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Home > Dogs > How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands: 8 Vet-Approved Steps

How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands: 8 Vet-Approved Steps

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Dr. Tabitha Henson

Veterinarian, DVM

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Have you noticed your dog scooting its butt against the carpet constantly lately? Or maybe they’ve been chewing at their tail or excessively licking their rear? If so, your dog is likely dealing with full anal glands, which means you get to experience the dubious pleasure of cleaning them out!

A dog’s anal glands contain an incredibly smelly liquid that causes your dog’s poop to carry a scent unique to it (likely to help mark territory), and sometimes, this fluid needs to be released. Usually, this will occur naturally when your dog poops, but occasionally your pup will need a helping hand.

If you’ve never expressed your dog’s anal glands before, you need to know exactly what to do, as not being careful enough during the process can lead to issues such as inflammation or ruptured glands. If you read through this article and still aren’t positive you can do it exactly right, we recommend letting the professionals handle it instead.

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Before You Begin

Before you begin expressing your dog’s anal glands, you’re going to need to gather a few supplies. This is a stinky, dirty job, so you want to ensure you have yourself and the area you’re working in covered to prevent as much messiness as possible!

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Old clothes (because they will stink after)
  • Paper towels
  • Disposable gloves
  • Vaseline (or another lubricant)
  • Bowl of soapy water or warm soapy washcloth
  • A partner (ideally, though you can do this job alone if necessary)
rubber gloves worn on hands
Image By: Sergo elst8, Shutterstock

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How to Clean a Dog’s Anal Glands Externally (8 Steps)

  1. Gather paper towels, disposable gloves, soapy water or washcloth, and, if possible, a partner to help you with the job.
  2. Have your dog stand, then have your helper very gently restrain them by placing a hand under the belly to keep them standing and a hand on the neck to keep them from trying to turn. They don’t want to keep your dog in place in a way that will frighten them, so remember to be firm but gentle.
  3. Now, on to your part! Fold up a wad of paper towels to catch the fluid being secreted from the anal glands and place it under your pup’s backside.
  4. Next, put on the gloves and lift your dog’s tail so the anus is exposed.
  5. Then, put the thumb and forefinger of one hand on each side of the anus at approximately 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock.
  6. Once your fingers are correctly placed, push inwards and upwards in gentle pulses (don’t just squeeze!); If it is working, you should see a liquid dripping out—if this liquid contains blood, stop immediately and get your pet to the vet because there might be an infection or worse – continue milking until the liquid stops.
  7. Wipe your dog’s butt down with the washcloth or soapy water to clean them up (or give them a full bath if you’re up for it).
  8. Toss the paper towels that caught the liquid, as well as your gloves, and wash your hands extremely thoroughly!
Anal sacs, anal gland of the dog
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How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands

There are two ways to express your dog’s anal glands—externally and internally. You’re probably going to want to try externally first because it is a bit less gross. But if that doesn’t work, internally will be the next option. Below are the steps you’ll need to follow to express your dog’s anal glands.

How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands Internally

  • Follow steps 1–4 from above.
  • After you have your gloves on, lubricate the index finger on your dominant hand. Slowly and carefully, insert your finger into your dog’s anus, stopping when you feel it slip past the muscle of the anus.
  • Use your thumb to find the anal glands from the outside (4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions).
  • Once you’ve found them, you’ll be squeezing the glands from both the inside and the outside with your thumb and index finger. Use the same gentle pulsing motion as you did in the external cleaning.
  • Wait for the liquid to stop being secreted, then clean up your dog’s butt with the water or washcloth.
  • Dispose of your gloves and dirty paper towels and wash your hands extensively.


Final Thoughts

Occasionally, your furry friend will need a hand cleaning out their anal glands. If you think you’re up to the job, you can use the steps above to get rid of excess liquid quickly and safely. Just remember to be extremely careful so the anal glands don’t accidentally become damaged. Also, keep in mind that if the liquid being milked comes out bloody, you should get your pet to the vet straight away as there may be an infection.

If you feel you might not be ready to do this on your own, take your dog to your vet instead, so they can help. You may want to ask them to demonstrate how to clean the anal glands, so you can do the job next time!

Finally, maybe give your dog a treat after the whole ordeal is over. They will definitely deserve it!

Featured Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

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