All dogs have anal glands, which help lubricate the anus so that everything comes out easily when they do their business. And although that is their main function, these strange glands actually have many other important functions that we will discuss in this article.

Generally speaking, it’s not necessary to empty a dog’s anal glands because they usually empty by themselves. But there are occasions when they don’t, and this will be very uncomfortable for your dog. Let’s see how these glands should be emptied with a step by step explanation.

anal glands dog

What are anal glands and what are they for?

All dogs and cats have these glands in their anus, one on each side. You can’t see them with a simple glance, but if you poke and prod a little, you’ll see how there’s a sort of small ball on each side of the anus. They’re more or less the size of a chickpea, although obviously this depends largely on the size of the dog – the bigger the dog, the bigger his glands will be.

These glands contain a dark, yellowish liquid inside that smells really bad, like rotten eggs or possibly even worse. The main function of these glands is to lubricate the anus when the dog poops, leaving behind an additional unique smell thanks to this natural liquid/lubricant.

The foul smell of this liquid is so unique that each dog has his own, like a fingerprint. When a dog meets another dog, usually the first thing they do is smell each other’s butts. This is how they find out what the liquid in their anal glands smells like, to know if they recognize the dog from his poop. Funny, isn’t it? Afterwards, they tend to smell each other’s intimate areas to see if they recognize the dog from his urine. The primarily use their sense of smell, we shouldn’t forget that.

When a dog doesn’t empty his glands naturally, you have to do it manually because inflammation of these glands can be very painful. Plus, if it isn’t fixed, it can cause abscesses, infections, etc. When a dog drags his butt on the ground, it’s usually because his anus is itchy because of his anal glands or parasites.

cleaning anal glands

How do I empty my dog’s anal glands?

The first thing you need to know is that if you don’t have any experience or don’t want to attempt it, you can see your veterinarian. They are used to doing this and can show you how to do it so that in the future you can do it yourself at home.

When dogs don’t empty their glands naturally, you’ll need to manually empty them once a month. They might not need it every month, and it’s possible that, with time, they’ll start to empty themselves naturally again.

The steps to follow to empty your dog’s anal glands are:

  • Put on thin latex gloves, for good hygiene but so you can feel what you’re doing.
  • Ask another person to help by holding the dog while you do the emptying.
  • Calm your dog down and lift his tail, normally they won’t let you touch around the anus.
  • Find (by feeling) the anal glands; don’t squeeze them or anything, just find them.
  • Gently stretch them towards you slightly while also lifting. This is the way to push the liquid out into the anus to empty them.
  • The liquid can squirt out, so don’t get too close. The liquid will be dark and yellowish with a very foul odor – this is normal.
  • It’s recommended to use some gauze to keep the liquid from shooting everywhere…

As we all know, it’s much better to see how it’s done if you want to learn how, so here’s a video for you. Notice how they do it and how the liquid comes out.

If your dog complains, you might be hurting him by squeezing too hard or not doing it well. If it hurts a lot because the area is inflamed, the best option might be to first see your vet and then later do it yourself, if necessary (remember, just once a month).