Expressing Dog Glands

Dog glands are found on either side of your dog's rectum, at about five and seven o'clock, respectively. These glands secrete your dog's individual scent. When your dog moves his bowels, the feces puts pressure on his anal glands, and the fluid that leaks out of them carries your dog's aroma; your dog may also secrete small amounts of this scent when he meets another dog, and they greet one another. If your dog's anal glands become infected or impacted, he could need to have them expressed to remove fluid from the glands.

Dog Anal Glands and Their Purpose

Your dog's anal glands produce a green or brown fluid with a strong, unpleasant odor. They normally secrete only tiny amounts of this fluid, when your dog moves his bowels or when he meets another dog. 

If this fluid isn't secreted properly, it's allowed to build up inside your dog's anal glands and could lead to impaction and infection. Some vets believe that dogs with soft stools are at a higher risk for anal gland impaction and infection, because their stools do not press sufficiently upon the anal glands to cause adequate fluid secretion. Impaction causes your dog a lot of discomfort, and infection could lead to abscesses and other complications.

Symptoms of Anal Gland Impaction in Dogs

If your dog has impacted anal glands, he may need you to express them. Symptoms of impacted anal glands include:

  • Constant licking or chewing of the rectal area
  • Soft stools
  • An unpleasant odor coming from your dog's rectal area

Dogs with impacted anal glands often drag or scoot their hind ends across the floor, in an effort to relieve the discomfort of impaction.

Expressing Dog Anal Glands

Your vet, or maybe even your pet groomer, can express your dog's anal glands if you don't want to do it yourself. However, many dog owners express their dogs' anal glands at home. It's best to perform this procedure while your dog is in a warm bath. Dog anal gland secretions smell terrible and can stain furniture and cloth. Expressing your dog's glands while he's in a bath makes cleanup easy and immediate.

Look on either side of your dog's rectum for the gland openings. They should be at about five and seven o'clock. You may not be able to see the openings; sometimes they are very small.

Look for the glands by squeezing the skin beneath the gland openings. Normally, a dog's anal glands are about as big as a bean, but they may be bigger if your dog has an impaction or an infection. 

Firmly but gently, take each gland between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze upward. You're trying to drive fluid out of the gland through the gland opening. Be careful not to hurt your dog. Keep a clean washcloth handy to wipe up the secretions as they come out. 

Express your dog's glands repeatedly until no fluid remains, then wash your dog well.