Cleaning Anal Glands

Information on cleaning canine and feline scent glands to support anal gland health in cats and dogs.

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  1. How do I Clean My Pet’s Anal Glands?
  2. Steps to Clean the Anal Glands:
  3. Help for Cleaning Anal Glands
  4. More Information on Cleaning Anal Glands

How do I Clean My Pet’s Anal Glands?

Dogs and cats have two small glands located just inside the anal sphincter muscle at the five and seven o’clock positions, just inside the anal opening. These small sacs contain a smelly pungent liquid that is unique to each individual dog. They use it to mark their territory and also to identify each other.

If you notice your cat or your dog licking its anal area more than usual or ‘scooting’ along the floor (pulling itself across the floor on its behind) your pet’s anal glands may need to be cleaned or expressed.

These glands are normally the size of a kidney beans, however if they become impacted or full they tend to enlarge to the size of grapes. When your pet’s stools aren’t firm enough, they can’t exert enough pressure to empty the sacs and the fluid accumulates – eventually becoming impacted.

Steps to Clean the Anal Glands:

1. Cover the base of the tub in plastic refuse bags or an old towel.

2. Position your pet inside the tub (empty of water) with its head to the left and anal area to the right (for right handed people).

3. With one hand hold your pet’s tail firmly (at the base) and lift the tail out of the way. Gently hold a warm compress to the anal opening and surrounding areas for a minute or two.

4. Next, (while still holding the tail out of the way), with the other hand, wearing a latex glove dipped in warm water, insert the index finger gently just inside your pets anal opening. (This is uncomfortable for your pet, so do this slowly and gently!)

5. Use the thumb of the same hand and place it on the outside of the anal opening at approximately 7 o’clock at which point you should feel the anal gland between your fingers.

6. Very gently pinch the anal gland between your fingers and the accumulated secretion should squirt out. You should be able to feel the anal sack shrink in size as you’re gently squeezing.

7. Move your fingers to the 5 o’clock position and gently squeeze in the same way.

8. Once the glands have been expressed, wash out the black, brown, or gray substance that comes out with shampoo in order to get rid of the unpleasant odor.

Help for Cleaning Anal Glands

If you feel that this procedure is complicated, if the dog seems to be in a lot of pain, or if the substance that comes out of the dog’s anal glands is green or black or contains blood, it could mean that there is an infection in the anal glands. If this happens make sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

More Information on Cleaning Anal Glands

Tips for anal gland health
  • Feed more fiber. If you’re feeding your dog homemade food, give him/her an additional half to one serving of vegetables. This will help to ‘bulk up’ stools. This will mean more pressure to empty the sacs.
  • Improve quality. If you are feeding low-quality dog food, try introducing dog food that has two meat sources in the top 3 ingredients listed (indicates larger quantities contained in the food).
  • Exercise. Walking helps "things" move in the right direction and strengthens the rectal and abdominal muscles!
  • Repeat the procedure (outlined above), regularly during bath time to keep your dog’s anal glands in optimal health – or take them to the vet now and then to have the anal sacs expressed.
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