How to Tell if Dogs' Anal Glands Are Full

How to Tell if Dogs' Anal Glands Are Full

July 01, 2024

Anal glands, also known as scent glands, are small sacs located on either side of a dog's anus.

However, blocked anal glands can cause discomfort and even infection if left untreated.

Your dog may have full anal glands if they display any of the following symptoms.

  • Scooting or dragging their rear on the ground
  • Excessive licking or biting at the anus
  • Swelling near the anal area
  • Fishy odour
  • Visible discomfort around the anal region

This guide provides all-around information related to anal gland problems in dogs—including signs, causes, and effective treatment options.

What Are Anal Glands?

Anal glands, or anal sacs, are located just beneath the skin on each side of your dog's hind end, typically positioned at the four and eight o'clock points relative to the anal opening.

In small dogs, each gland is about the size of a pea, but they can be as large as a grape in larger dog breeds.

Anal glands in dogs produce a strong-smelling liquid that they use to mark their territory and identify themselves among other canines.

Normally, when your dog poos, the pressure from the faeces passing through squeezes these glands and releases the fluid onto the stool.

But if these glands do not empty as they should, the fluid builds up, which can make your dog uncomfortable and might even lead to anal gland problems.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Full Anal Glands?

Recognising the signs that your dog’s anal glands are full is important for preventing discomfort and avoiding more severe health issues.

Here are 5 common signs and symptoms of anal gland problems in dogs.

  1. Scooting

This behaviour is hard to miss.

If you often see your dog scooting or keep dragging their bottoms across the floor in an attempt to ease the discomfort, it is a sign that something may be wrong with their anal gland.

  1. Excessive Licking or Biting

It is normal for many dogs to give themselves a quick clean down there, but if your dog spends a lot of time licking their rear end, that is a sign that something might be bothering them.

And unfortunately, all that licking can worsen the discomfort and even lead to injuries in the area.

  1. Swelling Near the Anus

A dog with a visible bulge or hardness near their anal sacs is a telltale sign of a problem.

Anal gland abscesses occur when the anal glands get infected and impacted. Pus builds up in the sac and can eventually cause it to rupture, causing pain and swelling.

These are clear indications that it is time for a vet visit.

  1. Foul Odor

A strong, unpleasant odour from your dog's rear is a telltale sign of a full or possibly infected anal gland.

This fishy odour is hard to ignore. If you notice this, it is best to seek veterinary advice.

  1. Pain and Discomfort

Whining or avoiding sitting can be your dog's way of showing signs of anal gland problems.

If your dog seems distressed, it is important to address this with a veterinary professional to ensure your pet's health is okay.

What Are the Causes of Full Anal Glands?

Here are a few reasons why dogs may develop blocked anal glands.

  1. Insufficient Fibre in Diet

A diet low in fibre will lead to soft stools. Unlike firm stools, soft stools do not apply enough pressure on the anal glands during bowel movements.

You can improve your dog's diet with food to help them express their glands. This will improve their colon health.

  1. Obesity

Overweight dogs may have extra fat and weaker muscles around their anus. This may hinder natural and healthy anal gland function or expression.

Ensure your dog has a high-quality diet so they can maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Allergies and Inflammation

Allergies can lead to inflammation, and cause blocked anal glands in dogs.

  1. Frequent or Chronic Infections

Chronic infections can lead to full anal glands in dogs by causing inflammation and swelling that hinder natural emptying during bowel movements.

This is especially common in older dogs.

Prevention and Home Care Tips


Dog owners can avoid expensive vet visits and prevent anal gland problems with these prevention tips.

Here are some things you can do to keep healthy anal glands in dogs.

  • Dietary Adjustments: Adding high-fibre foods to your dog's diet can help firm up their stool. Consider incorporating pumpkin, carrots, or a specialised high-fibre dog food into their diet.
  • Regular Exercise: Regular walks and playtime can make a big difference. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and strengthens the muscles around a dog's anal gland.
  • Routine Checks: Regular check-ups at the vet can prevent any dog anal gland issues from turning into expensive problems. Learn how to check your dog's anal glands. Barring this, have them checked during grooming time.

IMPORTANT: If you suspect your dog has blocked anal glands, do not attempt an anal gland expression on your own. Instead, head straight to your dog's doctor.

When to See a Veterinarian

If you notice blood or pus around your dog's rear end, or if they seem in distress, book an appointment with your local vet immediately.

Here are some other situations where a vet visit is crucial:

  • Lingering Discomfort: If you have tried home care tips like a fibrous diet and more exercise, but your dog still seems bothered, schedule a vet appointment.
  • Other Symptoms of Infection: Redness, swelling, or fishy odours are all signs of a potential dog anal infection that needs to be checked immediately.
  • Severe Pain: If your dog yelps or expresses extreme discomfort when their rear end is touched, get them to the vet right away.

Professional Treatment Options


While prevention is key, sometimes even the best efforts cannot stop anal gland problems. If your dog has an infected or ruptured anal gland, they will need medical attention.

Here are treatment options that can help your dog.

  • Manual Expression: A veterinarian or trained groomer can manually express your dog's blocked anal glands.
  • Medications: Your dog's veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications if there is evidence of dog anal infection or significant inflammation.
  • Surgical Intervention: In severe cases, your dog may require surgery to treat their anal gland problem.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Read here to learn more about how to tell if dog's anal glands are full.

Can I Empty My Dog's Glands Myself?

While it is possible for pet parents to learn this procedure, it should be approached with caution.

First, you will need to lift their tail to locate the anal gland. Blocked anal glands in dogs will appear bulging.

Place an absorbent pad underneath to catch the fluid, then gently squeeze them towards each other.

How Often Should You Empty a Dog's Glands?

Healthy anal glands do not need to be expressed, as the glands will naturally empty whenever the dog passes stool.

However, certain breeds with recurring issues may need their glands expressed regularly. Some breeds may require it once or twice a year, while others might require it every 4-6 weeks.

What Happens if You Don't Empty Your Dog's Glands?

If a dog's anal glands are not emptied, they can become impacted.

This will result in a painful abscess that might burst and cause greater pain for your dog. This can happen infrequently when your dog experiences loose bowel movement, or it can be a recurring issue.

Key Takeaways on How to Tell if Dogs' Anal Glands Are Full

Keeping an eye on your dog's anal glands is essential for their comfort and well-being.

Regular vet check-ups, a high-quality diet, enough exercise, and watching for early signs of full or blocked glands can help prevent discomfort and more severe anal gland issues from happening.

If you are unsure of what to do, it is always best to consult a veterinarian to keep your dog happy and healthy.