Anal Glands

Anal Glands

Before reading this article, please:

All dogs have anal glands.  They are scent glands under the skin on each side of the dog’s anal area (at about the 4 and 8 o’clock positions).  The openings to these glands lie inside the dog’s body, just inside the anus.  As the dog poos, these glands are squeezed and emptied by the pressure of the poo moving past them and out of the body.  If this normal emptying process doesn’t happen for whatever reason, the glands can get very full and become impacted or infected.  This is quite a common source of irritation for many dogs.

* Sitting and dragging their bottoms along the floor, known as “scooting” (often many owners who see their dogs doing this assume it means their pet needs worming).
* Frequent and excessive licking of the perineal area

If these impacted or infected glands become quite severe or develop abscesses, the dog will be very uncomfortable indeed and may scoot, yelp, lick, and be very wary of any approach to their rear end.  The dog may also exhibit signs of aggression towards his owner or, in some cases, they may show episodes of hyperexcitabililty merely due to the fact that they are so uncomfortable that they just dont know what to do with themselves.

Diagnosing impacted or infected anal glands is a very straightforward procedure requiring nothing more than an internal examination by your vet.  However, if the dog is very uncomfortable indeed or in an awful lot of pain, it might be necessary to sedate him to allow a full examination to take place.

If the glands are simply full or impacted and need emptying, your vet can do this manually.  This procedure although not the most pleasant thing in the world for the dog, will bring instant relief as the glands are emptied of the foul smelling substance they carry (it often comes out at quite a spurt so remember to keep your mouth shut!)

If the glands are infected or have abscesses, they will usually require treatment under anaesthetic to express the glands as it would be too painful for the dog if it were to be done awake.  Once the glands are emptied, treatment for the abscess and/or infection would need to be given which might include irrigation of the gland itself  as well as a course of antibiotics and painkillers.

Simple full or impacted anal glands tend to be a recurring problem for a lot of dogs and if this is the case, it is likely to require periodic trips to the vet to have these glands emptied.  Some owners are able to do this for their dog themselves, once shown how by their vet, so if this is something you feel you could do, then ask your vet to show you how.

Dogs with softer stools or frequent diarrhoea such as is seen in colitis for example may be more prone to full anal glands.  Increasing the amount of fibre in the diet (eg by adding some unrefined bran or giving the dog raw vegetables) may help the glands to empty by themselves as the poo is passed – although this is my no means a fail-safe answer in all dogs.



  1. Reply

    It’s important to watch them carefully if they have a tendency to impacted glands. It also seems once they have a problem, they always have some degree of it. In 1978, a champion male (Basset Hound) with a chronic impaction problem was impacted, and the gland exploded, necessitating surgery. The veterinary surgeon did a great job, and the dog recovered fully. I have one now with the same issue, and I check him about every other day.

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