times. 
  5. When it comes to the fluid, it could either be white, smooth, brown or grainy — it really depends on the dog. This is perfectly healthy, so don’t be alarmed. However, if the fluid is green or looks like pus, this is a sign of something wrong and you will need to contact your vet.

Will I know when the anal glands are empty?

You should do. When empty, the sacs will feel deflated and fluid will stop coming out. However, if you’re finding this isn’t the case and fluid remains, either try again another day or seek assistance from a vet. Once finished, It’s important that you wipe up any excess fluid — puppy wipes or a clean cloth will do — and give your dog a tasty treat to show them what a good boy or girl they’ve been. 

How often will I need to empty my dog’s anal glands?

It really depends on your dog. You may only have to do it once in their lifetime, or you might need to do it more often if the sacs fill up quite regularly. Keep a close eye on your dog’s behaviour — if they begin to exhibit signs of anal discomfort then it’s time to check their glands again. However, it’s a good idea to keep on top of this anyway, just in case they need emptying and you haven’t noticed.

It’s really important to remember not to empty your pet’s anal glands as part of their grooming routine. It should only be done as and when your dog needs it — messing around with their glands unnecessarily could cause more damage in the long run. 

Finally, if you notice your dog’s stools are soft, loose or runny, try putting them on a higher-fibre diet to harden the stools, as you may find this sorts out the problem.