4 signs your dog has an anal gland disorder

Our dogs are adorable in so many ways. But not everything about them is cute. If your dog has chronic problems with their anal glands, you know what I mean.

Anal glands (also called anal sacs) are on each side of and slightly below the anal opening, at about 4 and 8 o’clock.


Photo courtesy of petmd.com


As you can see from the photo, a tiny duct leads from the gland under the skin, to an opening right next to the anus.

What’s truly unpleasant about your dog’s anal glands is what’s produced in them… a smelly, oily, brown fluid your dog uses to mark its territory. When they poop, this fluid is excreted with the poop through those little ducts near the anus, leaving a distinct scent.

This scent also helps dogs identify each other. When your dog meets a new dog, he may raise his tail and let the other dog get his nose right in there. It’s this fluid in the anal sac that emits a scent.

Humans don’t have anal glands. But guess who does? A skunk. And they can empty them voluntarily when they feel threatened. You know that if one has ever sprayed you.

Dogs can’t voluntarily empty their anal glands. And the glands can become impacted or clogged if the dog doesn’t completely empty them when they poop and the fluid is left to thicken.

Why some dogs aren’t able to completely empty their anal glands isn’t known for sure. It could be the dog’s anatomy, the consistency of its poop, or the thickness of the anal sac fluid.

There isn’t a breed predisposition, but it’s said that anal gland disorders often occur in smaller breeds.

Hmmm, I’ve had three Labs and two of them have had chronic anal gland problems. So know what this condition looks like no matter the size of your dog.

Here are 4 signs:

1) The butt scoot – your dog drags its tushy along your nice carpet

Your dog is trying to empty the glands by rubbing them along the ground because they’re not emptying fully when they poop.

2) A foul smell – and sometimes super stinky breath too

The fluid is fishy smelling… a smell you may have also noticed when your dog is anxious. They’ll excrete anal gland fluid in times of stress.

3) Excessive licking and/or biting the tushy – resulting in that horrible breath

If the fluid has thickened and clogged the anal ducts, they’ll try to relieve the pressure and discomfort of the impaction.

4) Pain when your dog sits or poops

Once an impaction progresses to an infection or abscess, it’s really painful.

Is this serious?

Full anal glands can be uncomfortable but rarely affect your dog’s general health. If your dog is showing any signs of an anal gland problem, see your vet.

If the glands aren’t emptied and they become impacted, bacteria can get into the fluid and result in an infection or abscess.

That’s very painful. And abscesses can leave scar tissue that affects the nerves and muscles in the area. Sometimes, this can cause fecal incontinence and that’s a big problem. No one wants their dog leaking poop around their home, so be sure not to let full anal glands get to this point.

How are anal gland disorders treated?

If your dog’s anal glands are full and/or impacted, your vet can express the fluid with their fingers. If this becomes a chronic problem, your vet can show you how to do it.

Take a look at this video for a tutorial.

… Or just have the vet do it.

Our Lab goes to the vet every 6 weeks to have her anal glands emptied. And I can usually tell when it’s time. She’ll do the butt scoot, and the smell of her crate is reminiscent of low tide.

If the anal glands become infected, you may see bloody pus oozing from the glands. Your vet can tell when they drain the sacs if there’s an infection.

An infection is treated with antibiotics. But it can progress to a swollen mass of pus (an abscess) that is very tender if you wait too long to start treatment.

Unfortunately, once an abscess has formed it has to be lanced and then treated with antibiotics and sometimes an anti-inflammatory. Warm compresses can relieve the discomfort too.

Is there any way to prevent anal gland problems?

Some say a high-fiber diet, which makes the dog’s poop bulkier can help empty the glands fully. The poop puts more pressure on the glands as it passes. But some vets say a high-fiber diet does little to fix the problem.

If your dog’s anal glands are an ongoing issue, talk to your vet. They may recommend an anal sacculectomy—surgical removal of the glands.

This is a simple procedure but it can cause fecal incontinence. Weigh the pros and cons.

Having the glands drained regularly before full glands turn into an impaction, then an infection and ultimately an abscess may be a better solution.

Most dogs will go through life never having a problem with their anal glands. If that’s your dog, leave the glands alone.

Your groomer may offer gland expression as part of their grooming service. But if the glands don’t need emptying, most vets will say don’t touch them.

Has your dog had this uncomfortable and stinky problem? Do you express the glands yourself? Tell us in the comment section at the top.





60 thoughts on “4 signs your dog has an anal gland disorder

  1. My 7 pound, 7 year old dog has an anal gland problem right now. He’s a yorkie cross. He always has stinky breathe. The vet opened the gland with a needle to get the infection ooze out. They also gave us antibiotics and anti-inflammation medication. He’s feeling better but his butt is still oozing


    1. My dog expresses her anal gland almost every time she is in car she loves to go butt the smell is bad what can we do about this


      1. Yes, stress and/or excitement is something that can trigger this. If you are following all of the advice for keeping the anal cleared then unfortunately it is a just one of those things.


    2. I just met someone visiting from Scotland who gives her lab a teaspoon of coconut oil with food to eliminate the problem. She swars by it.


      1. I don’t know how to start a new thread and I wanted to ask a question. My 16 1/2 year old German Shepherd is leaking anal fluid. It was expressed at the vets and he said one gland was infected. After a round of antibiotics, the leaking came right back. He expressed it again and put her on proin. He said for us to wait a week and if she doesn’t improve, then we should put her down, we’ve done all we can do. She did not improve. I know she’s way older than most GSD’s ever get, but I don’t want to put her down if we are missing something. Any ideas??


      2. Oh Katy…I am so sorry to hear that. Did she have anal gland issues as a younger dog or did this just develop? Many times the chronic anal gland issues are anatomical so she would have had them throughout her life. I certainly cannot advise anything outside of what your vet would recommend. You have clearly taken good care of her for her to reach this age. Thank you for your note.


  2. My 2 yr old pug has leaky anal glands. he was able to go about 2 months before we would smell the tell tale sign, then it became 1 month before they filled and now just days. Went to the vet 7 days ago after exam and expression..they were not full..and he has leaked at 4 days and again tonight. I have added Psyllium to his food ..he refuses pumpkin…and we get regular exercise. I switched his food to a limited ingredient turkey from chicken but he dislikes the kibble and only eats wet food with green beans added. Any advise would be greatly appreciated…we don’t know what to do for our little poo-per 🙂


    1. The primary cause of anal gland problems is not usually food: the main causes are anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, enlarged anal sacs that are not compressed properly by the anal sphincter muscle, hypersecretion from the anal sac lining, obstructed or constricted anal sac ducts. So mostly anatomical reasons.

      However, inflammation can aggravate this problem, so feeding a Husse hypo-allergic product could prevent allergic inflammations which can contribute to the problem. A highly digestible food also gives more firm stools which give more pressure on the anal glands and help to empty them.

      Sometimes picky eaters respond to salmon based foods.

      Hope that helps.


  3. My 4 year old female dachshund has leaky anal glands also. We just visited the vet to have them expressed last week and tonight she is leaking again. I am at a loss. Is there an under laying problem that I need to be concerned with? Both of my dachshunds are picky eaters. What type of food should I be feeding them? * note my 10 year old male dachshund does not have this problem.


    1. The primary cause of anal gland problems is not usually food: the main causes are anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, enlarged anal sacs that are not compressed properly by the anal sphincter muscle, hypersecretion from the anal sac lining, obstructed or constricted anal sac ducts. So mostly anatomical reasons.
      However, inflammation can aggravate this problem, so feeding a Husse hypo-allergic product could prevent allergic inflammations which can contribute to the problem. A highly digestible food also gives more firm stools which give more pressure on the anal glands and help to empty them. The worst thing for dogs with this problem is to have soft stools.
      Sometimes picky eaters respond to salmon or lamb based foods.
      Hope that helps.


  4. Hi my dog has brown yellow discharge from her bum and it smells half way down her tail is red and looks sore but it don’t really seam to bother her she sits to one side so it must be uncomfortable for her shall I take her to the vets or try and empty her glands


    1. It is always a good idea to have the vet check her and make recommendations for longer term care of the issue. Again- often it is an anatomical issue and the best thing you can do is keep her on a diet that creates firm stool, and keep the area clean as best you can.


  5. My 4 y/o 14 lb Shihpoo is having to have her anal glands expressed every 2 weeks by her vet. She eats a combo if we and dry lamb and rice diet with pumpkin added. I am now going to add Kellogg’s Bran Bud cereal once daily. Her stools are firm, and there is no leakage or foul smell. She has allergies that keep her from going outside to play. Today my vet discussed removal of her anal glands, but I hesitate. Anyone have other suggestions?


  6. How do I get it out with out going to the vet cause I really don’t have any money so can u shoe me how to do it


  7. The only time my dog leaks is when she is sitting on the couch next to me. She doesn’t scoot. And only licks after the fact. Nothing looks red or swollen. My vet said there is nothing to worry about. But boy does it stink. Any advice?


    1. This just happened to me!! Omg. I love her but it’s sooooo gross! I feel so bad for her. She usually jumps off the couch when it’s coming but this time she didn’t even feel it. Makes me worried. She’s a 3 year old lab. We’ve had issues with this since she was 6 months-1 year. Glands expressed by Vet 4-5 times? And 2 accidents on the couch. Her butt hole is really healthy looking. Never any blood or abscess (thank God!). I just feel so bad for her :*( and of course it’s stressful! That smell…so nasty. And her breath is rank! This thread helped me connect the two. I wouldn’t get her glands removed and I certainly wouldn’t put her down. Poor thing.


  8. My dog usually gets anal sacs released every 6 months by the vet this time i took her to the groomer they said they would do it but it’s only been two weeks and she is scooting all around and really smelly. I don’t think they did it.


  9. My two year old Rhodesian ridgeback mix has this problem. He has food intolerances, and we have just recently figured out which food doesn’t give him diarrhea. We’ve brought him to the vet three times in the last six months to have his glands secreted, and he’s been licking back there again, so it’s time to bring him again. I’m hoping this isn’t a lifelong problem as our vet charges us quite a bit to do this.


  10. about three days ago i took my 6 month old anatolian shepard to the vet to be spayed and shes pretty much back to her happy playful self but now she has stuff leaking from her anal. she is on both pain meds and an antibiotic for a staph. the day of the surgery she didnt poo which i was told was normal, the next day she had super soft poos, and today they are still soft. should i get her checked out for the leakage?anyone with the same problem?


  11. Our baby was in real pain when moved his tail UP,and a pal of our said it was his gland,,we have had lots of dogs and never herd of this,”We called a vet and were taking him in today,thank you for all the formation.


  12. My 3 pound Chihuahua rat terrier mix had a large swollen inflamed land around her anal area this morning when I got home from work. I put her in some warm water in the sink and pressed on it and it busted open expelling bloody and brownish discharge with these little black chunks in it that appear to resemble small chunks of dirt but not bowel movement. The area where it busted open is now like another slit. I expelled all I could and a warm bath tub and then I close it with peroxide and Betadine and I packed it with ioda form gauze . I cannot really afford to take her to the vet right now, does this sound like it was applied to anal gland that just burst open? And is there any other things I can do to help treat her at home?


  13. Ok! My 9 month old pug just started licking his behind. He doesn’t do it all the time, but he’s never done that before. It doesn’t have a odor, he doesn’t scoot or chew, So if u can let me know what you think. Like to get opinion’s. I would really appreciate ur feedback. Thank You!


  14. My 2.5 year old Rotti x Kelpie has been having leaky glands. It happens about every six months. Never had an infection and her poos are solid. Shes healthy in every other way. Is this something I should be concerned about, if it only happens twice a year?


  15. My Lab had a terrible problem with anal glands when he was a young dog; got infections abscess etc. the Vet I went to then said that an op. was perhaps the only way forward as there was much scar tissue and thickness in the anal sacs, but I was worried about the possible damage to his anal muscles.

    Then with my dog’s morning snack meal I started adding High Fibre breakfast cereal, about a dessert spoonful soaked in warm water and mixed with dog food. (He already ate a lot of vegetables in his main evening feed but it didn’t seem to help his glands).

    But he hasn’t had a problem at all since.

    This was all done when he was about 6 years old and in 5 weeks time he will be 16, a good age for Labs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a very delicate and precise procedure that involves the nerves around the sphincter, allowing the dog to defecate. Damage to these nerves can result in serious consequences.


  16. My 2 1/2 great Dane has anal gland issues. He has been to the vet 3 times because the oozing and odor continue. He is constantly licking himself and have found drops of blood around the house. I was the area when he lets me . I try to squeeze the area to relieve him of it but will pull away quickly because of the pain. My concern is that it is cancerous. Has a vet appt. in 2 days.


  17. I have a husky mix that will be 2 in January. The past week I have started to notice her act different. She seems more stressed out/anxious (which is unusual for her), she has a horrible fishy odor coming from her bottom and I gave her a bath today because I thought it was just that she rolled in something but it is coming from her rear. She is always trying to lick at her rear area and tonight she started walking around in circles in my room yelping and I was able to calm her down and she is asleep now.

    I am calling my vet first thing in the morning because I am worried she might have something wrong with her anal glands so I hope that after they express it she will be better.


  18. My 14 yr old lab has never had a problem with her anal glands but shes had it done twice now in a grooming service and now seems to be leaking ALOT of fluid. This is 3rd time so off to vets we go. I didnt realise that it was optional and that if theres no problems dont get the glands done.


  19. Have 14 yr old Yorker rescue my question is when anal glands are expressed should all poops come out I took my dog today bc she was scooting 2 new assistants took her in the back & brought her back to me within a minute I was covered my entire jacket slacks & my boots were covered in poop. It has never happened before & I take her every 5 or 6 weeks.i put my jacket in a plastic bag they gave me they cleaned my dog as Best they could gave me a towel to wrap her bc it got on her jacket


  20. My dog never had issues with anal glands until our last vet visit. He’s 12 and I took him in for his arthritis and as part of his senior exam, they expressed his anal glands. When they did it, it seemed forced and they tried multiple times and my dog was whining. After that, he’s constantly licking his rear and leaking anal fluids all around the house. I took him back in and they said he had some blood in his anal fluid so they gave me antibiotics but this is still going on. Did the vet damage my dogs anal sacs?


      1. Except now I do because it’s become a problem. He’s inflamed and leaving secretions everywhere. I just want to know if it’s a possibility that my vet actually damaged his glands initially.


  21. My dog started to have anal secretions and bad odor so we took her to the vet to get her glands expressed but the vet said her glands were empty. Within a week her anal glands were infected. Once on antibiotics the leaking goes away but will return about a week after the antibiotics run out. Like I said, every time we take her to get her glands expressed they are empty. We only started taking her to get them expressed because she was leaking. Have you ever heard of a dog’s anal glands not holding fluid but becoming infected constantly? We tried switching her diet but it did not work.


  22. Thanks for your reply. We plan on taking her in again but just wanted to see if anyone had had similar situation and new of something that worked for them. After reading your comments about how sometimes anal gland leaking can occur when a dog is excited or stressed, we noticed it occurs more when we get home or when we are about to feed her (times of excitement for her). We are going to discuss ways to calm her down and not over excite her.


    1. Hi- our beautiful 3 1/2 year old corgi has a very clean looking tush-no infections ever. He leaks a drop of oil from his rectum when he is stressed or anxious ( car riding-which he appears to love but it makes him anxious) It has a fishy odor and we use natural baby wipes when it happens.. I would love to end this but we will not have surgery done on him since there is no other related issue…..
      I was told by my “DOG MAVINS” to stop giving him human food. We do give him lettuce, chicken breast and salmon……… It is ending today! I will keep you all posted as to how it goes but if any of you give your dogs human food- maybe you also ought to stop and lets all see how it works!


  23. I would think fiber in the dog’s food would help even if the problem is anatomical simply because fiber is bulk forming and helps to maintain adequate peristalsis which keeps the sphincter muscles active and prevents muscle atrophy. I also think it’s a tad odd that some of the dogs listed in the posts above have never had issues and then go to a groomer and have their anal glands expressed and all of a sudden start having issues. It would seem that damage could be done if improperly completed and I would also think a vet or vet tech would have better training to safely perform this procedure.


  24. We had our pup groomed and didn’t know anal gland expression was part of their visit. She had an infection immediately, went to the vet, needed antibiotic cream and pain meds. I called the groomer to ask if she did that and she said she always does. I never asked to have it done, and I’m so mad about it. She never had a problem before that visit. Now she scoots, has anal leakage and won’t let anyone come near her behind so it’s hard to clean her. Why do groomers think they can do something that, in my opinion, should be done by a medical professional? They could do permanent damage, it’s dangerous and they should NOT be allowed to perform this procedure at all!


  25. My dog has recently started licking at his rear end. Most the time it looks like he’s just licking at the base of his tail though. I don’t “see” any signs of swelling or leakage. It is a little pinkish/red from his constant licking, but there is no smell whatsoever. Just curious as to what could have triggered this behavior, any ideas? Should I be concerned that something is wrong? I hate to say this, but I really can’t afford an obscenely overpriced vet visit for them to tell me there is nothing wrong. Of course I will take him and pay the bill if there is something wrong, so please don’t take that statement the wrong way.


    1. Mandy…your feedback is unfortunately VERY COMMON. If it ha snot been a problem in the past and is not a chronic problem now you might be able to examine any changes that might have triggered it. Any diet changes…liquid intake….was anything differently done during a recent groom etc.


  26. No changes in diet and he is a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix, therefore no special grooming needed. Thank you for your response and thoughts. I will continue to keep an eye open and if things don’t seem to change soon I will take him to the vet to be on the safe side.


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