Help! My Dog’s Anal Glands are leaking. (7 reasons & what to do)

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dog is laying on the floor because is anal glands are leaking

Key takeaways:

  1. Anal glands usually leak because the sacs are too full.
  2. Glands may leak due to an underlying medical cause, or there may be something mechanical going on.
  3. If your dog is scooting and has full or leaking anal glands, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Nobody likes to deal with leaking anal glands. But if your dog is dripping or oozing stinky liquid from the rear end, you need to know why. While some reasons are no reason for concern, others point to health issues.

Dogs have two anal glands located on either side of the rectal opening. These sacs contain a pungent, oily liquid that helps to lubricate the feces when your dog poops and leaves a unique scent signature for other canines. Unfortunately, sometimes things can go awry with anal glands, and they may ooze or leak their contents.

In this article, we’ll examine the reasons a dog’s anal glands can leak and which signs are a cause for concern. I’ll tell you some things you can try at home to stop the leaking and when you should take your pooch to the vet.

7 reasons your dog’s anal glands are leaking

Dog anal glands can leak for different reasons. Some are fairly benign, but other causes point to illness or disease:

Incomplete expression

If you take your dog to the vet or groomer (we don’t recommend this) to have their anal glands expressed, you may notice a brown discharge after your furbaby gets home. This happens when the sacs can’t be fully evacuated. Sometimes sacs are in an unusual location or can’t be reached(particularly in overweight dogs with excess fat around the rectum).

Incomplete expression is not a cause for concern unless your furbaby starts licking or chewing around the area. This can result in a secondary infection.

Impacted gland(s)

Normally, your dog’s poop pushes against the anal sacs as it passes through the rectum. The massaging pressure cause the glands to empty their contents onto the feces. However, if your dog has a loose stool or other gastrointestinal issues, the glands may not empty properly. When this happens, the oily liquid thickens and clogs the ducts causing an impaction. Rather than exiting the glands when your dog poops, the thick, pungent material may ooze or drip out in small quantities as the sacs become overly full.

Abscess or infection

When bacteria seed in the anal sacs, your dog can develop an infection or abscess in the glands. This condition is more common if your pup already has impacted glands because the oily liquid collects and provides a growth medium. Dogs with infected or abscessed anal sacs may leak a thick, yellowish material from the glands.

Ruptured abscess

If the abscess grows and breaks open, the secretions will leak out through the tract. The material is usually thick and yellowish because it contains pus.

Health issues

Certain health issues in dogs can directly or indirectly cause anal gland leakage. For example, if your pooch has allergies, obesity, or anal gland tumors, the condition may cause thinner secretions that can dribble out of the sac. Leaking may also be a side effect of medications if they cause your dog to manufacture more fluid than usual. When your dog’s sacs leak for any reason other than recent expression, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Relaxed sphincter

Some smaller breed dogs have extremely relaxed muscles when they’re sleeping. If the anal gland sphincter muscle relaxes, some oily liquid may escape from the sac.

Fight or flight

Some dogs that experience strong emotions like stress or fear express their anal glands spontaneously. The behavior can occur in dogs while they’re awake or asleep(if they have a scary dream).

There are various reasons that your dog’s anal glands might leak. Some are related to medical conditions such as impaction or infection. Others are more mechanical and related to natural processes like a stress/fear response or incomplete manual expression.

5 signs that the anal gland leakage may be normal

There are a few occasions where anal gland leakage is normal including when sleeping dogs are extremely relaxed or after manual expression. Signs that the leakage is probably normal include:

  1. Your dog had her glands expressed in the past 1-2 days
  2. The leakage occurs when your small-breed dog is sleeping
  3. Your dog was recently startled or in a stressful situation(like visiting the vet)
  4. The liquid is dark brown or grayish-brown, oily, and fairly liquidy
  5.  Your dog is NOT scooting or licking the anus

There are a few reasons for normal anal gland leakage. Signs that leakage could be normal are based on the circumstances surrounding the leaking such as manual expression or sleeping. You can also evaluate the color and consistency of the liquid.

8 concerning signs when dogs’ anal glands leak

More often than not, leaking anal glands mean your dog’s sacs are too full and need attention. Whether the problem is an impaction, infection, or another medical condition, there will be other symptoms of problems.

  1. Scooting the rear end along the ground
  2. Excessively licking the hind end or area around the anus
  3. Straining during defecation – your dog may or may not cry while pooping
  4. Swelling or lumps around the anus – usually at the 4-5 and 7-8 o’clock positions
  5. A red, inflamed anal region
  6. Blood or pus on your dog’s poop or around the anus
  7. Spots of blood or pus on your dog’s bedding or another resting place
  8. The oily fluid is thickened and yellowish

When anal glands start to leak, it usually means they’re too full. Signs that demonstrate a medical cause include scooting, licking the anus, swelling/inflammation around the anus, a change in the color/consistency of the discharge, and blood/pus spots on bedding.

7 ways to help stop/prevent leaking anal glands

There’s no magic cure to stop or prevent leaking anal glands in your dog. However, there are several things you can try to help encourage normal secretions and natural emptying:

Treat underlying conditions

If your dog’s anal glands leak because they’re impacted, infected, or abscessed, head to the vet for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Your veterinarian may:

Add fiber to the diet

Fiber in the diet helps to add bulk to your dog’s feces. Firmer stools are more effective at pressing against the anal sacs when poop moves through the rectum. One way to add fiber to the diet is by adding some high fiber human foods to your dog’s food. For example, you can feed your dog a few tablespoons of plain, canned pumpkin, or steamed pumpkin.

Give supplements to your dog

Adding supplements that support digestive health and help reduce inflammation can reduce the risk of impaction. 

  • Probiotics and prebiotics support digestive health and help ensure firmer bowel movements
  • Omega fatty acids – fish oil or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation
  • Glandex supplements are veterinary-formulated supplements that help support anal gland function

Excercise your dog

Regular exercise stimulates smooth muscle contractions that help support normal defecation. The activity can also help open the anal gland ducts to allow the oily liquid to exit during pooping. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Obese dogs are more prone to anal gland problems that may cause leaking. When your pooch has extra fat around the sacs and ducts, it can impede natural expression and gland emptying. As a result, the glands fill up and may leak to relieve pressure. Keep your dog on a diet that helps him maintain a healthy weight to help prevent problems.

Have the glands expressed

Your veterinarian may determine that manual expression is the best way to treat your dog’s leaking anal glands. Once he evacuates the sacs, they may leak for a day or so but should stop after that. 

Have the glands removed

In some circumstances, the best way to deal with leaking anal glands is by surgically removing them. This procedure should be a last-ditch effort that we rarely recommend because there can be various complications. Only consider this option with your veterinarian if your dog has recurrent impactions and infections. 

You can several things to help stop or prevent anal gland leaking in your dog. Start by treating underlying conditions. Then, work on diet and supplementation to support healthy digestion and anal gland function. Only try manual expression if your vet recommends it. Surgical removal is discouraged unless your dog’s anal gland problems are severe.

When should I see the vet?

Anytime your dog has issues with his anal glands, you should schedule an appointment with the vet. This includes unexpected leakage. The doctor will examine your pup and run diagnostic tests to determine a diagnosis. Set up your visit as soon as possible if your dog’s signs include:

Visit your vet when you notice anal gland leaking or other problems. Schedule an appointment pronto if the anus is swollen and red, your dog is spotting where he sleeps, there are abscesses or draining pus, or the anal area has a putrid odor.

The Final Woof

There are various reasons why your dog’s anal glands might start leaking. Some causes are medical, but others have a mechanical origin. If the fluid is a normal color and consistency, and your dog is not scooting, it may not be a serious issue. However, leaking usually occurs when the sacs are too full. Talk to your vet if your dog’s glands start to leak.

When dogs show signs of discomfort like scooting and licking or chewing around the anus, you should be concerned. Other symptoms of trouble include swelling around the anus, draining pus or blood, and changes in the color and consistency of the liquid. You may be able to help stop or prevent leaking anal glands. Many measures focus on your dog’s diet and lifestyle. It’s best to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice your dog’s glands are leaking.

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.

2 thoughts on “Help! My Dog’s Anal Glands are leaking. (7 reasons & what to do)”

  1. This is confusing as it says that spotting while dreaming may be normal – but to visit the vet “pronto” if the dog spots where they are sleeping? It’s also confusing because what dog *wouldn’t* clean their butt if it was leaking yet it says above that any licking of the butt necessitates a vet visit? If they do it in their sleep and wake up and clean it, that means a vet visit?

  2. My dog was having to go to get his anal glands cleaned out every month. We tried all kinds of high fiber foods, Glandex and pumpkin. Nothing worked. The vet suggested it could be an allergy (this was after YEARS of him having this issue). We started with completely removing chicken from all his food and treats. That did it. I would suggest more vets talk about food allergies being the cause. I never see it.


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