Expressing Your Dogs Anal Glands

Here you'll learn about expressing impacted anal glands and what you can do to prevent them from becoming re-impacted in the future.

Clearing Impacted Anal Glands In Dogs

The job of clearing your dogs anal glands may end up in your lap if your Cocker Spaniel has recurring problems with his anal sacs.

Not a pleasant job, but someone's got to do it!

Expressing your dogs anal glands is fairly straightforward and you can easily do yourself at home, but if after reading the steps below you're still not too sure, you may want to ask your vet or groomer to show you how it's done for the first time.

Before you begin, make sure you have everything you'll need to do the job; a bowl of warm water, a soft cloth, and if you're squeamish, a pair of rubber gloves!

Expressing Anal Glands

  • Ask a friend or a family member to sit in front of your dog and hold his collar. Ask them to stroke him and speak quietly to help calm him while you get behind him.
Golden cocker spaniel sniffing around in the garden, no anal sac problems here.
  • Front end taken care of, hold and lift your Cocker's tail. 

  • Soak the area with warm water and move the fur out of the way to expose his anus. I use a fine, soft cloth for this job but you could also use cotton wool.

  • Your dogs anal glands are small, about the size of a large pea, and you should be able to feel them just under the skin's surface, near the anal opening. Imagine a clock face - they should be positioned around 4 and 8 o'clock.

  • Once you've located them, using your index finger and thumb, gently push and squeeze the lower outside and bottom edges of your dog's anus.

    This gentle squeezing action releases a thick, unpleasant smelling substance - if it doesn't, repeat the warm water and cloth process, and try again.

Helpful Tip: It's a good idea to don a pair of latex gloves before expressing your dogs anal glands as it can get very messy and will be very smelly!

  • If you're still not successful, take your Cocker Spaniel to see his vet because impacted anal glands can be painful for your pet and do need immediate treatment to stop the problem from getting worse or becoming infected.

    (Stay with your vet while he expresses your Cocker's anal glands so you can learn how to do it yourself next time.)

  • If you suspect your dog has infected anal glands, don't try and express them yourself - take him to see his vet straight away; don't try to treat the infection yourself.

Problems Arising With Your Dogs Anal Glands

If you dog's anal glands aren't cleared at the first sign of impaction they could easily become infected and an abscess may follow, especially where his discomfort causes him to drag his bum across the floor and the skin is broken.

Where an abscess develops, your pet's anus will swell up and turn a dark, angry-looking purple color. Ouch!

The abscess will fill with pus which may occasionally seep from the glands.

Abscesses can cause your dog a great deal of pain.

He won't be able to walk normally (he may walk with his back hunched up and his bottom tucked under)  and he'll probably try to scratch his bottom whilst dragging himself across the floor (often referred to as 'scooting'). It's not too pretty to watch, but can sometimes look comical!

However, from your Cocker's point of view it won't seem funny at all because he'll be extremely uncomfortable and probably in some considerable pain...and you'll probably also notice a lot of frantic bottom-licking in a bid to ease himself.

If you suspect your Spaniel has an abscess it's best  not to touch it, but speak to your vet who will lance the abscess for you and will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics for your dog.

Prevention And Treatment Of Anal Sac Problems

If impacted dog anal sacs aren't too frequent an occurrence you can simply clean and clear them as and when the need arises.

Wet golden cocker spaniel sitting on concrete steps

If we check our pet's bottom as part of his grooming routine it will help us to spot a problem and deal with it before it gets out of hand. 

Whilst it's okay to express your dogs anal glands from time to time, if it becomes a regular occurrence it's probably time to speak to your vet.

He may simply suggest increasing the fiber content in your Cocker's diet to help bulk up his stool. (The process of passing a solid stool places the correct pressure on the glands. It's this pressure that helps them express themselves normally; without any help from you).

But in cases where the dog suffers from impacted anal glands on a regular basis and where the vet is unable to resolve the problem to his satisfaction, he may recommend that the anal glands are removed surgically, which will eliminate this problem for good.

Dogs Anal Glands: Summary of Best Practice

Keep a watchful eye open for those tell-tell signs of scooting and butt licking, and include a regular anal check into his grooming routine.

If you notice any signs that there may be a problem with your Cocker's bottom, act quickly before the problem worsens. Your dog may be able to remedy it himself by scooting but it's unlikely and he may do himself some damage.

Once you understand how to spot infected and impacted dog anal glands you'll be in a much better position to act quickly and stay on top of the problem.

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