Dirty Deed: Dogs and Anal Gland Expression

Lea Jaratz

Anal Gland Expression

What seems like a delicate topic to me is clearly not to my dog’s groomer. I’m talking about anal glands. While I’m always bashful when I call to schedule a bath and can barely bring myself to ask them to check “his bum,” the groomers have no shame about telling me in a lobby full of people that his anal glands were really full. And I think it’s because of their “no holds barred" attitude towards doing the dirty deed that my dog adores his groomers.

What on earth are anal glands, you ask? Well, if you don’t know you’ve probably never had a dog scooch their butt across your rug or grass (or driveway in my dog’s case - ouch!). Anal glands (or anal pouches) are the glands that sit right behind a dog or cat’s sphincter muscles. They secrete an oily substance, usually when your dog poops, that leaves the dog’s signature smell wherever he “goes.”

About twelve percent of dogs (and even some cats) have issues with their anal glands. While anal gland disorders are more common in small breeds, I assure you that my 70-pound mutt has quite a bit of trouble in this embarrassing department. Obesity, age, diet, and exercise can affect anal gland function, but even when everything is right, the anal glands can get clogged or the animal might simply produce too much fluid.

You can usually tell that the glands are becoming bothersome. The dog will drag their butt on the ground, lick at the hind region, or strain to pass stool. Occasionally, the glands will leak, leaving a little stinky brown stain, usually on your new sofa. If you see any of these telltale signs, it’s probably time to call a groomer to have them emptied manually.

Yes, I said call your groomer. Now, let me tell you, there are tons of DIY tutorials online for people who want to express their dog’s anal glands themselves, and to each their own. Some dogs hate groomers and some people want to save money, but you will not find any how-tos here from me. Anal gland expression is only ten bucks at my local groomer, and is included free with a bath or grooming session. (Some groomers do it as a standard practice, while others do it only by request, so ask if you think it needs done.) That is ten dollars I will readily hand over with a generous tip. Plus, it’s 100% reimbursable under Embrace’s Wellness Rewards plan.

Personally, I don’t want anything to do with rubber gloves and lube when it comes to my pets. My role in his life is walks and tummy rubs, and I prefer to keep it that way. My dog loves his groomers, giving her kisses and wiggles whenever he sees her, so I’m confident she’s doing a good job. But, if you’re the adventurous type, seek the advice of a veterinary professional for a demonstration.

Some dogs will need their glands expressed every few weeks, others only a few times a year. But, if your dog has a recurrent issue with anal glands, the first stop should be your vet to assess the cause of the problem and make sure there are no underlying health issues or infections. They may suggest a high-fiber diet or weight loss to reduce the risk of recurrence. In rare cases, surgery might be required to drain an abscess, but in most cases they’re treated with antibiotics and warm compresses.

With any luck, your dog’s butt is fully operational, but remember, anal gland issues are pretty common, so don’t hesitate to mention this private matter to your pet’s groomer or vet. Chances are they deal with these stinky situations more often than you realize and I can just about guarantee you it’s not even the grossest part of their day.

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