black and white collie type dog looking into camera

Anal gland problems are very commonly seen by us at Rosevean Veterinary Practice and can have a marked negative effect on dogs who can become quiet and subdued due to the irritation.

white dog scratching rear

Scratchy pup!

There are two glands situated just inside the anus that are naturally used to identify individuals and mark territory in wild canines and many other carnivores – see below.
showing where anal glands are on dogs

 A diagram showing where the glands are situated

Normally while defecating the glands are squeezed by the firm faeces passing by them which empties them. If the glands do not empty normally the material can become thicker and block the openings leading to impaction. In some cases this material becomes infected and an abscess can burst out through the skin.

There are several reasons why glands may not empty. Common reasons that we see are:

  • Soft faeces do not squeeze the glands. It is not uncommon after a period of diarrhoea for glands to be fuller. Animals that have long term soft faeces due to medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease may have repeated problems.
  • Misshaped glands may not empty properly. These could be what the dog was born with or could have become misshapen due to scarring after infection. These are likely to need regular emptying.
  • Inflamed glands due to skin allergies. This is probably the most common reason that we see anal glands needing emptying. Skin allergies are very common and can range from severe itching through to minor irritation so it may not always be obvious such as nibbling paws. Anal glands issues due to allergies may reoccur all year or be seasonal.

Clinical signs that can be commonly seen include:

  • Scooting bum along the floor as dogs try to manually empty them.
  • Chewing or licking around the tail base.
  • A bad smell if material leaks out and often a bad breath when dogs have licked up the material.
  • Uncomfortable sitting or defecating.
  • Sudden spooked behaviour such as jumping up at rest as if been stung or suddenly sitting down when out walking.
a dog on the grass trying to itch rear end

Nearly there…


Manually emptying the gland to relieve irritation is the first step in treating impaction. This procedure may be needed regularly in some cases and your vet can show you how to perform this if you wish.
Treatment of underlying problems such as diarrhea and skin allergies may reduce the incidence of impaction but can’t always eliminate it.
In some cases the anal glands can be surgically removed if repeated abscesses or severe discomfort occur. The surgery, although routine, has a small chance of leading to faecal incontinence so is only performed when medical management is not enough.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at Rosevean Veterinary Practice, Penzance on 01736362215 should you have any queries or concerns.