Dog Breed Info

Expressing The Anal Glands

The microscopic anal glands are located in the anal sacs, small hollow structures located just beneath the skin on both sides of the rectum on the dog at about four and eight o'clock positions. These glands fill up with an oily, brownish secretion that has a very strong odor and is usually released via ducts near the anal opening naturally during the bowel movement. Students of the dog believe that these glands are responsible for the unique, individual odor that each dog has and allows other dogs to recognize each dog, and, when this odor is left on the bowel movement, is responsible for creating the sign that "Fido was here." Sometimes dogs express glands by 'scooting.' This may occur outside in the yard or it can happen on the inside on your new carpet. Man's best friend may also release his/her glands when frightened, often times on the way to the grooming salon or in the reception area of the veterinary clinic.

Expressing anal glands is a necessary, but not always a pleasant, procedure. Sometimes the fluid does not secrete naturally and the glands continue to fill. If the fluid is not emptied, the glands can become impacted, which can lead to infection. If the pet owner tells you that his or her dog has been scooting or biting at his/her tail, it is a good sign that the glands need to be expressed. Toy breeds are particularly prone to impaction of the anal sacs, perhaps because in breeding the dog's size down, the ducts through which the secretion should pass have become too small and narrow. As well, obese dogs may have poor muscle fiber surrounding the sacs, making them unable to empty the sacs efficiently. Another problem is sacculitis, which is the presence of significant numbers of bacteria in the secretion, causing the secretion to turn yellowish and frequently bloody; a veterinarian should treat this condition, and as well should treat the advanced state of this condition, which is an abscess in the anal sac. Finally, dogs may develop tumors in their anal sacs, which veterinarians must remove.

The professional must not express the glands when it is not necessary. If you are not able to feel the sacs, the glands do not need to be expressed, because the dog has been able to do so naturally. The professional must keep in mind that expressing the glands too frequently can cause the glands to over produce fluid which can lead to impacted glands.

Expressing the anal glands (sacs) is a controversial subject. Should we assist man's best friend or should we allow nature to take place? Expressing the anal glands by the professional groomer has been a controversial subject for many years. There are different opinions as to who should be "allowed" to express the glands. In certain geographic areas, some of the veterinarians contend that professional groomers should not express anal glands. It is our opinion that properly trained professional groomers should perform this procedure. Since the professional groomer typically sees the dog much more often than the veterinarian, it make sense that this procedure is performed in the grooming and styling salon on a regular schedule. Releasing impacted anal glands, however, is a veterinary procedure.

There are two different methods used in expressing the glands: internal and external. The internal method is typically used only by veterinarians. The other method, externally releasing the glands, can be performed by either the veterinarian or the professional groomer.

A regular grooming schedule will help prevent impacted and ruptured anal glands. Sometimes, however, anal glands will become impacted. The dog will begin to bite and chew if the scooting method does not work to empty the glands. If the fluid is not emptied naturally by the dog or released by the professional, the glands can become impacted, causing infection. If you notice swelling or open sores on the side of the rectum, do not empty the glands but notify the pet family that the pet should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Signs of Impacted or Ruptured Glands

  • blood or pus in the anal gland secretions.
  • an abscess visible in the anal area.
  • severe reaction from the pet when external expression of the anal glands is performed.

Be Prepared for the Pet's Reaction
The professional must be ready to respond to the pet's reaction when expressing anal glands. If the glands are impacted or infected, the area is very sensitive and the pet may react in a very negative manner. Always check the safety loop to assure that the dog is secured properly before beginning this procedure.

"The professional must be ready to respond to the pet's reaction when expressing anal glands."

Expressing the Anal Glands
Emptying the glands can be a messy procedure so rubber gloves can be worn and this procedure is best accomplished in the bathing station. After the dog is secured in the tub and all necessary tasks are performed and completed on the head such as the care of the eyes, ears and mouth, go to the other end to take care of the glands. Wet the coat if you have not already so that the secretion does not stick to the coat as much and a wet coat will not hold the odor like a dry coat.


  • Check to make sure that the safety loop is adjusted properly.
  • Using both hands gently massage both ears to relax the pet.
  • Massage the pet with your hands as you move to the rear of the dog.
  • With your other hand turn the water on placing the nozzle toward the drain.
  • Check the water temperature on the underside of your forearm.
  • With one hand, lift and gently hold the tail in its natural position.
  • Praise the dog for allowing you to lift the tail and continue with a soft massage around the tail area to keep the dog relaxed.
  • Soak the hair around the rectum area.
  • With your other hand, place your thumb and index finger at the four and eight o'clock position creating a "C" shape with your hand.
  • Very gently slide your thumb and forefinger toward the anus in a upward massage type movement. Be aware that the secretion may be under pressure, and may shoot out a considerable distance. Stay out of range and avoid leaning over or placing your face too close to this area.
  • Rinse the fluid off the coat as quickly as possible and down the drain.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water. Wash your hands AGAIN with antibacterial soap and water.
  • After completing the task, use both hands to again massage the ear area, praising the dog for allowing you to complete this task.

Safe & Gentle Handling
The professional must not express the glands when it is not necessary. If you are not able to feel the sacs, the glands do not need to be expressed, because the dog has been able to do so naturally.The professional must keep in mind that expressing the glands too frequently can cause the glands to over produce fluid which can lead to impacted glands. When lifting the tail, remember that the tail is an extension of the spine. Some dogs cannot hold their tail in a vertical position. Glands that are impacted are swollen and very painful, therefore, do not attempt to empty the glands. Glands that have ruptured are swollen and have an open sore on each side of the rectum. Do not attempt to empty the glands and take great care when working around the tail area because the dog will be very sensitive.

Pets with Special Needs
Overweight dogs that have a tough time having their tail raised to perform this procedure would be considered a pet with special needs. Dogs that are breathing challenged also fit into this category simply because if they get upset during this procedures their breathing is restricted.

Safety Policy
Do not express anal glands that are impacted or ruptured.

Washing your hands is critical with this procedure. Make sure that you are thorough. Rinse the area around the rectum immediately after releasing the glands to prevent the coat from collecting the odor from the secretion.

Time Management
To be efficient in this procedure, the area in which the procedure is performed is the secret. Emptying glands in the bathing station rather than on the grooming and styling station makes preparation and clean up at a minimum creating excellent time management. Soaking the hair around the rectal area on dogs with long coats prevents spending additional time shampooing this area to rid the coat of any odor caused by the secretion of the anal glands.

Client Relations: Notification to the Pet Family
The professional must notify the pet family if there are any signs of anal gland disorders.

Client Relations: Recommendation to the Pet Family
f there are any signs of anal gland disorders such as redness, tenderness, swelling, etc. recommend that the dog visit the veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent additional medical problems and discomfort.

Client Relations: Pet Family Education
There are typical actions from the dog that tells us that we must check the glands. Actions such as licking or biting at the rectal area, scooting on the carpet or on the ground and chasing their tail are the most common.

Pet Grooming Training