The Bottom Line on Anal Glands


Many dogs suffer from problems with their anal glands, which excrete a ‘fluid’ having a noxious, fishy odor. Some pets will unexpectedly empty the gland (often at very inopportune times or places), scoot around in an attempt to express the gland, or develop inflammation, abscesses and rupture of the gland due to obstruction.

While anal glands are scent glands that produce a pungent scent used to mark territory, they also provide a route for elimination of toxins from the body. The glands should empty automatically. There are several reasons why they may not. In my experience the most common reason is diet, especially the feeding of processed food. Other reasons for failure of the anal glands to empty properly are generalized toxin build-up in the body, obesity, liver imbalance, and lumbo-sacral spine and muscle injury. While failure of the gland to empty properly can be managed with manual expression, antibiotics, or even surgery, these approaches address the symptom and not the cause. In fact, routine manual gland expression may actually cause the gland to fill up more quickly! Moreover, anal gland problems are an indication that something is not right. It is best to correct the underlying cause so as to prevent the future development of other, potentially more serious problems.


Our suggestions for the long-term management of dogs with anal gland issues are:

  1. Eliminate processed foods (kibble and treats) from the diet. Instead, feed a whole foods diet, that is either raw (preferable) or cooked. Feeding a whole foods diet will produce a harder stool that will assist in emptying the gland naturally. A balanced whole foods diet will also help the body to eliminate toxins that may contribute to the anal gland problem.
  2. Control your pet’s weight.  To determine if your pet is obese, check the charts shown here
  3. Take your pet for body work to address issues of the lumbo-sacral spine.

For a comprehensive review of anal gland problems and their treatment, please see the article by Dr. Peter Dobias. DVM at


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