How to Tell if My Dog Needs an Anal Gland Cleaning

Your dog may hide or lie low if he has an anal gland problem.
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Anal glands or anal sacs are located on either side of your dog’s anus; they usually drain naturally every time your pup has a bowel movement. Sometimes, anal glands don’t express themselves the way they should, and the result is a buildup of fluid. If not promptly treated, the fluid in the anal glands can become thick, infected and painful for your pet.


One of the first noticeable signs that your dog’s anal glands need cleaning is that he drags his rump around the ground. A buildup of fluid in the anal sacs can create pain, inflammation and itchiness; your dog is scooting in an effort to relieve the discomfort and drain the glands.

Biting, Licking, Scratching and Chasing

Much like scooting, biting and licking at his rear is another way your pup indicates it’s time for anal gland cleaning. Some dogs displace their rear end discomfort by shaking and scratching at their ears. Your pup may also appear to be in a mad race to catch his own tail if he’s suffering from full anal glands. You may see your pooch hold his tail down and between his legs, shiver or walk like he’s uncomfortable, holding his back legs slightly apart.

Visual Signs

Anal glands that are extremely full may be visibly swollen and warm to the touch, especially if they have become infected. If fluid buildup has been progressing for some time and leads to an abscess, you may see a rupture that looks like bleeding or anal drainage. This condition needs veterinary attention. Your dog likely has an infected anal gland abscess that will require medical treatment.


If your pup has a particularly bad smell emanating from his anal region, it’s a possibility that anal glands are involved. While normal expression doesn’t have a pleasant smell, infected or ruptured drainage is particularly pungent and hard to miss.

Treatment Options

Regular expressing of your dog’s anal glands will help keep problems to a minimum. You can drain the fluid yourself or have your vet do it, or ask if your groomer offers the service. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help reduce the potential for problems, as obese dogs are more prone to anal sac disorders than dogs of normal weight.