Anal Gland Expression Side Effects: What to Watch For

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dog is scotting his butt after an anal glands expression

Key Takeaways:

  1. Some side effects, like scooting and licking, are normal for about the first 24 hours after manual anal gland expression.
  2. If your dog shows signs of pain, bleeding, gastrointestinal issues, leaking, or illness, there may be an issue. 
  3. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian any time you see signs of anal sac disease in your dog.

You took your dog to the vet to have her anal glands expressed yesterday, but she’s still scooting today. Is this normal?

There are various side effects your dog may experience from anal gland expression. Fortunately, many are normal and will pass with time. Other effects may indicate your dog needs additional treatment for her anal gland issues.

In this article, we’ll look at the normal side effects of anal gland expression as well as the warning signs of more serious side effects. I’ll provide recommendations for the frequency of anal gland expression in dogs and share some ways you can help your furbaby express her sacs naturally. I’ll finish with a list of signs that tell you your dog has anal gland issues.

6 Normal side effects of anal gland expression

When your dog’s anal glands are expressed, you can expect certain side effects for a day or two after the procedure.

Dog is still scooting

When your veterinarian expresses your dog’s anal glands, he inserts a finger into the rectum and squeezes the sacs from both sides. This procedure is mildly irritating and can create minor inflammation in the glands for about 24 hours. 

There’s no need to panic if your dog tries to scoot for the first day after having her glands expressed. Her hind end may feel itchy or uncomfortable. Try to distract her with a treat or toy to prevent the behavior.

Dog is still licking her butt

Similar to scooting, your dog may lick her hind end for the first day after anal gland expression. As long as this behavior doesn’t persist beyond about 24 hours, it shouldn’t concern you. Try to redirect her activity until the irritation subsides.

Dog still stinks

Occasionally, residual anal gland fluid remains in the rectum or on the anus when anal glands are manually expressed. When this happens, you may notice a fishy odor for several hours after the procedure. Once your dog has a bowel movement, the feces should carry the residual liquid away. If there’s oily residue around the anus, try washing your dog’s butt to remove the odor.

Dog is still itching 

After you take your dog to the vet for manual expression, she may still show signs of itching, like rubbing against furniture or chewing her anal region. The inflammation caused by the procedure can be enough to cause your dog to feel itchy.

If you have a hairy dog that requires a little shaving around the anal area before manual expression, she may also have some razor burn. Check your furbaby’s hind end for redness or small red bumps, and watch for signs like licking or restlessness. If you suspect a razor burn, gently wash the area with a dog-safe ointment like Vetericiyn.

Dog is farting 

If your dog has flatulence after having his glands expressed, it may be normal. Dogs fart for various reasons, including swallowing too much air and digestive upset. Many pooches are nervous when they visit the vet, and they may swallow air as they pant. 

Additionally, your furbaby’s anal glands may have become too full due to a soft stool or other digestive issue. While she had impacted sacs, you smelled the fishy liquid, but once that’s cleared up, you may realize she has some flatulence. If the gas continues for more than a day or so, contact your veterinarian.

Dog is acting sore

Sometimes, veterinarians will use an injection to help express impacted anal glands. If the oily liquid is too thick to express, the softener can help move things along. The problem is, that some dogs will be sore at the injection site for a few days. You can apply a warm compress to help ease the discomfort and monitor your dog’s symptoms. If they persist, talk to your veterinarian.

When veterinarians manually express your dog’s anal glands, the procedure causes minor irritation. Therefore, you may observe scooting, itching, and licking for about a day after expression. After the procedure, there may be a residual odor for about a day. If your dog’s impaction was due to digestive upset, you could also notice flatulence afterwards.

6 Warning signs to watch for after anal gland expression

While there are some normal side effects of manual anal gland expression, there are also signs of trouble. If you notice any of the symptoms below, contact your vet.

Dog bleeding

If you notice blood on your dog’s anus or poop after he has his anal glands expressed, contact your veterinarian. Bleeding after the procedure may mean the glands were impacted or infected. The risk with both of these conditions is the rupture of the sacs. If your furbaby’s sacs are overly full or abscessed, they can burst during expression.

Your veterinarian may advise sedating your dog before manual expression if he suspects a rupture is likely. Using basic anesthesia helps to relax your furbaby and reduce the risk of a problem. It also allows the doctor to take immediate action if a rupture occurs.

Dog in pain

When dogs show signs of pain like yelping, crying when going potty, turning to lick the anal region, or hiding, it’s time to call the vet. Pain symptoms can indicate a ruptured anal gland, rectal tears, perianal fistulas, constipation, or rectal growth. Any of these conditions call for veterinary care.

While you’re waiting for the appointment, you may be able to provide your furbaby some relief. Apply a warm compress to the anal region and monitor the stools. Your observations may help the doctor reach a diagnosis.

Dog has diarrhea

Dogs that develop diarrhea after anal gland expression should visit the veterinarian. It’s possible he was already suffering from a soft stool or diarrhea, and the condition resulted in an impaction. Your vet can run diagnostic tests to help determine if the diarrhea is from stress, allergies, parasites, or another cause. 

Dog won’t poop

One cause of anal gland impaction is constipation. When feces don’t pass through the rectum, the sacs won’t be naturally expressed. If your dog doesn’t poop within about a day of expression, he may be constipated. Call your vet for an appointment. Prolonged constipation can lead to blockages.

Dog still leaking

When your veterinarian manually expresses your dog’s glands, he will insert a finger into the rectum and squeeze the sac from both sides. This procedure reduces the risk of injury and helps to ensure fluid is completely evacuated. So, when your dog continues to leak anal sac fluid or spot his bedding, there’s cause for concern. 

Leaking after manual expression may indicate the anal glands were severely impacted, and some of the liquid remained in the sacs. There may also be a rupture or fistula that’s draining anal gland fluid. Contact your veterinarian and discuss the symptoms.

Dog is acting sick

Anal gland expression can be stressful for your dog, particularly if the sacs were severely impacted or infected. So, if they seem mopey for a day after the procedure, it’s probably not a big deal  

However, if your dog acts depressed, won’t eat, or shows other signs of illness, you should talk with your veterinarian. It’s possible that he has an infection or another underlying condition.

Some symptoms you may notice after manual anal gland expression are signs of trouble. If your dog is bleeding or has signs of pain, there could be rectal tears or a rupture. Diarrhea or not passing poop point to issues in the digestive tract. Leaking or spotting can occur with severe impaction, ruptures, or fistulas

How Often Should I Express My Dog’s Anal Glands?

Most of the time, dogs can naturally express their anal glands without assistance. That’s because normal bowel movements with firm feces exert pressure on the sacs to empty the fluid onto the poop. As long as your furbaby is able to do this, there’s no need for manual expression.

When dogs have chronically soft stools or other conditions that cause improper anal gland emptying, the sacs will fill up and become impacted. If your pooch has impacted or overly full glands, he’ll show symptoms like scooting, excessive licking, or straining to defecate. When you see signs of discomfort, you need to schedule a visit to the vet for manual expression. 

If your furbaby has recurring issues with his anal glands, you may need to schedule regular appointments to have the sacs expressed. The frequency varies from dog to dog but may be as often as every 2-3 weeks. Consult with your veterinarian about the right schedule for your pooch.

Helping dogs express their anal glands naturally

If your dog is prone to repeated anal gland issues, all is not lost. There are some things you can try at home to encourage natural expression. These measures may help prevent clogged anal glands and reduce the frequency of manual expression.

Warning signs of anal gland issues

When dogs develop anal gland issues like impactions or infections, they’ll show signs that they’re uncomfortable. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. 

  • Scooting
  • Excessive licking/chewing around the hind end or anus
  • Straining during defecation with or without crying/vocalization
  • Swelling or lumps under the skin around the rectum at the 4:00 and/or 8:00 positions
  • Refusing to sit down
  • Blood or pus on the poop or anus
  • Traces of blood/pus on bedding, the floor, or wherever your pooch was laying
  • A strong, fishy odor that won’t go away

Dogs usually express their anal glands when they poop. If conditions exist that prevent normal sac emptying, they may need manual expression. The frequency varies. You can try various measures to encourage your dog to naturally express his glands. When you see any signs of anal gland problems, call your vet.

The Final Woof

Dogs that need help expressing their anal glands should visit the vet. The procedure can be mildly irritating to your furbaby, so you may notice signs like scooting, licking, and a fishy odor for about a day afterward. If your dog is bleeding, in pain, has gastrointestinal symptoms, or is acting sick, there may be a problem. Contact your veterinarian. 

Most dogs naturally express their anal glands when they poop, but some require assistance. The frequency of manual expression varies, so talk to your vet to set up a schedule. You can try various things at home to help your pup naturally express her glands and prevent impaction. If you notice any signs of anal gland issues, call your vet and schedule an exam.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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