Why Is My Dog Expressing Her Anal Glands While Sleeping?

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.
why is my dog expressing anal glands while sleeping

You get up in the morning and notice a smelly, brown, oily stain where your pup slept last night. What is this, and what caused it?

Sometimes, I would get a call from a dog parent asking why they had a brown discharge at night. Based on the description and a follow-up exam, I could determine the problem was related to anal glands. Depending on the symptoms, I was able to recommend how to handle the problem.

In this article, we’ll examine the reasons dogs may express their anal glands while they’re sleeping and what you can do to try to prevent it. We’ll discuss why you shouldn’t express your pup’s anal glands and when it’s time to call your vet about your pup’s glands.

Let’s get started.

Reasons Dogs Express Their Anal Glands in Their Sleep

It’s true, some dogs express their anal glands in their sleep. Should you be concerned? Below, we’ll look at the different reasons dogs may express their sacs while they’re resting and whether it points to a serious problem. 

Relaxed Sphincter

Some smaller breeds may express their anal glands in their sleep because their muscles are very relaxed. In this case, there’s no cause for concern.

Emotional Response

Whether awake or sleeping, dogs will sometimes express their anal glands when they experience strong emotions like fear or stress. If your dog has a particularly startling or scary dream, he may unconsciously discharge the smelly fluid. 

Leaky glands

Some dogs seem to have leakier than normal glands. Some reasons for leaky glands include:

 If there’s no identifiable reason for the leaking, it’s inconvenient but not usually serious.

Anal gland impaction

When anal glands don’t discharge or express normally, the fluid can build up in the sacs. Over time the glands swell and become inflamed which makes it harder to discharge the oily substance. However, if the pressure builds up enough, some fluid may seep out when your dog is lying down. 

Anal gland impaction is a serious issue. Left untreated, the liquid often thickens and can become infected. If your pal’s anal glands are swollen or bleeding, or if you notice your pup straining to poop, you should talk to your pup.

Anal Gland Infection

With an anal gland infection, pus accumulates, usually in one of the sacs, and causes the oily liquid to thicken. As pressure builds up, the affected gland may leak some of the fluid. In the case of an infection, you may notice blood and pus with the brown, oily discharge. The gland will be swollen and reddened. 

An infected gland is another condition that needs immediate attention. Without intervention, the sac can eventually rupture. When you notice these signs, contact your veterinarian to treat the condition. He can drain the sac to relieve pressure and prescribe antibiotics. ….

Is it Normal for Dogs to Express Their Glands When They’re Sleeping?

It may be normal for your dog to express his anal glands while he’s sleeping. But sometimes it points to a deeper issue. To determine whether you need to be concerned about your pup’s discharge, you’ll have to look for other signs.

If your dog has swollen or red anal sacs or she licks or itches her anal area, the leakage is probably due to an impaction or infection of one or both glands. Pus or blood with the drainage may mean there’s an abscess or a ruptured anal sac. However, if there are no abnormal signs, your dog may have had a scary or exciting dream or he may be super relaxed when he’s sleeping.

Can I Prevent My Dog From Expressing Her Glands in Her Sleep?

Even when anal gland expression is not related to a problem, it’s still a smelly, messy nuisance. So you may find yourself asking if there’s anything you can do to prevent anal gland expression when your dog is asleep.

Naturally, if there’s an issue, you should take your pooch to the veterinarian for treatment. Otherwise, you should take steps to make sure the anal sacs aren’t overly full before bedtime. There are several things you can try to help your pal empty his sacs every time he poops.

  • Increase fiber – Fiber in your dog’s diet adds bulk to the stool. Firmer poops are more effective at expressing the anal glands as it passes through the rectum. You can increase fiber in your pal’s diet by adding high fiber human foods like plain, canned pumpkin or steamed pumpkin to his food.
  • Feed a healthy diet – One cause of anal gland problems is obesity. You can help prevent overfull anal sacs by feeding a balanced diet that keeps your pup fit and trim.
  • Increase exercise – Regular exercise helps keep your pup in top condition. It also encourages smooth muscle contractions to foster regular bowel movements.

Should I Express My Dog’s Glands Manually?

In a word, no. We don’t recommend that you manually express your dog’s anal glands. When you squeeze the glands to remove excess liquid, you can easily irritate the tissue. It’s like picking at a scab or pimple. You tend to do more harm than good. 

Manual gland expression should only occur upon veterinary recommendation. To prevent damaging the glands, leave anal gland expression to your dog’s doctor.

When Should I See a Vet?

If your dog is leaking anal gland fluid at night, it’s not an immediate cause for concern. However, you should call your veterinarian for an exam if you notice:

These symptoms can point to impaction, infection, or abscess. 

The Final Woof

There are various reasons that dogs express their anal glands while they’re sleeping. While some are a cause of concern, others are not. Some dogs may get super relaxed when they’re sleeping, and others may express due to stress or excitement. You may be dealing with impacted or infected sacs if there are signs of swollen, red, or painful glands

Depending on the underlying cause, anal sac expression can be normal or abnormal. If the discharge is not related to a problem, you may be able to prevent night expression by ensuring the sacs aren’t overly full. However, we don’t recommend manual expression as a preventative measure. Contact your veterinarian if your furbaby shows signs of impaction, infection, or abscess, 

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