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Anal Gland Expression: What It Is and Why It's Important

Brittney is a fourth-year veterinary student at St. George's University and has a sweet and playful cat named Toulouse.

Pooch won't stop scooting across the floor? Impacted anal glands might be to blame.

Pooch won't stop scooting across the floor? Impacted anal glands might be to blame.

What Are Anal Glands?

So first, what are anal glands? Anal glands are small, grape- to pea-sized glands just on the inside of your dog or cat's anus. The size will depend on if you have a big dog or a small dog or a cat.

How Are Anal Glands Expressed?

Typically, these glands are going to be expressed as your dog or cat naturally passes stool. The pressure that the stool creates as it pushes up against the gland will cause the glands to excrete themselves.

Impacted Anal Glands in Cats and Dogs

It is common for dogs and cats to get impacted anal glands. This tends to be more common in small dogs than in is large dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats have two anal glands, and they don't always get clogged up at the same time—it can be one or both. With some pets, it's always the right anal gland, and with others it's always the left. It depends on the individual pet, but you'll start to understand the pattern if your dog or cat has chronic anal gland issues.

How to Tell If My Dog Needs Its Glands Expressed

If you see your dog or cat scooting across the floor or paying extra attention to its urinary or genital area, it's always a good idea to take it to the vet. This is often a sign of anal gland impaction, but it can also indicate the beginning of a urinary tract infection.

Taking your pet to the vet is never a wrong move. It's uncommon, but anal glands can occasionally become abscessed or even cancerous. Never be afraid to reach out to your local vet!

How to Express Dog Anal Glands

If you regularly take your dog to the groomer—especially small dogs that need to be groomed and shaved often—they often get those glands expressed anyways as a part of the grooming package.

Some vet clinics will also have package deals with nail trims where they'll either express the glands during the nail trim or offer a discount to do so.

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How Often to Express Dog Glands

Many people often want to know how often they should have their dog or cat's anal glands expressed. That's honestly going to depend on each individual pet. Some dogs and cats need their anal glands expressed very regularly, every four to six weeks, and that's why getting regular groomings can be good for certain pets.

However, some dogs or cats might have a one-and-done deal where you see your dog scooting across the floor, you take it into the vet, they express its anal glands, and then you don't really have a problem. Sometimes it's once every year or every other year. It honestly depends.

The video below shows the process of expressing a dog's anal glands. Be warned—if you watch it, you will see poop!

Does Pumpkin Help?

You might be wondering if there's anything that you can do to limit or decrease the number of times that your dog or cat gets anal gland impactions. Some people think that adding a spoonful of pureed pumpkin to their pet's food once or twice a day is a good idea.

Pumpkin is heavily dense in fiber, and so it can bulk out the stool, which in theory should make the stool more massive and help it push up against those glands, causing them to express themselves.

However, some dogs may already have naturally bulky stools, or the addition of pumpkin still isn't pushing on those glands enough. Just like in humans, everyone's anatomy is slightly different.

Some Pets Are Just Prone to Impactions

Some dogs and cats again are just going to be prone to impactions, and when the material inside the glands gets big enough, even with pressure, it can be hard to express.

Just because you supplement pumpkin in your dog or cat's diet doesn't mean that it's going to guarantee that your dog or cat won't get anal gland impactions or that they won't need their anal glands expressed.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Brittney Kilgore

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