Having healthy fish

Impacted Anal Glands - A Painful Problem For Your Dog

by Loan Martin

Impacted or blocked anal glands are an unpleasant and painful problem that afflicts many dogs at some point in their lives.  But what causes the condition, how can you recognise it and what can your vet clinic do to help?  Read on to find out more.

What caused impacted anal glands?

Your dog's anal glands are small sacs situated on either side of his anal opening.  Their function is to produce a thick, oily secretion that's used by dogs for territory marking and identification.  This is why dogs 'shake hands' by smelling each other's bottoms.

The anal glands usually empty naturally each time your pet defecates.  However, if your dog has suffered a bout of diarrhoea, the glands may not empty properly.  This results in a blockage in the duct leading from the gland to the dog's anal opening, leaving the glands swollen.  This in itself is not painful for the dog, but infection can set in if the impaction is prolonged, resulting in increased swelling and discomfort.  In some cases, abscesses can form, presenting a potentially serious complication.


It can be very difficult for owners to recognise that their dog's anal glands are causing their pet a problem.  However, there are some signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for, including:

  • a 'fishy' smell on your dog's bedding or around his bottom
  • signs of thick, brown discharge around your dog's bottom
  • your dog 'scooting' his backside along the carpet in an attempt to empty his anal glands
  • your dog licking or biting around his anal area or chasing his tail

If you notice any of these signs, take your dog along to the vet clinic.


In most cases, your vet can solve the problem simply by manually expressing the blockage from your dog's anal glands.  This procedure can be uncomfortable for your pet, but it only takes a couple of minutes, and usually no sedation is required.  If there is an infection present, the vet will prescribe antibiotics for your pet, and he may also flush the glands through to clean them out thoroughly.

In the case of a recurrent infection, or if a tumour is to blame, your vet may recommend that the dog's anal glands are removed surgically, although this is not common.

In conclusion

If you think your dog may be suffering from impacted anal glands, always seek veterinary advice promptly.   It's not a good idea to try to empty your dog's anal glands yourself; there's a risk that you could rupture the gland, resulting in potentially serious complications. For more information, contact an experienced veterinarian in your area.