How to Clean a Dog's Anal Glands

You can clean your dog's anal glands yourself.
Image Credit: Jennifer A Smith/Moment/GettyImages

Ever see your dog scoot his butt across the carpet? It's a funny sight for many to behold, but there's a medical explanation for those seemingly silly antics — impacted anal glands. Impacted glands will often cause a dog to scoot or lick his butt frequently, and he will need help to become alleviated of this issue. While anal gland expression is usually done with the help of a veterinarian, you may be able to clean them at home if you're knowledgeable about the process.

What are anal glands?

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are two small pouches found on either side of a dog's anus, according to VCA Hospitals. These sacs are lined with sebaceous glands, which work to produce a fluid substance that many people describe as "fishy" smelling. This fluid not only works to lubricate the anus for functions like passing stool, it also contains the chemicals dogs use to mark their territory. This marking helps other dogs obtain important information long after that dog has left the area, including the age and sex of a dog, whether the dog is ready to mate, or simply whether a certain yard or fence post should be considered off limits to other dogs.

All dogs have anal glands and usually, these glands function with no issues and us dog owners are none the wiser to them. Sometimes, however, anal glands can become impacted when the ducts that the fluid pass through become plugged up, which may cause the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. This inflammation is uncomfortable for dogs, which often causes them to scoot or scratch in an effort to ease the irritation that comes with it. In order to alleviate your dog of this discomfort, and to prevent the possibility of infections that may lead to abscesses, your dog's anal sacs will need to be expressed, which can be done in a few minutes.

How to clean anal glands

Cleaning a dog's anal glands is usually best left to a medical professional to prevent possible injuries. Redness, excessive swelling, pus, or bleeding are signs that a pro should take a look. If you feel comfortable and qualified to express your dog's anal glands, however, it can be done in a few easy steps.

Step 1: Get your supplies

Gather all of the supplies you'll need before you begin the procedure in order to keep things as quick and painless for your canine as possible. You will need paper towels, a large bowl of soapy water, lubricant, disposable gloves, and ideally, someone to help you, according to Tavares Animal Hospital.

Step 2: Position your dog

Have your helper stand to the side of your dog, placing one hand under your dog's belly and the other gently under her neck near her face. Be sure to have a gentle yet firm posture that will prevent your dog from turning around or moving too much.

Step 3: Insert your index finger

Lubricate your index finger and lift your dog's tail. Gently and slowly insert your finger and stop when you feel your finger slip past the muscle inside your dog's anus.

Step 4: Find the sac

Use your thumb to rub around the outer rim of one side of your dog's anus. Anal glands are located around 4 and 8 o'clock, so lightly run your thumb in that general area until you feel a small, pea-sized lump.

Step 5: Squeeze the glands

Place a paper towel over your dog's anus once the sac has been located. Use your thumb and index finger to gently "milk" the anal gland, which will release the fluid. You shouldn't squeeze too hard or fast to extract an impacted anal gland, although some glands may require a bit of pressure. If you can't get them to release, or if you're not comfortable squeezing the gland, stop the process and contact your veterinarian.

Step 6: Clean the area

Use warm soapy water to gently rinse the affected area.

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