Recognising Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Recognising Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

Notice your dog scooting (rubbing) his bottom against the floor or licking the area a lot more than usual? It could be an indication of an anal sac problem requiring anal gland expression. Many dog owners have never heard of this term and have zero knowledge about their dog’s anal glands. In this article, we share with you everything you need to know.


What are Anal Glands?

Anal glands, or anal sacs, are pea-sized to grape-sized glands located on both sides of the anus at approximately the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions. They secrete a smelly fluid that ranges from being a thin liquid to a thick paste, with a scent unique to each dog. It is believed that the fluid is expressed to mark territory, but many dogs may also involuntarily express their anal glands when in fear or under stress. Normal emptying of the anal glands occur when stool passes over them and outward pressure is exerted. 

Many dogs do not encounter issues with their anal glands for their entire lifetime, but some may experience full, impacted, or infected anal glands that require manual anal gland expression

Signs and Symptoms

  • Scooting bottom across the floor
  • Frequently licking of bottom
  • Swelling or redness of the skin over the glands
  • Blood in stool, fur, or on the floor


Anal gland problems in dogs can be caused by many factors. The most common cause is poor gastrointestinal health. Dogs need firm and healthy stools to generate the pressure they need in order to empty their anal glands normally. If their stools are small, soft or loose, there will not be sufficient pressure. Other causes include chronic skin dermatitis, obesity, a lack of dietary fibre, food and/or environmental allergies, and even genetics. Some dogs may also face difficulties emptying their anal glands if the glands are positioned abnormally. 

Common Anal Gland Issues

  • Anal Gland Impaction: When your dog’s anal glands do not empty normally, fluid buildup can occur and result in anal gland impaction. This causes discomfort and your dog will begin to scoot or lick the area. 
  • Anal Gland Sacculitis: Unresolved anal gland impaction will develop into anal gland sacculitis. The glands become inflamed, painful, and infected with bacteria, which will lead to an infection. 
  • Anal Gland Abscess: When your dog’s anal glands become infected and swollen, the anal gland may rupture through the skin. This is a very painful condition that usually occurs when impaction and infection isn’t resolved. 
  • Anal Gland Tumours: This is a serious condition that hinders your dog from defecating. The tumours will cause obvious swelling. Surgery and chemotherapy may be required.


Some dogs require expression at the animal clinic every three to four weeks. It will be a quick and simple process for mild conditions. The veterinarian will apply gentle pressure to your dog’s anal glands in order to empty them. The secretion will then be examined to ensure that it is normal and that there are no signs of infection or abscess. 


Ensure that you’re feeding your dog a healthy and balanced diet with the necessary nutrients, especially dietary fibre, to maintain gastrointestinal health, healthy stools, and good anal gland function. Keeping the weight in check helps as overweight dogs’ anal gland usually gets blocked. 

My Family Vet Clinic and Surgery is a vet clinic in Singapore that provides comprehensive, high-quality, ethical, and personalised care for domestic pets. We operate as a walk-in clinic and our opening hours can be found here

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