In the world of people, our vision is the primary sense that helps us understand our environment. For our pets, their primary environmental sense is smell. This month, we focus upon the delicate topic of your pet’s anal glands — what you need to know and how to help keep your pet healthy.

Anal Glands
Your pet’s anal glands are two small sacs that contain a scented liquid. They are between your pet’s internal and external anal sphincters at approximately 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock. When your pet defecates, the pressure of the excrement exiting the body places pressure upon these two glands causing the liquid within to be expelled onto the passing feces.

A Pet's View
As a result, the, yellow-ish or tan-colored liquid which emits, to us, a melodious smell enables your pet to record their physical presence to other animals. And it is this scent that pets tend to sniff when greeting each other — nose to rear. This sent also enables our pre-domesticated pets to establish a geographic range and social hierarchy.

For a healthy pet, most owners are unaware of the existence, function or role of the anal glands. A firm, healthy bowel movement tends to fully excrete all of the fatty or sebaceous liquid within the glands.

Anal Duct Anatomy
However, some pets have difficulty emptying their glands, resulting in the liquid thickening or the glands themselves becoming impacted, infected or worse ruptured. These difficulties could arise from:

  • Overactive glands producing excessive liquid
  • Temporary duct blockage
  • Chronic duct dysfunction — due to a past trauma, infection, inflammation or allergy
  • Breed disposition — typically smaller breeds or those with smaller ducts
  • Sphincter dysfunction
  • Pet obesity

One of the most common indicators that your pet is having an anal glad issue occurs when they “scoot” on the ground, grass or carpet. This indicates a level of discomfort as they try to expel some of the anal gland liquid. Additional signs include:

  • Excessive licking or biting of the anal area
  • Lack of hair around the anus (previously chewed away)
  • Discomfort while walking or sitting
  • Excessive straining while defecating
  • Sudden release of a foul (fishy) odor
  • Bleeding and/or swelling near the anal region

Failure to obtain treatment can result in the development of soreness, swelling, infections/pus or abscesses that produce pain, burst or bleed.

Healthy Gooming
If your pet exhibits any of these conditions, please contact us immediately.


For some pets, a periodic (often monthly) manual expression of their anal glands is required to keep them healthy and comfortable. During your pet’s wellness checkup, we will examine their glands to determine their current state of function and expression. As required during the annual or special-purpose visits, our veterinary technicians will carefully clean the area, wear sterile gloves, apply lubricant, and gently expel the contents of the glands in a pain-free manner. While often messy, this tends to deliver immediate relief to your pet. It is important that the process be performed properly (from the inside of the gland, outward) to avoid trauma to the area which can lead to additional anal gland issues.

Happy Pets
If the area is inflamed or infected, we will prescribe the appropriate medication (often antibiotics) and treatment to help your pet quickly recover. Monitoring your pet’s behaviors and anal area is important to quickly identify any concerns that may lead to or indicate more significant issues — such as cancer.

While some pets and breeds may be predisposed to anal gland issues, prevention through a high-fiber diet, careful grooming/hair trimming of the area, regular cleaning, and the periodic inspection for inflammation can help reduce the incidence and magnitude of potential issues. Of course, keeping your pet active to maintain a healthy weight can also help reduce the likelihood of anal gland and other health-related issues.

Contact Us
If you have questions regarding your pet’s health, or would like to schedule an appointment to have your pet’s anal glands examined and potentially expelled, please contact us.