How To Express Your Pet’s Anal Glands
Most groomers and veterinarians offer to express them, but what’s up with these ‘anal glands’ anyway? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Anal Glands?
Anal glands (anal sacs) are the same glands that give muskrats their musk and skunks their funk. Hold onto your barf bag, but the anal glands of beavers are used to give ‘leathery’ accents to many perfumes and are used in some human foods as a substitute for vanilla. Anal glands are located about 3/4th inch inside your dog’s anus and about ½ inch inside your cat’s. Biologists and vets believe that they exist to uniquely mark the stool of the individual as his or her own and hence alert all other nearby animals that, ‘Hey I was here,and ‘this is my turf.’
What Do Anal Glands Do?
Anal glands function a lot like a sweat gland. They produce a slow continuous supply of an oily, dark, sharp-smelling fluid. When everything is operating normally, they express themselves every time your cat or dog defecates, but in cases where the pet is overweight, where the pet is inactive, and for other unknown reasons, the anal glands do not express themselves. They then continue to fill, expand, and cause your pet discomfort. In some cases they become infected and in the worse possible scenario, they abscess or rupture.
Anal Gland Issues Are Not Uncommon
At Brookfield, we probably treat an anal gland issue in a dog once a month or once every other month. That’s not a lot of anal gland issues, but it’s enough that every pet owner should take the relatively inexpensive precaution of having their pet’s anal glands felt on a regular basis and, while you’re in there, expressed. Cats typically do not have anal gland issues unless they are very overweight, but there are exceptions to every rule.
How To Express My Dog’s Anal Glands?
We do not recommend that you express your own cat’s anal glands. Rather, if you believe there is a concern (excessive licking or any kind of scooting), bring your cat in and we’ll decide the best course of action. If you own a dog, it’s not a bad idea to check his or her anal glands every month or ever other month. We’ll be happy to do this for you, but if you want to try it yourself, here’s a list of the supplies you’ll need and directions on how you should do it.
And a towel
Where Are My Dog’s Anal Glands Located?
Anal glands are located about ½ to ¾’s of an inch inside your dog’s anus. If you’re looking at your dog’s rear end while he or she is standing, they should be inside the anus in the 4 and 8 o’clock position (see cover photo). Put your rubber glove on, lubricate your index finger, and gently insert it into your dog’s rectum keeping your thumb in opposition, but on the exterior side of the anus. Unless your dog’s rear end is sore, he or she will likely be compliant with your efforts, but someone on hand to hold isn’t a bad idea. Try to go gently. Wrestling with your dog is only going to tee up future problems when you try to express your pet’s anal glands again.
What Do I Feel For When Expressing My Pet’s Anal Glands?
Once inside your dog’s anus, feel for something that feels like a deflated grape on either side of the lower portion of your dog’s rear. If the gland is healthy (or empty), it may not be that noticeable. Just take your time and explore the inside of the anus with your finger. At the very minimum you should feel a slight bump or thickening in the positions we discussed above. If what you feel is hard or excessively large, you should stop, bring your pet to us, and allow us to access the matter.
How Do I Express My Pet’s Anal Glands?
Once you’ve located the anal gland, use your finger on the inside of the anus and your thumb on the outside, to hold it. Now, pull your finger towards you and push your thumb away, to rotate the gland towards the opening of the anus. The opening of the gland empties into anus, so if you don’t make this maneuver, your finger will be positioned over the opening of the gland, and it won’t express.
With the anal gland sufficiently rotated, apply gentle pressure by squeezing your thumb and forefinger. If you are successful, it will feel like you are deflating a large pimple or boil and you’ll immediately notice a sharp, pungent smell. You’ll also see the contents of the anal gland, typically a brownish fluid (but it is sometimes a thicker kind of paste) spill out of the anus. If the anal gland does not express, continue to shift your fingers and the gland itself in an attempt to position the gland’s duct in such a way as it can express. Do not apply too much force! You don’t want to rupture the gland.
Once you have expressed the gland, move to the other side and repeat the procedure. When you are through, use the paper towels and soapy water to give your dog a good clean, then use the towel to dry his or her behind. At Brookfield, we apply a grooming spray when we’re through to mask any residual odors. Reward your pet lavishly with praise for being so patient with your efforts. It is not uncommon for a pet to lick or scoot once the glands are expressed, but this behavior should end within minutes. If not, call us up.
Have Your Dog’s Anal Glands Checked Once or Twice a Month
Anal glands should do what they need to do on their own, but problems occur in domesticated dogs (and less so, in cats) frequently enough that they should be regularly palpated and, if necessary, expressed. Do not attempt to express overly large and/or painful anal glands on your own. Don’t alarm over anything strange you feel while trying to express your dog’s anal glands. Rather, phone us and have us look at things. We’ll be able to help.
Have a Pet Question or Need Help?
Use the contact form at the bottom of the page. We’ll be happy to assist!