Do your dog's anal glands need to be expressed? It's possible! Let's talk about how often your dog's anal glands need to be expressed, how to know when it's time, and how to do it correctly.
How Often Do My Dog's Anal Glands Need to be Expressed?
This one's a bit of a trick question. Some dogs need their anal glands manually expressed on a regular basis, like once or twice a year, or even as often as every month in specific situations. The right question isn't actually when your dog needs her glands expressed, but whether she does. Every dog's anus is flanked by two anal glands designed to release a unique scent into her stool when she poops. For many dogs, these liquid-filled glands empty out every time defecation occurs. For other dogs, the glands could fail to empty, build up, and become impacted. In really severe situations, the glands can even rupture.
Does Your Dog Need Her Anal Glands Expressed?
Your dog will give you signs when her anal glands need to be manually expressed. The most noticeable signs include a dog who's rubbing her butt on the carpet ("scooting"), a dog who's licking her bottom area obsessively, a pungent odor coming from your dog's anus, and/or brownish residue left where your dog was sitting. Remember that some external factors can cause your dog need to manual expression. Loose stools, particularly diarrhea, can lead to impacted anal glands (normal stool is usually hard enough to express the glands on the way out.) Food allergies can also be a cause, as can obesity. Small breeds are a little more likely than large breeds to have anal gland issues, too. And some dogs are simply born with their glands slightly out of place! It happens.
What to do if Your Dog Needs Her Glands Expressed
If you suspect your dog's glands need to be expressed and it's not a chronic concern, you definitely want to contact your veterinarian. She'll want to check to make sure your dog's not suffering from an infection and talk to you about the root cause. A lot of dog parents whose dogs regularly need their anal glands expressed always turn to their veterinarian to do the actual expression. Why? Because it's pretty gross! And because incorrectly expressing a dog's glands can actually result in painful irritation. If you think you might want to express your dog's anal glands yourself, be sure you have your veterinarian/veterinary technician show you exactly how to do it the first time. Annual wellness exams are especially important for dog parents who choose to manually express their dog's glands between vet visits to ensure they're not incidentally causing harm.
How to Express Your Dog's Anal Glands
Step one: Get your vet or dog groomer to do it. Kidding! Kind of. Understand that expressing an animal's anal glands is a dirty, smelly job. If you're squeamish, have a wiggly dog, or are concerned about execution, it's best to leave this task to the professionals. If you've been trained by a professional and are interested in doing it yourself? You, brave soul, will want a helper. While one person holds your dog still on all fours, you, wearing latex gloves smoothed with a bit of petroleum jelly, will insert your index finger just inside your dog's anus. From the inside, allow your index finger to "meet" your thumb on the outside of your dog's anus. You should feel a pea-sized sac. Gently squeeze the sac's clear, brownish liquid into a clean paper towel until it empties out. Repeat on the other side. Stop if your dog appears to be in any pain! If the fluid you remove is at all cloudy or discolored, be sure to contact your veterinarian as these could be signs of infection. Likewise, if your dog seems to need her glands manually expressed more than twice a year at home, something's amiss. Your vet can help you get to the bottom of it.