The fact is, most dogs go a lifetime without needing their anal glands expressed. But some, including those of certain breeds and genetic bloodlines, require regular expressing of anal glands from an early age. For these pups, you’ll have to watch for signs that their anal glands are getting full and clear them out immediately. The exact frequency you have to do it -- if at all -- is different for every dog.
Anal Gland Details
Anal glands -- or anal sacs -- are the two little pouches on either side of your furry pal’s anus. These little sacs are full of your canine buddy’s own signature perfume. The stuff surely smells stinky to you, but it’s his way of spreading his scent every time he leaves a bowel movement or sits on the ground. He’s letting other animals know he was there, and sharing personal details about himself, like his sex and reproductive status.
As long as you feed Charlie a high-quality puppy kibble, he should be getting enough fiber to have regular solid bowel movements. When he passes stools, they press up against his anal sacs, removing some of the fluid -- it's his body’s natural way of expressing his anal sacs. So as long as he’s pretty regular and passes solid stools, he should be clearing out his anal sacs on his own every day.
Factors to Consider
Nearly 90 percent of dogs never have any issues with anal sacs, asserts Dr. T. J. Dunn Jr., a Florida-based veterinarian. But roughly 1 in 10 dogs will need help keeping their anal sacs empty. While any dog can be prone to chronically full anal glands, toy and miniature poodles, Chihuahuas, Lhasa apsos, cocker spaniels, beagles and basset hounds top the list of canines with established anal gland issues. Depending on your dog’s needs, you may have to express the sacs manually as often as several times a month -- get your veterinarian to help you determine an appropriate schedule for your pooch.
Signs of Problems
You’ll know when your puppy’s anal sacs are getting uncomfortable: You’ll see little Charlie pulling himself across the floor using only his front two paws. By dragging his rear along your carpet, he’s scratching that nagging itchy feeling he’s getting from full anal sacs. He might also lick or bite at the base of his tail frequently or howl in pain when he passes a stool. These signals let you know it’s time to get him to the vet right away to have his anal glands cleared out. Otherwise, he could wind up with a serious infection that could lead to surgery to remove the sacs in severe cases.
By Melodie Anne Coffman
About the Author
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.