There’s a joke in here somewhere:
Question: How do I express my dog’s anal glands?
Anal glands contain a super-stinky secretion that smells like rancid fish. However, dog’s find this delightful, which is what all that butt-sniffing is about. Apparently each anal sac secretion is unique and is a dog’s scent ‘signature’…although why they can’t just look at one another is another matter!
But full or impacted anal glands are no joke. A dog will drag his rear across the ground to relieve the unbearable itch, which is where you step in to help out.
The Basic Rules of Expressing Anal Glands
If yours is a small dog, congratulations, you have a good candidate for home anal gland expression. However, this isn’t always the case for larger dogs. Their anal sacs are located more deeply and may require an internal exam to empty them. It isn’t recommended that anyone other than vets or vet techs do this, because of the risk of injury to the delicate lining of the rectum.
Also, the first few times you express the glands, do so under the guidance of someone who knows what they’re doing such as a groomer, vet tech, or vet. Again, this reduces the risk of accidental harm to the dog.
The other rules? Well, a latex glove is essential, lots of cotton wool, and consider working outside just in case there’s a splatter zone! Oh, and an assistant supporting the dog in a standing position is really helpful. Now then, onto the nitty-gritty.
Start with the dog standing on a table or surface that is a comfortable working height. Have your assistant scoop an arm under the dog’s belly and cradle his head, to support him in a standing position.
Now get yourself in position. Face the dog’s flank with him sideways on. Position his rear end near to your dominant hand (so for left-handers his head is closest to your right arm). This positions his anus within comfortable reach of your dominant hand.
To empty anal sacs you need a good grasp of their anatomical location. A dog has two anal glands each sitting at the “twenty-past-eight” position on a clock face (with the anus as the centre of the clock!)
A full anal gland is the size of a small grape and has a narrow duct through which secretions drain into the anus. Your first job is to donn the latex glove and gently feel around the anal ring to find the grape-sized swellings just beneath the surface of the skin. If you can’t feel the glands you’re either in the wrong place or they are already empty.
Locating the anal sacs is the hardest part, but once you learn what to feel for you are up and running. This is why it’s advisable to have someone experienced with you the first few times. They can check you’re in the place and there’s actually something present to be expressed.
Once you have pin pointed the anal sacs, place a large wad of cotton wool over the anus. This is to protect the delicate tissue of the anus from heavy-handed squeezing and it also traps the draining secretion to stop a skunk spray effect.
Now to squeeze the glands and empty them. To do this use your forefinger and thumb, each positioned over a full anal sacs. Gently pinch the finger and the together, whilst maintaining contact on the anal gland. You may find it’s necessary to ‘push’ in a little whilst squeezing, to stop the glands popping out of reach. It helps to visualize where your fingers are in relation to the sacs as you squeeze them empty.
Hey presto! Your prized is a cotton swab full of stinky anal sac secretion. No luck? Try again, BUT
- Never use force
- Stop if the dog is uncomfortable
- If there’s any blood or full glands won’t empty out, get the dog checked by a vet.
As to how often to express those glands…each dog is different. Some dogs never need their sacs emptied whilst others require it doing as a monthly event. However, if your dog is dewormed and develops an obsession with scooting (dragging his rear along the ground) it’s a fair bet he’ll benefit from having them emptied.