What are they?
Anal glands are scent glands found in your dog’s rear end. They contain a strong smelling liquid that is used to mark territory, signalling who was where and when to other dogs passing by. They are also used ’socially’ when dogs smell each others’ butts. Each dog’s smell is unique, and in sniffing another dog’s bum dogs can find out some vital information on the spot, such as deciphering gender, reproductive status, diet, health status, temperament, whether they’ve met before and more.
When your dog poos, the pressure exerted on the glands by the sphincter as the stool passes squeezes the sacs and empties them, secreting the strong (rather foul) smelling gland liquid and allowing the dog to “mark” where they’ve just been.
Where are they?
Your dog’s two small anal glands just inside the anal opening, one at 5 o’clock and the other at 7 o’clock. They lie between the external sphincter and the smooth rectal muscle.
Cause for concern
When your dog's poo is soft (or even liquid), this often does not allow for enough pressure to be exerted on the glands for them to empty. This can cause them to fill, become infected or impacted which can be incredibly uncomfortable for your dog and very smelly for you to live with.
Signs of impaction, discomfort or need for attention
dragging or scooting their bottom across the floor
excessively licking the affected area
intermittently releasing the contents of the anal glands at inappropriate times
red skin around the anus
bleeding or pus from around the anus
If you see that your dog’s anal glands need attention, you can in fact do this yourself at home, though it is not a task for the faint hearted and must come with a real warning - it can be messy, it can be tricky to do correctly, it can be met with resistance, and it will definitely be stinky. If you see that your dog’s bottom is very enflamed, bleeding or showing signs of pus or infection, do not attempt to address this yourself at home.
Your groomer will be able to check and empty your dog’s anal glands for you during their groom, which means they will also sanitise and clean the area afterwards to leave you with no residual smell, and also be able to advise you on any medical issues they feel might need further attention.
If your dog is suffering from very soft or liquid poos which are contributing to persistent anal gland issues, then take a look at what the perfect poo might look like and how you can achieve them, too!