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Why Do Dogs Anal Glands Fill Up? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ


Jun 21, 2023
Vet and assistant cleaning up anal glands of a dog


Vet and assistant cleaning up anal glands of a dog
Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo

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If you have ever noticed your dog rub their butt on your carpet, it can be a sign of an uncomfortable condition called anal sac disease. Anal Sac Disease happens when there hasn’t been enough pressure on the glands to empty them and your dog’s anal glands fill up. This condition can be recognized by the swelling of your dog’s anus, pain or discomfort, and even an unpleasant odor. While this condition isn’t life-threatening for your dog, it is best to prevent it by keeping a high-quality meal plan that’s rich in fiber.

In the article below you can find more information about anal sac disease, and how to deal with your dog’s anal glands filling up.


What Is the Purpose of Anal Glands in Dogs?

Every dog has two anal sacs located on the lower sides of the anus. There are several purposes for anal glands in dogs. These sacs provide other dogs with crucial information so you can often see them sniffing on this area of the other dog’s body. These anal glands can also serve as territorial markers, so some dogs rub their bottoms against carpets or grass. When dogs have bowel movements, these anal sacs excrete fluids. This is another crucial role that these anal glands play—providing lubrication for a hard stool to pass easily.

Blocked Anal Glands

Dog Anal Gland, Dog Anal Sac
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The blockage of anal glands, or anal sac disease, is fairly common in dogs. As you can imagine, this condition can become very uncomfortable and painful and interrupt normal bowel movement functioning. These sacs become swollen, painful, and distended when they become blocked or impacted. In typical situations, when the anal sacs are working correctly, the bacteria from feces is flushed out when the sacs’ secretion is let out simultaneously. Bacteria that are commonly found in feces can travel up the ducts into the anal sacs.

When the anal sacs are inflamed, abscesses begin forming in the sacs, and the fluid inside is the perfect ground for bacterial development. This abscess is extremely painful to a dog, causing swelling of one or both sides of the anus.


How to Tell if a Dogs Anal Glands Are Full

As we’ve mentioned above, one of the most prominent signs of the dog’s anal sacs[1] being inflamed or full is the swelling of the area around the anus. You will also notice your dog scooting its bottom against the floor and excessively licking the base of the tail. Because anal sac disease is a painful condition, your dog may even snap at you when you try touching its tail or anus.

Signs of Anal Gland Problems:

  • Scooting or rubbing their bottom against the floor
  • Excessive licking of the base of their tail
  • Difficulty pooping
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Bloody stool or pus around the rectum
  • Aggressive behavior when touching their anus or tail

Causes of Anal Glands Filling Up

vet cleaning anal glands of a dog
Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

The most common cause of the anal sacs filling is when there hasn’t been enough pressure on the glands to empty them. This usually occurs when the dog has had diarrhea for several days. When these glands remain full for too long, they swell up and build up bacteria. Other causes include:

  • Obesity
  • Insufficient fiber in their diet
  • Chronic diarrhea or soft stool
  • Food allergies
  • Genetics

Prevention of Anal Gland Problems in Dogs

To prevent the blockage or inflammation of the anal sacs, creating an ideal meal plan for your dog is best. Discuss potential food allergies or sensitivity to certain foods with your veterinarian, and seek advice for the perfect diet. Sticking to commercial dry food or kibble would be best, as these are least likely to irritate your dog’s stomach. If your dog has problems pooping, your veterinarian may suggest including more fiber in their diet or other additions such as fish oil, cooked fresh pumpkin, or unsalted pumpkin seeds.

If your dog exhibits any symptoms of anal sac disease, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

dalmatian dog eating dry food from a bowl
Image Credit: Sergey Fatin, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

After reading the article above, you should be able to recognize the signs of the blockage before the inflammation process begins. It is best to prevent this issue by including a proper fiber-rich diet for your dog. Since this condition occurs mainly in dogs with chronic diarrhea or allergies, controlling their diet and ensuring it is high-quality will go a long way in preventing the issue.

Featured Image Credit: Try_my_best, Shutterstock

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