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Anal Glands...The Dirty Truth

Posted by on August 16, 2019 at 3:30 PM

Recently, I had this wonderfully gross discussion with one of our puppy clients in an email about anal glands. She wrote: Ok, give me this scoop. My sister in law just told me with small dogs there are anal gland issues that have to be expressed or they drag their butt and make your house smell awful? Is there truth to this?

So I gave her the scoop on poop...the kind that hangs out in the anal glands and creates the wonderful potent introductory smell for dogs. This smell is why dogs sniff each other’s rear ends. It is the equivalent of a hand shake for humans. Anal glands are important to the dog world and some dog owners will never have to deal with them while others will be plagued by them.

Just to be clear here, butt dragging is not only associated with small breeds. It can be any dog, but it especially effects long hair breeds.

There are three reasons why a dog develops anal gland problems. Fecal contamination, rectal prolapse, and tapeworms. All three causes can be disturbing to deal with because it makes you have to deal with your dog’s anus. I know, I's not your dog’s best side. But if you are the type of owner that loves to have your dog lick your face (I have seen some let them lick their lips and inside their mouths!!!), you need to read this and maybe reconsider. If your best friend develops an anal gland problem, he won't always scoot to relieve the irritation...are you getting the point? Do you know what I mean? Okay let me lay it out there for you...he will lick his butt and then lick your face or mouth. A dog doesn't use critical thinking, they just love you! So you dog licking lovers (I am not one of them) need to deal with this issue promptly!


A bout of diarrhea can leave your bestie dehydrated, weak, and with a messy, matted bottom. This will cause your dog's anal glands to be itchy and thus he will drag his butt and lick it. Long haired dogs especially need to have this area kept free from fecal debris. It is important to pay attention to this area when your dog has soft stools or diarrhea. Left untreated it can cause impacted, infected, and irritated anal glands. So as long as fecal contamination hasn't led to infection, treatment can be as easy as trimming away dirty hair (be very careful to avoid cutting the skin). After that, you need to clean the area with warm water. How can you avoid the problem with long haired breeds? ALWAYS make sure that you keep your dog groomed and in between groomings take him in for a sanitation clip or you can do this yourself. Keeping your dog groomed properly helps prevent him from developing serious anal gland issues.


This is when part of the rectum the last part of the large intestines protrude through the anus. A rectal prolapse can happen to your buddy after severe diarrhea or from straining with constipation or a blocked anus due to fecal debris. If you see an elongated, cylindrical mass sticking out from your dog's bottom, call your vet right away. This is a sign of rectal prolapse. Did I mention that it is important to make sure that rear end is free from fecal debris?

ALL dogs will at some point in their lives but especially during puppyhood will have unexplained and unexpected GI issues. Which includes vomiting and diarrhea. SIDE NOTE: if had together, you want to get your best bud into the vet. This is not something to ignore. Dogs typically do not have GI problems unless they have a foreign object, a twisted gut, or an intestinal infection. But if you are only seeing diarrhea, you can rest assured that your pooch has eaten something that does not agree with his stomach. Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn't and if you have a dog that likes food, over-eating can cause an issue too. UGH...dogs! If you could only reason with them!


These boogers are a less common reason your dog may start scooting, but let's address it. They are completely preventable. Just make sure Fido doesn't get a flea infestation. Dogs get tapeworms by swallowing worm-infested fleas. And while scooting can be one sign of tapeworms, the most common sign is the appearance of tiny, rice-like tapeworm segments around your dog's anus. Tapeworms are relatively easy to treat with a simple dose of oral or injectable medication. Did I mention that you need to keep an eye out on your pup’s anus?


A fairly common cause of reoccurring impacted anal glands is constipation. The best cure for constipation is feeding a well-balanced and healthy diet. We have never had a problem with constipation using Victor and we do not get a kick back from promoting this dog food. So this is out of a true and proven experience with this brand. If your dog experiences constipation regardless of the food you are using adding a teaspoon of pumpkin daily to your dog's food will help ease mild cases of it. It also helps to add it when they are experiencing diarrhea too! Pumpkin is an amazing gourd!

In conclusion if your best friend develops anal gland issues and you are seeing excessive scooting then it is time for a good expression. Take him to the vet to have it done initially. Warning DO NOT express the anal glands unless the anal gland get infected or impacted. It is best to leave the anal glands alone unless they need attention. You will know when your dog is scooting and you see the anus red and raised. Sadly, once you mess with your dog's anal glands it can be the beginning of a long and frustrating anal gland problem. This is when you have to take preventative action so once there is an anal gland expression done and your dog ends up having reoccurring problems, it is time to employ your groomer. Ask your groomer to make sure that every time they groom your dog they express their anal glands. If your dog does develop an anal gland issue, taking him/her to the groomer every 6-8 weeks and having the anal glands expressed will 95% of the time eliminate any scooting and self-expression and provide the much needed relief they are seeking.

So that is the down and dirty secrets of dog ownership. But don't be discouraged because these things are controllable and even if they happen the joy your dog brings to you is worth the tiny bits of the nasty cleanup they occasionally need.

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