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Have you ever witnessed your dog scooting around on the floor? It, unfortunately, might mean your dog needs their anal glands expressed (a.k.a releasing a buildup of smelly fluid). Manually expressing your dog’s anal glands can help relieve discomfort that dogs experience when they are full and can prevent any infections from developing. Expressing anal glands is a smelly—and sometimes messy—part of grooming, so most owners prefer to have it done by a groomer or at the vet clinic. However, it is something you can do at home and isn’t too challenging.

When To Clean Dog Anal Glands

If your dog’s anal glands are full and could benefit from being expressed, your dog is likely in some discomfort and will be showing some symptoms. The biggest culprit: The smell. Your dog may have a sour, almost fishy odor and also might be excessively licking at their bottom. Additionally, they may be scooting their butt on the floor or ground to try to provide relief themselves

Do Dogs Express Anal Glands On Their Own?

Most dogs can express their anal glands naturally. When pooping, dogs can release small amounts of liquid from their anal glands regularly. Anal glands can also naturally be expressed by dogs in times of stress. Dogs who are very stressed, or frightened may involuntarily express their anal glands resulting in a strong odor that may be unpleasant.

The corgi dog on the grass in the park
©Chendongshan -

What You Need To Express Anal Glands

In the case that you do have to remove the discomfort from your dog at home, you’re going to want to start with a solid surface. If you have a small dog, you’ll want to put your dog onto a grooming table or other raised surface. For a larger dog, you can express anal glands on the ground. There are a few supplies you need to have available, including:

  • Disposable medical gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Towel to put under your dog
  • Bowl of warm soapy water
  • Washcloth
  • Dog treats
  • Trash bag


Depending on your dog’s comfort with being handled, it can also be helpful to have someone else who can help hold your dog still while you are expressing their anal glands.

Small dog, beagle puppy sitting and looking sad on sand
©Peter Kirillov -
How to Express Dog Anal Glads At Home

Although expressed anal glands provide dogs with relief from discomfort, the process of expressing glands isn’t always pleasant for dogs or the person doing it. It can be both messy and smelly. To help your dog be more comfortable, you give them a lick mat or stuffable Kong toy with peanut butter or another spreadable treat. This can give your dog something to focus on while their anal glads are being expressed.

Step 1: Put your small dog onto a table on top of a towel or have one behind your large dog on the floor, and put on disposable latex or other medical gloves.

Step 2: Hold your dog steady, or have a helper do so. Put a small amount of petroleum jelly onto your thumb and forefinger and press your fingers up against your dog’s anus. A dog’s anal glands are located on either side of the anus. If you think of your dog’s anus like a clock face, the anal glands will be in approximately the 8 and 4 o’clock positions and will generally feel puffy and about the size of a grape.

Step 3: In one hand, hold a paper towel underneath and behind your dog to prevent any fluid from their anal glands from getting onto you. Then, squeeze the anal glands together with your thumb and index finger to release the fluid.

Step 4: As you squeeze, a smelly, brown fluid will be released from the anal glands. Make sure to squeeze both sides to ensure that both anal glands are fully expressed. Be sure to praise and reward your dog with treats during this process. But if you notice a thick or chunky discharge that is green, yellow, or white discharge, this could be a symptom of infection and you should consult a veterinarian right away.

Step 5: Throw the paper towels into a trash bag, and then use the washcloth and warm water to gently clean the outside of your dog’s anal area. This will help to eliminate the foul odor from their anal glands. For dogs with longer hair, make sure to wipe the fluid completely out of their coat.

Step 6: Remove your gloves and dispose of them alongside other dirty paper towels, put towels and washcloths into the laundry, thoroughly wash your hands, and praise your dog for doing a great job.

Ask For Help When Necessary

If you haven’t expressed your dog’s anal glands before, it’s can be helpful to get support from a professional. During your regular check-up at the veterinarian, you can ask someone on staff to show you how to do so before you attempt it at home. Plus, because both dog groomers and vets are available to express a dog’s anal glands, you can always schedule a last-minute appointment so you won’t have to do it yourself.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Large Dogs?
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