Some Dog Anal Gland Remedies

Dog anal gland problems home remedies
Dog anal gland problems home remedies | Source

Understanding Dog Anal Gland Function

What are dog anal glands and what remedies are there for dog anal gland problems? Not all dog owners are aware of the fact that dogs are equipped with anal glands. What exactly are anal glands in dogs? These are small glands found around the dog's anus at both sides. If we think of the dog's anus as a big clock, the anal glands will be found at approximately the 4 o' clock and the 8 o' clock position. Anal glands are exocrine glands meaning that they secrete their products through special ducts, and unlike endocrine glands, they do not secrete to the bloodstream. Instead, anal glands produce fluids that are held inside of the sac until the dog defecates.

When the dog's stools are firm enough, they exert enough pressure to cause the anal gland ducts to contract and routinely empty. These anal gland secretions also play a role in helping dogs mark their territory and in animal identification. Indeed, when you see dogs carefully sniff a pile of dog poop at the dog park, they are learning many things about the dog that deposited it. Dogs also learn about each other from sniffing the other dog's bottom. It is thought that tail wagging is meant to effectively help diffuse the smell of these glands. Friendly, extrovert dogs generally want others dogs to know about them. It's as if they are spreading business cards around. Shy, introvert dogs on the other hand instead will tuck their tail tight and discourage butt sniffing and the dispersal of information.

While anal glands empty routinely during defecation, there are other circumstances where the anal glands will actually empty spontaneously. This happens when the dog is frightened, stressed or excited. It's believed to be caused by a sudden contraction of the muscles in that area, explains veterinarian Eric Barchas. The smell can be overwhelming, quite similar to a dead, rotten animal covered with a can of anchovies. When I worked for the vet, I would get a whiff of this smell every now and then after the anal glands were purposely emptied by the technicians or when a dog was frightened. Obviously, dogs smell these anal gland emissions too, and this may cause them to become nervous at the vet simply because they detect the alarmed state of other dogs.

Anal gland problems, anal gland abscess
Anal gland problems, anal gland abscess | Source

Is your dog a German Shepherd or a German shepherd mix?

If so, consider that German shepherds are prone to anal gland problems other than anal gland infections that can be very serious! These are called perianal fistulas, also known as anal furunculosis and are severe lesions that cause many troublesome symptoms. Other affected breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Old English Sheepdogs, Border Collies, Bulldogs and Spaniels.

Dog Anal Gland Problems

We have seen how in a healthy dog, anal glands fluids are elicited to secrete by the passage of firm stools. Problems start though when the stools aren't firm enough to allow the emptying of these glands or when the ducts become narrowed because of inflammation, or the fluid becomes thick because it accumulates and doesn't get expelled as it should. There are typically several progressive stages when this happens, but at times dog owners won't notice them distinctly.

  • Anal gland Impaction

The glands become impacted with built-up fluid which accumulates and thickens and becomes pasty causing the glands to become distended. The dog feels discomfort and will try to empty the glands by scooting and/or repeatedly licking and biting the glands. When the dog scoots, he sits on the floor and drags his legs on a rough surface like a carpet or dirt. This often leads to that terrible fishy smell accompanied by an unsightly trail of brownish fluid that seems to coincidentally always take place on pale carpets. At this stage, the dog can be helped to gain relief by having the vet or vet tech simply empty the glands.

  • Anal Sac Infection (Sacculitis)

Unfortunately, impacted anal glands are prone to inflammation and infections, mostly because of their position right near the anus where bacteria thrive. Soon, the area next to the anus becomes painful, swollen and the skin may appear reddened. One anal gland or both anal glands may be affected, therefore the swelling may be present on one or both sides of the anus. At this point, the vet will empty the glands, prescribe antibiotics or will fill the gland through the duct with an antibiotic/steroid medication. Anal sac irrigation with saline solution may be needed to break up dense anal gland secretions.

  • Anal Gland Abscess

If the glands are not drained, they may abscess (fill with pus which is made of dead bacteria and dead white blood cells ). This can be very painful and the dog may attempt to bite when touched. The dog may strain to defecate or may be reluctant to defecate because of the pain. The tail may be kept low. The dog may develop a fever. The swollen area will appear red at first and then later may turn deep purple.

When an abscess takes place usually there are two outcomes: 1) the body fights the invading bacteria and the pus is absorbed gradually without any treatment. 2) the body cannot fight the infection on its own causing the pus to accumulate which puts increased pressure on the skin and eventually causes the abscess to rupture with its contents bursting out of the skin.

  • Anal Gland Rupture

Unfortunately, in most cases, an anal abscess left untreated will rupture causing an unsightly hole from where bloody discharge may come out. This often happens after the swollen gland starts turning purple. When gland bursts, dogs often feel relief because a good part of the pain was caused by the swelling, but they often need more complicated treatment at this point involving surgical drainage of the abscess, flushing, infusion with Panalog and the administration of oral antibiotics.

* Note: when an anal gland ruptures, it's important to prevent the dog from licking the area. Ingested bacteria and anal sac material may cause infections in the tonsils, stomach, and the upper airway!

Recurrent cases of anal gland impaction may require surgery to remove the anal glands. However, prior to surgery dog owners should try a variety of solutions before going to such drastic measures.

What dogs are predisposed?

It is still uncertain what causes some dogs to develop anal gland problems, while others can go on a lifetime without any issues. Some predisposing factors have been found though. The following are dogs who are more likely to develop anal gland problems:

  • Smaller dog breeds such as chihuahuas, dachshunds and miniature/ toy poodles
  • Obese dogs
  • Dogs with allergies

About Antibiotics for Anal Gland Infections

The use of antibiotics for anal gland infections is a bit a subject of controversy. According to Dr. Bruce Syme," A normal course of antibiotics does little to clear up anal gland infections, because the gland has very little blood supply, and the source of the infection (the secretion) is constant."

Veterinarian Dr.Drew who works for Just Answer also claims "An abscess that is ruptured generally doesn't really require oral antibiotics in order to heal. Abscesses are generally "walled off" from the rest of the body, and antibiotics given orally won't penetrate into the abscess well. " On top of that, it should be considered that the use of antibiotics alone to treat an abscess without draining the abscess is often ineffective mainly because the antibiotics are often unable to get into the abscess. Drainage and proper flushing is therefore far more important than using antibiotics.

The vet may therefore decide to drain and flush out the anal glands, under sedation or anesthesia, and place an antibiotic directly into the glands, a procedure that may work 50 percent of the time. While antibiotics are commonly prescribed for anal gland infections, Dr Peter Tobias in his holistic blog claims "Antibiotics are only needed in fewer than 25% of all cases".

So why are so many vets prescribing antibiotics for anal gland infections? It's said they are prescribed to hasten healing and eliminate infection. We have seen though how arduous it may be for antibiotics to get into the abscess. Most likely though they may be prescribed as a preventive measure. The fact is, as with any infections, there are always those chances it may become a systemic infection that may get into the dog's bloodstream. This is a very serious condition that can cause even death. It's most likely the same reason dentists prescribe antibiotics after a dental procedure. You do not have an infection yet, but the antibiotics may help the healing process and are given just in case, to prevent further spread of the infection..

Remedies for Healthy Anal Glands

Following are some remedies to help a dog's anal glands. These may help prevent repeated occurrences or can sooth your dog until he can see the vet.


if you have a homeopathic vet you can work with, ask about using Silicea. According to Dog's Natural Magazine, Silicea is a wonderful remedy that helps the body get rid of foreign objects such as pus or other excretions. For more on this remedy, see video below.

Fish Oil

Dog's Natural Magazine also talks about the benefits of fish oil. Fish oil can help reduce itching and inflammation associated with anal gland problems. Discuss this option with your vet.


Glandex is a product purposely made for dogs who suffer from anal gland problems. It contains a blend of fiber that helps produce bulky stools. It also contains natural anti-inflammatories and probiotics.

Warm Salted Water

Scott Nimmo, a veterinarian who has worked for Just Answer mentions how effective warm salt compresses can be in the case of anal gland infections. He states: "I have known clients independently treat this condition on a home remedy basis in the following way and report success : By applying a poultice to the area with warm salt water for at least five minutes three times a day. An easy way to do this is to soak pads of kitchen towel in warm salt water and hold them against the area. You may need to change them three or four times to hold the heat. Then apply the likes of Neosporin into any open areas.Of course if it does not resolve or deteriorates you should seek hands on veterinary help."

Warm Compresses

According to Pet Place, home treatment for an abscess would involve helping the immune system fight the infection. Warm compresses applied to the site and kept there for 5, or better,10 minutes about 3 to 4 times a day will help increase blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow to the area helps increase the population of white blood cells to the abscess, which ultimately improves the ability to fight the infection.

With ruptured glands, you definitively do not want the area to develop a scab, otherwise bacteria and the goop will be trapped inside causing a relapse causing another swell and burst cycle. The warm compresses will help the blood flow to the area which expedites healing and also prevents the area from scabbing over. Unlike some other types of wounds, in the case of an abscess, you want it to stay open and heal from the inside out.

Topical Antibiotic Cream

As mentioned, the anal gland area is prone to infection because it can get easily in contact with bacteria from anus. Every time your dog defecates, the area should be fushed and topical antibiotic cream should be applied to the surface. It's important to make sure the dog doesn't lick this off. Plain Neosporin without pain relief (in other words, not the one with Pramoxine HCI) is one of the preferred antibiotic ointments for dogs as it is safe if dogs lick a small amount. Best though to prevent this from happening, as we don't want it to go wasted! Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Andy suggests to apply topical Neosporin to any ruptured gland already oozing any material. A good way to prevent licking it off is applying an Elizabethan collar or distracting the dog by taking him on a walk.


Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Deb suggests to clean the area of the ruptured gland with a diluted solution of betadine/iodine and water. The solution should be the color of weak tea and can be applied twice a day. The area should be allowed to heal from the inside/out which should happen after 7 to 10 days. For more on using

Epsom Salts

Dr. Khalsa recommends using Epsom salts for dogs with anal gland problems. Please watch the video below for more details. She suggests mixing Epsom salts with warm water according to the directions on the box. Then cotton balls or a washcloth are soaked in the mixture and applied to the area. Ideally, this should be kept for about 10 minutes about 2-3 times a day for a few days. up to a week for severe problems.This helps pull the toxins out of the anal glands and heals the tissues.


Last, but not least, owners of dogs prone to anal gland problems should go to the root of the problem. Dietary changes can help firm up the stool so that the dog is able to empty the anal glands each time he has a bowel movement. Plain pumpkin (not the pie type with spices) often works great. Another option are grated carrots or the addition of bran or medications such as Metamucil (ask your vet for directions) Other sources of fiber are special diets made for dogs who need a higher fiber intake.

As seen, there are several things that can be done to help a dog with anal gland issues. Surgery should be used only as a last resort. Many times, the issues can be solved without taking this drastic measure. While home remedies may be helpful in some cases, consider that your dog should be seen if he's in pain, acting lethargic, running a fever, acting abnormally and not wanting to eat.

Disclaimer: this article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog has anal gland issues please see your vet for the most appropriate treatment. Also, consider that what may appear to be anal gland issues may be another condition requiring different treatment. By reading this article you accept this disclaimer.

Alexadry© all rights reserved, do not copy.

Home remedies for dog anal gland problems

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Comments 11 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is very helpful information to know for those of us who have dogs as pets. Spreading the word by pinning to my dogs board, tweeting, google+ and sharing with my followers.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Peggy for sharing the article on dog anal gland problems.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This has been something I've been curious about. Most of my life I've had dogs living in our house but it is only in the past ten or so years that our dogs have needed to have their anal glands expressed. I thought it might pertain to the changes in their food formulation. (GMOs or ?) From what you've said, it seems that allergies have a lot to do with it. Thanks for this informative article and the helpful solutions.

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Thank you so much for writing this very helpful and much needed hub -- now I understand so much more about the problems my little Pom is having and know what to do to help him. Thanks again. Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Luckily my dogs haven' had issues with their anal glands. Their poop is nice and firm most of the time. There was a time where my girls stools were softer and I would get a whiff of that fishy smell when she licked her behind, this was solved promptly with some canned pumpkin added to her diet.

mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I have never seen any indication that my Min. Schnauzer has anal gland problems, but her stools are firm, so hopefully that takes care of any problems she might have.

My dog only gets chicken, rice and green beans, as she is sensitive to glutens.

Voted UP, etc. and shared.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

It is important to take care of dogs health issues can be problematic if not noticed right away. You have a ell-researched hub on this topic.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

My one girl dog has a lot of problems with this and they need draining regularly. So when I see she's paying way too much attention to her backside, I know it's time to bring her in! Thanks for sharing the info on a very common problem!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Hello Heidithorne, some dogs are really prone to this. I see many hounds suffering from these issues. One of my client's dogs had this issue often, the vet recommended the dog shed a few pounds and the issue diminished considerably.

Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 2 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

Your hub is very informative as always. There are so many preventable ailments. We only need to know what to do to help our furry friends. Voted up.

beth 25 hours ago

How long can I expect the bloody fluid to drain while giving the silicea? My dog has been to the vet three times with infected glands. I decided to try the silicea and epsom salts. Her glands started draining a nasty smelling bloody liquid about three days into this treatment. This has continued for almost a week. When will it typically clear up?

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    Adrienne Janet Farricelli (alexadry)1,687 Followers
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    Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of dog books.

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