How can I help my dog express his anal glands naturally (8 ways)?

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golden retriever mix is eating pumpkin to express his anal glands naturally

Key takeaways: 

  1. Don’t try to manually express your dog’s glands at home unless your veterinarian instructs you to do it.
  2. If your dog’s anal glands become impacted, they usually progress to infections or rupture without treatment.
  3. There are several things you can try at home to help your dog naturally express his anal glands.

Your dog has been scooting his butt across the floor lately, and you know that may mean his anal glands are full. Should you take him to the vet, or can you do something at home to help your furbaby express the sacs naturally?

Anal glands in dogs usually provide natural lubrication when they poop. Unfortunately, the oily liquid can become too viscous, or the duct can become inflamed. When this happens, the sacs don’t empty or express themselves properly.  

In this article, we’ll discuss why dogs need to regularly express their anal glands and things you can do to help them accomplish this action naturally. Then, I’ll explain what happens if your dog can’t express his glands and when it’s time to head to the vet.

Does my dog really need my help with anal gland expression?

Normally, dogs express their anal glands when they poop. The firm stool presses against the sacs from inside the rectum. When your pup has diarrhea or soft feces, expression may not occur.  If your dog’s anal glands aren’t expressed regularly, they can clog. 

The problem is that a clogged or impacted gland continues to produce oily liquid. As a result, the sac swells and becomes inflamed and painful. Over time, they may abscess and rupture. So, if your pooch can’t express his anal glands naturally, you should find ways to help him to prevent severe health conditions.

Dogs usually express their anal glands during defecation. But, if their poop isn’t firm, they may evacuate the oily liquid effectively. The anal glands can clog, become inflamed or infected, or rupture. If your dog can’t self-express his sacs, you should help him.

8 Ways to help dogs express glands naturally

Fortunately, there are several ways that you may help your dog express his glands naturally.

Increase fiber in your dog’s diet

Fiber helps to add bulk to the stool so that it will fill the rectum and press against the glands from the inside. You can increase dietary fiber by feeding your pooch high-fiber commercial dog food. Another way to boost dietary fiber is by adding high-fiber human foods to his existing food. Healthy examples include:

  • Pumpkin – Add up to 1 tablespoon per 10 pounds of body weight of plain, canned pumpkin or fresh, steamed pumpkin.
  • Banana – You can feed bananas to your pooch to add fiber. Give some slices as special treats or mash it up and stuff it in a Kong toy. Don’t overdo bananas, however, because they’re higher in sugar.
  • Sweet potato – Boiled, mashed sweet potatoes add fiber and omega fatty acids, which can help to reduce inflammation, to the diet. Feed this food at the same dose as the pumpkin. 
  • Apples – Apple slices with the core and seeds removed to make a nutritious fiber-filled snack for your dog. 
  • Carrots – Most dogs love crunchy carrots. You can feed pieces of baby carrot as a snack or grind some carrot up and mix it with your pal’s dinner. 
  • Brown rice – You can add up to ¼ cup of cooked or steamed brown rice to your dog’s food to increase his fiber intake. 
  • Beets/beet pulp – Plain raw, steamed, or boiled beets can be added to your pup’s food for prebiotic fiber. Do not feed your dog pickled or can beets due to the high salt content.

Feed high-fiber treats to your dog

In addition to feeding a high-fiber diet or boosting the fiber in your dog’s food with natural foods, you can also provide him with treats that are higher in fiber. For example, Glandex provides your pooch with soluble fiber from pumpkin seed and pectin to boost your dog’s fiber with a few treats each day.

Give your dog supplements

One way you can assist your pooch in naturally expressing his anal glands is by giving him supplements that support the gut and healthy digestion.

  • Probiotics – These bacteria help replenish the normal gut flora and support proper digestion. 
  • Prebiotic fiber also helps by providing an energy source for your dog’s healthy gut bacteria.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega fatty acids help reduce inflammation which can reduce the risk of anal gland impaction.

Increase your dog’s water intake

Believe it or not, adding water to the diet can help improve your dog’s stools. Canines need at least 1 ounce of water for each pound of body weight every day. Proper hydration encourages healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

Exercise your dog

Increasing your dog’s exercise level may help him express his anal glands. It helps to build muscle tone in the abdomen and rectum allowing your dog can put more pressure on the anal glands when he poops. Regular activity encourages more frequent bowel movements.

Put Fido on a Diet

Overweight dogs are more likely to develop anal gland impaction because added fat in the rectal area envelops the anal glands and makes emptying harder. If your pooch is pudgy, feed him a reducing diet to help him reach trim down.

Apply a Warm Compress

If your pooch’s anal glands are impacted, apply a warm compress under the tail. This can help soothe the area and open up the ducts. Up to twice a day, soak a clean washcloth in a solution of warm water and 1-2 teaspoons of witch hazel or Epsom salts and apply the cloth to the region for about 10 minutes.

Treat your dog’s allergies

For some dogs, certain grains, proteins, or dairy products can cause allergic reactions that cause inflammation. If you suspect that your dog has food allergies, consult with your veterinarian about feeding him a hypoallergenic diet to help prevent inflammation.

There are a variety of things you can do to try to help your dog express his anal glands. Some involve changing his diet or adding foods to boost fiber. Other things you can try include applying warm compresses, exercising your dog, and giving him supplements to support overall digestive health.

How soon should my dog express her anal glands after I help her?

Natural treatments aren’t overnight solutions. It will take time for your dog’s system to respond so that it naturally expresses the oily liquid. The time varies depending on the approach you try. 

  • With warm compresses, you may notice some changes in a few days. 
  • Increasing fiber in your dog’s diet with food, supplements, or treats may require several days to bulk the stools. Once the stool is firmer, it will apply more pressure to the glands to express them.
  • Exercising your dog or increasing his water intake helps to stimulate more normal bowel movements. The regular passage of poop should help with anal gland expression in a few days.
  • Managing your dog’s allergies and feeding a reduction diet may take a few weeks or longer to yield results. 

How long it takes before your dog should naturally express his anal glands varies depending on the approach you try. With some measures, you may notice improvement in a few days. Other approaches can take several days to weeks to help with the natural expression of the glands.

What happens if my dog won’t express his glands naturally?

If your dog isn’t able to naturally express his anal glands, they can clog and swell. Over time, the oily liquid provides a medium for bacterial growth, which results in abscesses and infections. If you don’t seek treatment for impacted anal glands, they may eventually rupture. 

Signs that your pooch is having difficulty expressing his anal glands include:

When you notice these signs, check with your veterinarian before attempting any at-home remedies. But if the remedies aren’t effective, do not attempt to manually express your dog’s anal glands yourself. Take your dog to the vet.

If your dog won’t naturally express his glands, it can lead to impaction, infection, and rupture. Sings of improper expression include scooting, straining to poop, and licking or biting the anal area. Whenever you notice signs that your dog isn’t emptying his glands, talk to your veterinarian about your options.

When to see a vet?  

Unfortunately, the approaches described above don’t work all the time. If your dog can’t express his anal glands properly, and the sacs clog, the condition usually progresses from bad to worse without treatment. So, how do you know your dog’s anal gland problems require immediate attention? 

You should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible if:

The sooner you seek treatment, the easier it will be to help your pup recover.

Natural home remedies don’t always work. If your dog can’t express his glands, you need to know when to take him to the vet. Watch for foul odors, swelling, redness, a brownish-red discharge, or abscesses and pus. These signs indicate you should schedule an appointment immediately.

The Final Woof

When dogs can’t express their anal glands naturally, it can lead to impaction, infection, or rupture. There are some things you can try at home to help your pooch naturally force out the oily liquid. Some involve dietary adjustments or treats. There are also helpful supplements you can try. Other things to try include increasing his exercise and applying a warm compress to the affected glands. Depending on the home remedy you try, you may notice improvement in a few days or after a few weeks or more.

Signs your dog isn’t expressing his sacs include scooting, biting or licking, and swelling. If the glands impact and progress to an infection or rupture, you may also notice a foul/putrid odor around his rear end, straining and pain during infection, or swollen, red glands that are painful to the touch. Any time you see these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Never try to manually express your dog’s glands at home unless your veterinarian instructs you.

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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