Dogs Anal Gland Smell: Everything you need to know

Updated on
Fluent Woof is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.
dog owner is smelling her dogs anal glands smell

Key takeaways:

  1. Modified sweat glands, known as anal glands, produce an oily, fishy-smelling liquid in dogs.
  2. The odor from anal gland fluid is usually not obvious because dogs naturally express their sacs when they defecate.
  3. If your dog has an obvious fishy odor, watch for other signs like scooting, swelling, and spotting. Contact your vet for an appointment if your dog has other symptoms.

One day, I was driving my furbabies to the dog park, and one of my pups got his foot stuck in the window. Naturally, he panicked. In addition to yelping, he expressed his anal glands…YUCK! Thankfully, he wasn’t injured, and he was able to enjoy his play date.

If you’ve ever been around a dog with full anal sacs that started leaking, you’re familiar with dog anal gland odor. It’s unlike anything else. But what causes the unique fishy smell?

In this article, we’ll review what anal glands smell like and why they have that particular odor. Then, we’ll look at ways to help prevent or reduce the odor from your dog’s anal glands. Because leaky glands can make furniture or bedding stinky, we’ll also talk about ways to remove the smell from your home. Finally, I’ll share warning signs of anal gland disease and when you should take your dog to the vet.

What do dog anal glands smell like?

The odor from dog anal glands comes from the fluid they produce. These secretions have a pungent, fishy odor that can be very strong. Usually, you don’t notice the smell because your dog expresses his anal sacs when he poops. When dogs are scared, they may also squeeze liquid from the glands. 

However, when anal glands don’t empty properly, the fluid can build up and thicken. Overfull or clogged glands often leak stinky liquid, causing the pressure to increase in the sac. The droplets of anal gland fluid cause a strong fishy odor. If you can smell your dog’s anal glands, there’s a good chance he has a problem.

Dog anal glands produce a stinky fluid with a pungent, fishy odor. Normally, you probably won’t notice an odor because dogs express their sacs when they poop. If the glands don’t empty properly, however, the liquid collects and thickens in the sacs. Dogs with a fishy odor usually have a problem with their anal glands.

Why do my dog’s anal glands smell?

Every member of the canine genus has anal glands. These small sacs existed in wolves to help them mark territory and send messages to other pack members or competitors. When dogs descended from their wild ancestors, they kept the anal sacs for the same purposes.

Specialized sweat glands that line the anus secrete an oily, pungent liquid. This fluid collects in the anal glands. Normally, feces press against the glands when your dog defecates, and the pressure forces the secretions out of the sacs and onto the exiting poop. The liquid leaves a distinctive scent signature as a message for other dogs. This is why your furbaby always wants to smell other dogs’ butts and droppings. 

Fortunately, you won’t usually smell your dog’s anal glands unless there’s a problem. In this case, you might notice other symptoms like scooting, licking/biting the anal area, or swollen lumps around the anus.

If your pooch’s derriere emanates a pungent, fishy odor, it may be caused by:

  • Impacted/clogged anal glandsWhen the sacs don’t empty properly, the liquid thickens, and the ducts clog.
  • Abscess/infection – if the glands fill up, the fluid can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Anal gland infections are painful for your dog. Left untreated, an abscess may form.
  • Tumor – Anal gland tumors may occlude the anal gland ducts and interfere with natural expression. Many times, anal sacs will not empty when a tumor is present.

All canines have anal glands starting with wolves, dogs’ ancestors. Modified sweat glands produce a pungent liquid for marking territory and communicating with other pups. You usually won’t notice the smell unless your dog has a problem like impaction, abscess, or a tumor.

How can I prevent my dog’s anal glands from smelling so much?

When anal glands clog, and the fluid thickens, the fishy odor usually grows stronger. As long as the sacs empty when your dog goes to the bathroom, the fluid(and odor) doesn’t become more concentrated. 

Therefore, the best way to prevent a lot of stench is to help your pooch express his glands naturally and regularly

Clogged anal sacs tend to have thicker, more pungent fluid. The best way to prevent your dog’s anal glands from smelling so much is to help him naturally express his anal glands when he poops. Try things like adding fiber to the diet, exercising your dog, and keeping your pup at a healthy body weight.

How can I reduce the anal gland smell?

If your dog develops a pungent, fishy odor, there’s a good chance he’s having trouble with his anal glands. The liquid tends to smell stronger when the sacs are too full or infected. They’re also more likely to leak oily fluid onto your pal’s anal region. 

When you notice an odor, you should contact your veterinarian and schedule a visit. Meanwhile, you can try the following to reduce the smell while you wait for the appointment.

  • Wipe the area with deodorizing pet wipes to clean up the oily liquid. This approach is most effective in dogs with shorter hair.
  • Soak a clean cloth or some gauze in dog ear-cleaning solution and wipe the anal area.
  • Take some human deodorant like Arid, rub it on a cloth, and hold it against the anus for a few minutes to neutralize the odor. Wipe the anus afterward to remove any residue.
  • Wash your dog’s hind end, including his butt, using dog shampoo and water to remove any oily liquid.

Dogs that have a strong, fishy odor usually have an issue with their anal glands. Once you schedule an appointment with your vet, you may be able to do something to control the odor. Some things to try include pet wipes, ear-cleaner, human deodorants, and a butt bath.

How can I get rid of anal gland odors in my house?

Even after you address the anal gland smell on your dog, you can still have an odor in the house. Unfortunately, the pungent fluid may spot the carpet, furniture, bedding, and even your clothing. How can you eliminate the stench?

Let’s look at some things you can try to help clear the air in your home.

  • Wash bedding and removable slipcovers to cleanse the fabric and eliminate the odor.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on stained sections of the furniture or carpeting and let it sit overnight to absorb the oils and neutralize the odor. Then, vacuum the area in the morning.
  • Spray affected areas with pet odor eliminators 
  • Spray affected areas on the furniture with fabric freshener like Febreeze
  • Steam clean your carpets to lift stains and remove deep-seated odors
  • Use enzymatic cleaners to remove stains and odors from the carpet and furniture fabrics
  • Wipe the furniture fabric with hydrogen peroxide to eliminate odor
  • Mix powdered laundry detergent with about ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and apply to spots on your furniture to lift stains and neutralize the odor
  • Unless you have expensive furniture(there is a risk this will leave a stain), you can try some pineapple juice to remove odors

Once you eliminate the anal gland smell from your dog’s butt, you may still have to address odors in the house. Try washing fabrics and steam cleaning carpets. You can also use baking powder, pineapple juice, enzymatic cleaners, and other products to neutralize odors and remove stains.

What warning signs of anal gland issues should I be aware of?

In addition to a fishy smell, your dog may exhibit symptoms of anal gland problems. Be on the alert for:

  • Scooting or dragging his butt along the floor or yard
  • Excessively licking or chewing the anal area around the glands
  • Swelling or redness in the area around the anal glands
  • A blood or pus discharge around the anus or on your dog’s poop
  • Resistance to sitting down
  • Straining or pain when pooping
  • Brown spotting on bedding or furniture where your dog sleeps (leaking anal glands)

If your dog shows any of the signs above, you should call your vet and schedule an examination.

If your dog has a fishy odor coming from his butt, you should also check for other symptoms of anal gland disease. If you notice signs like scooting, excessive itching, swellings, a bloody or pus discharge, spotting, or others, contact your veterinarian.

When should I take my dog to the vet?

If you suspect your dog has impacted or infected glands, you should call your vet and schedule an appointment. These conditions aren’t likely to resolve without treatment, and home remedies are unreliable. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your dog and determine the underlying cause so that he can treat it appropriately. 

Contact your veterinarian immediately if:

Take your dog to the vet if you suspect impaction or infection of the anal glands. Signs that you need to contact the doctor immediately include swelling, pain, a brownish-red discharge, pus around the anus, or a fishy odor that won’t resolve.

The Final Woof

Dogs have modified sweat glands called anal glands that produce a fishy-smelling liquid for marking territory and communication with other canines. Usually, you won’t notice the pungent aroma, but if your dog has anal sac disease, the fluid thickens and concentrates. When this happens, you may notice a pungent, fishy smell.

The best way to reduce your dog’s anal gland odor is to help him naturally express his glands. If your pooch is already stinking, try washing his butt, using pet wipes, or cleaning the area with a pet ear wash solution. If you notice other signs that your dog has anal gland disease, schedule an examination with your veterinarian. Any signs of impaction or infection should prompt you to call the clinic.

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.

Leave a Comment