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How to Express Dog Anal Glands: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you have a dog, chances are you’ve had to deal with anal gland issues at some point. It’s a smelly, icky subject, but anal gland expression is an important part of dog care.

While you may be able to take your dog to the vet or groomer to have their anal glands expressed, learning how to do it yourself can save you time and money in the long run. Plus, it’s not as difficult as you may think!

In this post, I’ll explain more about dog anal glands and how to express them at home. Keep reading to find out how to get the job done properly and help your dog feel their best.

What Are the Anal Glands?

The anal glands, or sacs, are two small pockets located on either side of your dog’s anus. These glands produce a foul-smelling liquid that’s used to mark territory and communicate with other dogs. The liquid is normally expressed (squeezed out) during bowel movements, but sometimes the glands can become full and need to be manually expressed.

If your dog’s anal glands are not expressed regularly, they can become impacted, infected, or even rupture. Anal gland problems are relatively common in dogs, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and how to properly express the glands.

Signs Your Dog’s Anal Glands Need to Be Expressed

There are a few different signs that may indicate your dog’s anal sacs need to be expressed, including:

  • Scooting across the floor
  • Excessive licking or biting of the anus
  • Foul-smelling anal discharge
  • Swelling or redness around the anus


How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

If you’ve determined that your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed, there are a few different ways you can do it. You can take your pup to the vet or groomer, or you can tackle the task yourself.

If you’re not comfortable expressing your dog’s anal sacs, there’s no shame in taking them to the vet or groomer. But if you’re up for the challenge, read on for step-by-step instructions.

1) Gather the necessary supplies

First, you’ll need to gather a few supplies, including latex gloves, dog-friendly lubricant, cotton balls or gauze, and paper towels. Make sure you have everything you need before getting started so the process is as smooth as possible.

It’s also a good idea to lay towels on the floor to catch any mess and make cleanup easier. Remember, this isn’t a pleasant task, so be prepared for some messiness!

2) Position your dog correctly

Next, you’ll need to position your dog correctly for expressing their glands. It’s best if they’re standing up so you can easily access their rear end. Smaller dogs may need to be placed on a table or countertop for easier access.

If your dog is resistant to being handled, you may need to enlist the help of another person to keep them steady. You can also try wrapping your dog in a towel to help keep them calm and in place.

3) Express the glands manually

Now, it’s time to express the glands. Lift your dog’s tail and locate the two small pockets on either side of their anus, then gently apply pressure in an upward motion until any liquid is expressed. You may need to use a little lubricant to make the process easier.

Use the cotton balls or gauze to catch the discharge and wipe up any mess with the paper towels. After expressing both sides, give your dog a good cleanup with wipes or a damp cloth. And don’t forget to give them plenty of praise and treats!

If your dog’s glands are especially full, you may need to express them a few times to get all of the liquid out. Be gentle and take your time so you don’t cause your pup any unnecessary discomfort.

In some cases, it may be necessary to express the anal glands internally. To do this, gently insert your gloved index finger into your dog’s anus and feel for the glands. Once you’ve located them, apply pressure in an upward motion until the liquid is expressed.

One word of caution: if you express your dog’s glands too frequently, they may become dependent on the manual expression and unable to express them on their own. This can lead to long-term problems, so it’s best to only express the glands when absolutely necessary.

As always, if in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice. And if you’re not entirely comfortable expressing your dog’s anal glands, leave the task to the professionals!


How Often Do Dogs Need Their Anal Glands Expressed?

The frequency with which anal glands need to be expressed varies from dog to dog. As mentioned earlier, a dog’s anal glands are normally expressed during bowel movements. But in some cases, the glands can become full and need to be manually expressed to prevent health issues.

According to PetMD, if your dog is prone to anal gland issues, their glands should be expressed every three to four weeks. However, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to get their professional opinion.

Is It Painful to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands?

In most cases, expressing a dog’s anal glands will not cause them any pain. However, if the glands are particularly full or infected, your dog may experience some discomfort during the process.

Dogs may also experience pain if their glands are impacted or infected. If you think this is the case, it’s best to leave the expression to a professional and take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

What Dog Breeds Need Their Anal Glands Expressed?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), smaller dogs are more likely to experience anal gland issues, but no breed is immune. Cocker spaniels, beagles, Chihuahuas, and pugs are just a few of the breeds that commonly need their anal glands expressed.

If your dog is experiencing recurring anal gland issues, speak to your veterinarian about the best way to handle the problem. They may recommend a change in diet or other lifestyle changes to help reduce the need for manual expression.

Cocker spaniel


Expressing your dog’s anal glands is a relatively simple process that can be done at home with a little patience and practice. Just make sure to be gentle and take your time. And remember, if you’re not comfortable tackling this messy task, there’s no shame in leaving it to the professionals!

I hope this guide has given you a better understanding of how to express your dog’s anal glands. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak to your veterinarian. They will be able to offer you more specific advice based on your dog’s individual needs.