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This blog post was originally published in 2013. It has been updated with new information and republished.
Nearly 6 years ago, we lost Blue to a car accident. It was heartbreaking. Facebook has been sending me memories and I saw one today showing Rodrigo, Sydney and Blue chasing each other around. Blue was an amazing dog and we all loved him. The video reminded me of Blue's tendency to express his anal glands when he got over excited or startled.
The littermates loved to gang up on Blue, herding him into a corner as they growl and Blue snaps back. They’re hilarious. Some days, Blue got so excited that a puff of “smoke” came out of his butt and it smelled like heaven to dogs. I sat smiling as our dogs were playing and then I headed to grab the Nature's Miracle Advanced (my go to product for big time pet smells) when the playing changed to 3 dogs sniffing the carpet wildly.
Blue’s anal glands expressed.
One of the lovely chores that belongs to me is the expression of anal glands, when they aren’t cooperating. It’s not really a big deal and not something that you want to do often or without a tissue, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
What are Anal Glands?
“The anal glands or anal sacs are small glands found near the anus in many mammals, including dogs and cats. They are not found in humans.”~ Google
Anal Glands discharge a small amount of fluid when pressed during a potty break (pee or poo) and each dog apparently has a unique smell (it all smells the same to me). The joy of anal glands is that they can also be released when a dog is startled (thank you, J for sneaking up on Blue) or excited (like when they’re playing or meeting another dog).
Why Would I Express my Dog’s Anal Glands?
If the glands aren’t expressing naturally (releasing the fluid that’s building up), then they will become impacted, which can lead to anal gland distress, an infection or rupture, and a trip to the emergency vet.
When our dogs are scooting across the carpet, some dog owners are tempted to grab a camera – YouTube, I got one for you! Instead, this is a sign that either your dog’s butt itches or he may be trying to relieve impacted anal glands.
In my experience, I notice that the anal glands aren’t expressing normally and regularly when the smell sticks around for a day or so. I reach for a tissue to help our dog out.
Then, I grab a room freshener and spray the area of the carpet that got the scoot treatment. I prefer to use non-toxic products, so I make my own DIY Febreeze using essential oils that are safe for use around pets.
You can search YouTube and find several videos that show you how to express anal glands. The videos with the black dogs are useless (for me), because I can’t see what they’re doing. And a few videos show white anal glad discharge; our dog’s discharge is brown.
Expressing Anal Glands, Step by Step
It’s really easy and the most important things to remember is to be calm, be quick, and be gentle. This isn’t a walk in the park for your dog either.
- Locate your dog’s anal glands. Picture a clock (not digital) – the anal glands are located at 5 and 7 o’clock on either side of your dog’s anus.
- I recommend wearing gloves until you get a hang of it, because the fluid is pungent and it lingers on the skin. Apply gentle, yet firm pressure to the anal glands using a tissue over the anus. You do NOT want this on you.
- You’ll see fluid released from the anal opening. And you’re done. Don’t do it a second time, even if nothing comes out.
I wipe our dogs with a hydrogen peroxide on a tissue (also takes the smell of your fingers if you forget to wear gloves) and give them tons of love.
A Couple of FYIs about Expressing Anal Glands
- You don’t want to start doing this regularly, because then it’ll become a regular task as the dog’s body stops naturally expressing the anal glands. Some dogs, however, do need help and this is something that you should discuss with your veterinarian.
- If you don’t want to do it, then you can take your dog to the vet. Some groomers provide this service too. Again, before you have your groomer express your dog’s anal glands, double check with your veterinarian. Also, having a professional express your dog’s anal glands will prevent injury. YouTube is a great resource, but our vet is a better one.
Maintain Healthy Anal Glands by…
We've only had one issue with anal glands and that was when Rodrigo's digestive issues lead to days of soft stool. As a result, his anal glands weren't naturally expressing. To avoid anal sac distress, I took him outside to express his anal glands and boy did I get a shocker – the fluid shot out and across the yard. The pain my boy must have been in makes my heart hurt.
As a result of that experience, I've been vigilant about my dogs' diet. My dogs eat a diet of fresh food (a raw food diet), which I write about in my book A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs. One important part of my dogs's raw diet is fiber:
I also add a digestive supplement and fermented foods to my dogs' diet to better support gut health, which, in turn, keeps their immune system and anal glands healthy as well:
- FullBucket Daily Canine Powder
- Fermented Fish Stock by Answers Pet Food
- Fermented Vegetables
- Fermented Seeds
Removing Anal Gland Odor from Fabric
If you have experienced the odor of anal glands, then you know that it can get on the furniture, dog beds, and carpet/rugs. It's not a pleasant scent and I've found an effective way to remove the smell quickly without damaging or discoloring the fabric.
Nature's Miracle Sunny Lemon Advanced Stain and Odor Eliminator
If you don't mind the fact that this isn't truly natural, despite the name, Nature's Miracle Advanced works great! Not only does it clear up the odor, it does great on accidents if you have a puppy or kitten in the house.
Young Living Thieves Cleaner
Although I no longer have an account with Young Living, I still love their oils and my favorite product in their inventory is their Thieves cleaner and I buy a couple of big bottles a couple of times a year. I use the Thieves cleaner to mop the floor, I've created a spray (by mixing with water) to freshen the rooms in our home, and I've used it successfully to clear up the anal gland odor on a dog bed.
You can only order Young Living's Thieve's cleaner on their website. I usually order through a friend who has a Young Living Account.
DIY Thieves Cleaner
You can also make a DIY Thieves cleaner with the following ingredients. This is my plan should I lose my Young Living hook up.
- 16-ounce glass spray bottle
- 3 tbsp of organic witch hazel
- 50-80 drops of Germ Fighter by Plant Therapy
- Fill the bottle with water