Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog's Anal Glands

Dog anal gland issues affect millions of pets and are a very common and frustrating problem. Anal gland issues arise when the anal glands of dogs become over-filled, blocked, or irritated. All dogs have these two small glands (sometimes referred to as anal sacs) near the anal opening. 

These glands, which are typically the size of a small grape, normally release a few drops of scent marking fluid whenever your pet defecates (observed near the end of defecation). If your dog’s anal glands don’t get expressed on a routine basis they can become clogged, leading to symptoms such as scooting, irritation, or an infection of the anal glands known as anal sacculitis.


The illustration in figure 1 shows the relative size and position of the anal glands in dogs (often referred to as anal sacs). Note that the anal glands are internal and cannot be seen when viewing the rear end of a dog. When the anal glands become blocked or swollen they can enlarge which creates discomfort for your pet. Your pet may try to relieve this pressure by scooting or licking the area. This illustration shows only one enlarged anal gland but in most cases both anal glands are affected.

Glandex Dog Anal Gland Anatomy Location

Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

If your pet's anal glands fill up excessively it can create pressure which can be very uncomfortable for your dog or cat. When this happens your dog might display symptoms of anal gland problems, the most common of which is scooting their rear end across the floor. Besides scooting, other symptoms of anal gland problems in dogs include a fishy or foul odor from your pet, excessive licking of the rear end, discomfort while walking or sitting, straining to defecate, or redness/swelling near the rear end.

Clinical Signs of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

  • Scooting and discomfort of the rear end

  • Excessive licking of the anal area and hind end

  • Straining to defecate

  • Releasing a sudden foul (fishy) odor

  • Leaking of anal gland fluid

  • Bleeding and/or swelling near the anal region

Causes of Anal Gland Problems

There can be many underlying causes of anal gland problems, and in many cases, it is because of a combination of reasons. The most common underlying cause of anal gland problems is poor gastrointestinal health. In order for anal glands to empty, they need firm and healthy stools to create pressure on the glands as they pass over them. If your pet has small, soft, or loose stool it will be very difficult for the glands to empty properly. Another common cause of anal gland issues is underlying allergies (including Atopy). Allergies in pets manifest as red and inflamed skin. This can affect different areas of your pet (ears, paws, belly, etc) including the area around the anal glands (perianal region). Another major cause of anal gland problems are due to your pet's anatomy. If your pet's anal glands are positioned abnormally (typically too low or too far internally) it can become difficult for the glands to empty on their own.
  • Poor gastrointestinal health

  • Small, soft, or loose stool

  • Allergies (including Atopy)

  • Pet's anatomy (abnormal positioning)

  • Other - Including infections, cancer, or frequent expressing (iatrogenic)

Dog Anal Gland Anatomy Picture and Anal Gland Abscess

DoG Anal Gland Anatomy

The anal glands (anal sacs) are located near the anal opening between two layers of muscle. Normal emptying of the anal glands occurs as the stool passes over the glands and exerts outward pressure. The image also displays an anal gland abscess that has ruptured. Anal gland abscesses form when the anal glands become infected & impacted. As pus forms within the sac, it can eventually rupture causing pain & swelling. Anal gland abscesses can be prevented with healthy functioning anal glands.


Although watching your dog scoot on their rear may initially seem cute or funny, anal gland problems left untreated are definitely no laughing matter. The scooting you observe is a sign of pain and discomfort, as your pet is attempting to relieve the pressure by dragging their rear end on the ground. If the anal glands are unable to empty on their own, then your veterinarian will need to express them manually. Anal gland problems left unchecked can develop into an infection, including a more serious type of infection called an anal gland abscess. Anal gland infections typically require prescription medications from your veterinarian including antibiotics. If the glands have become abscessed, then sedation and a minor surgical treatment to lance (drain) the abscess will be needed. An anal gland abscess may present as a large lump or red swelling beneath your pet's tail. If the abscess has already ruptured, you may see bleeding and puss coming from your pet's rear end.
Veterinarian Dog Anal Gland Expression


In order for your dog's anal glands to empty normally they need large firm stools to create pressure during defecation. Feeding your pet a high-quality diet with the proper ingredients and nutrients is critical to ensuring healthy stools and healthy anal gland function. Using an anal gland supplement such as Glandex® can help ensure your pet is getting the recommended amount of daily fiber, and also helps to support the underlying causes of anal gland problems. When used regularly along with a high quality diet, Glandex® can help support normal anal gland function and healthy bowel movements. Some pet parents have also learned how to express their dog's anal glands at home. This is certainly not an easy task (nor one that you or your pet will enjoy) so the best recommendation is to leave this to a veterinary professional. If you're interested in seeing how the process is done, the video below demonstrates how a veterinarian expresses the anal glands.

How to Express Your Dog's Anal Glands

In this video veterinarian Dr. James Bascharon demonstrates the proper way to express your dog's anal glands at home. Dr. James shows two different methods, the internal and external methods of expressing your dog's anal glands at-home. It is important to keep mind that expressing your dog's anal glands at home can be difficult and may not be suitable for everyone. In general, it is recommended to have this done by your veterinarian. It is also recommended that you seek medical attention for your pet if you think they are having an anal gland problem. In addition to expressing your dog's anal glands when needed, it is helpful to use Glandex®, a veterinarian recommended supplement to help support natural emptying of the anal glands.

Glandex® Anal Gland Supplements & Wipes

Glandex Natural Anal Gland Pet Supplements for Dogs and Cats