One of the most common problems we see in dogs are anal gland infections. The anal glands are located on either side of the rectum and serve the purpose of marking your dog’s bowel movements with their own unique scent. Each time your dog has a bowel movement the fluid in the anal sacs should be expressed as the feces passes out. In some cases these glands will become infected or obstructed, and many dogs will have recurring problems with their anal glands. The best way to prevent infection and impaction is to manually express the anal glands. Some people are more comfortable having this done at a veterinary clinic but you can also learn how to do it at your home.
- In order to express your dog’s anal glands at home you will need a pair of disposable plastic or latex gloves, Vaseline or some other lubricant, paper towels and a warm soapy washcloth.
- It is much easier to express your dog’s anal glands if you have someone to help you gently restrain your dog as the expression is often uncomfortable (though not painful unless there is an infection or obstruction) and your dog may feel some pressure while you are pushing on the glands.
- Stand or kneel behind your dog while your dog is standing up on all fours and your partner is gently but firmly restraining your dog. With the dog’s tail up, insert the lubricated and gloved index finger of your right hand into your dog’s anus. Placing your thumb on the outside of your dog’s anus , bring your thumb and index finger together and run them up and down the left side of your dog’s anus. The anal glands are located at approximately 4 and 8 o’clock and typically range from pea to plum sized (though they are commonly about the size of a small grape). Some anal glands will be firm while others will be more malleable if they are not as full.
- Once you have located the anal gland squeeze your thumb and index finger together in a squeezing motion and attempt to “milk” the fluid from the gland. The hole that the fluid will come from is just inside the anus- so be sure not to block the opening with your index finger. Using your other hand, hold a paper towel in front of the area as the gland can often express with force and squirt backwards. Normal fluid should be brown in color, with a thin consistency and a strong odor. Thick, chunky or discolored (green, yellow, grey) fluid is abnormal and indicates that a problem could be present. It takes practice to be able to express the anal glands so do not be discouraged! If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to give you some pointers.
- Once you have emptied the left gland, perform the same procedure on the right gland. Some people are more comfortable using the same hand to express both glands, while others find it easier to switch hands.
- Once both glands have been emptied use the warm soapy washcloth to wash the area. Anal glands have a very strong, sometimes fishy smell so it is important to clean up your dog’s bottom as much as possible to prevent the smell from lingering.