Anal Glands in Dogs

Anal Glands in Dogs

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs or scent glands, are small structures located on either side of a dog’s anus. These glands play a role in the dog’s communication and marking behaviour. Here’s everything you need to know about dog’s anal glands:

dog's anal glands

  1. Location and Structure:
    • Anal glands are small, pea-sized sacs located on either side of the dog’s anus, between the external and internal sphincter muscles.
    • Each gland has a duct that opens near the anus.
  2. Function:
    • Anal glands serve several purposes, including marking territory and communicating with other dogs through scent.
    • Dogs may release a small amount of fluid from these glands when they defecate. This is a way for them to leave a scent marker, which is a form of communication with other dogs.
  3. Problems and Issues:
    • Anal gland problems are relatively common in dogs. One of the most common issues is anal gland impaction or infection.
    • Impaction occurs when the gland’s secretions become too thick to be expelled naturally during defecation. This can lead to discomfort and pain.
    • Infections can occur when bacteria multiply in the blocked glands, leading to inflammation and potential abscess formation.
  4. Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems:
    • Scooting: Dogs with anal gland issues often scoot their rear ends on the ground or floor in an attempt to relieve discomfort.
    • Licking or biting at the anus.
    • Foul odour: Anal gland secretions have a strong, pungent odour.
    • Swelling or redness around the anus.
    • Pain or discomfort during defecation.
  5. Treatment:
    • If a dog has recurrent anal gland issues, a vet may need to manually express the glands to remove the impacted material.
    • In some cases, dogs may need antibiotics to treat infections.
    • Dietary changes, such as adding fibre to the dog’s diet, can help firm up stools, making it easier for the glands to be naturally expressed during defecation.
  6. Prevention:
    • Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify and address anal gland issues early.
    • Feeding a balanced diet with adequate fibre can promote healthy bowel movements.
    • Some vets recommend regular manual expression of the glands for dogs prone to recurrent issues.
    • Maintaining proper weight and exercise can also help prevent anal gland problems.

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anal glands in dogs


Breeds Prone to Anal Gland Problems:

Smaller breeds and those with certain body types (like Bulldogs and Pugs) are more prone to anal gland issues due to the structure of their glands and anatomy.

 These breeds often have smaller anal glands that make it harder for the glands to naturally express during bowel movements

Here are some dog breeds that are commonly associated with anal gland problems:

Small Breeds:

Small dog breeds, in general, are more prone to anal gland issues because they tend to have smaller anal glands relative to their body size. Examples include:



Yorkshire Terriers

Miniature Schnauzers

Breeds with Short Tails:

Dogs with naturally short tails may have a higher risk of anal gland problems because they have less opportunity to naturally express the glands during tail movements. Examples include:


Boston Terriers


Breeds with Wrinkled Skin:

Breeds with wrinkled skin around the anus can trap secretions, increasing the risk of impaction and infection. Examples include:


English Bulldogs

4.Breeds with Anal Gland Anatomical Issues:

Some breeds have anatomical features that predispose them to anal gland problems. For instance:

Basset Hounds have loose, excess skin around their anus.

Cocker Spaniels are known for having narrow anal glands.

5.Overweight Dogs:

Obesity can contribute to anal gland issues. Extra body fat can put pressure on the anal glands, making it harder for them to empty properly.

It’s important to note that while certain breeds are more predisposed to anal gland problems, any dog, regardless of breed, can experience these issues. Regular monitoring of your dog’s anal gland health, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing a balanced diet with adequate fibre can help reduce the risk of anal gland problems in all breeds.

Removal of Anal Glands

Sometimes, if symptoms of impaction and infection continue, an operation to remove the anal glands is performed under anaesthetic. This is called a anal sacectomy.. It involves making an incision near the dog’s anus and carefully removing the anal glands. The vet will take care to avoid damaging nearby structures, such as the anus and rectum. After surgery, the dog will need to wear a collar to prevent infection from licking.

Personal Experience of Dogs With Anal Gland Problems

In the past I have fostered a dog with anal gland issues and know of family dogs who suffered too. One dog, a fox terrier, had to have an operation to remove her anal glands completely because they were constantly infected. Another dog, a cava-poo had to have regular vet checks and a strict diet to keep the anal glands clear. She once had an abscess appear above her tail because an infection was not detected. This was slow to heal and the dog continued to lick it causing further infection risk.

The first signs of blocked anal glands can be when dogs scoot across the floor. There is also a nasty, fishy, metallic smell which seems to accompany anal gland problems. I found that dogs try to nibble above the tail and other dogs show more interest than usual in the dog’s rear end.

My advice would be to get your dog checked by a vet if you feel that your dog may be experiencing anal gland problems. Sometimes it can be a one off or very occasional problem, but some dogs really suffer and early detection will save both time and vet bills in the future.

Additional Reading

Understanding Scent Marking in Dogs



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