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Symptoms of Blocked Anal Glands in Dogs: Key Signs to Watch Out For

Anal Gland Problems in Dogs. Veterinary care.

For many dog owners, keeping their furry friends healthy and well is a top priority. One essential aspect of canine health involves maintaining clean and functional anal glands. These small, scent-producing glands near a dog’s anus play a vital role in territorial marking and communication, but when they become blocked, a range of problems can arise.

Blocked anal glands can cause discomfort, swelling, and potential infections in dogs. To prevent complications, it is crucial for pet owners to be aware of the symptoms and early warning signs. By familiarizing themselves with these indicators, dog owners can take prompt action to address the issue and ensure the well-being of their four-legged companions.

Normal functioning of anal glands involves the release of fluid during bowel movements. However, sometimes the glands’ ducts can become clogged, leading to an accumulation of the odorous fluid. This build-up could cause the dog’s anal glands to become impacted or infected, necessitating veterinary intervention and appropriate treatments.

Understanding Blocked Anal Glands

Blocked anal glands in dogs can cause discomfort and lead to serious health problems if left untreated. In this section, we will discuss the location of these glands and what happens when they become blocked.

Gland Location

A dog’s anal glands are small, pea-sized sacs located just inside the anus at the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions. These glands produce a smelly, oily secretion that dogs use to mark their scent. Although unpleasant for humans, this substance serves an essential purpose in a dog’s social and communication behavior.

In a healthy state, the glands naturally empty when a dog defecates, as the pressure of passing stool squeezes out the gland secretion. However, sometimes the glands can become blocked or clogged due to various factors like overproduction of secretion, inflammation, or infection. When the anal glands fail to empty properly, they can become impacted and cause discomfort for the dog.

A dog with blocked anal glands may display various symptoms that signal an issue. These can include:

  • Scooting or dragging their rear across the floor
  • Licking or biting at the area around the anus
  • Swelling or redness near the anus
  • Struggling to defecate or producing oddly-shaped stools

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it is essential to consult a veterinarian. They can diagnose the issue, empty the blocked glands if necessary, and recommend an appropriate treatment to prevent future problems.

Regular vet checkups, proper diet, and exercise can help maintain your dog’s overall health and reduce the chances of developing blocked anal glands.

Function of anal glands in dogs

Emission of scent marker

Man clean the paraanal glands of a dog. A necessary procedure for the health of dogs.

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are small pouches located on either side of a dog’s anus. They contain an oily, strong-smelling substance that acts as a scent marker.

When a dog defecates, the pressure from the stool causes the glands to release this substance onto the feces. This marks the stool with the dog’s unique scent, which can act as a territorial marker and convey important information to other dogs.

Role in communication

One dog sniffs another's behind in order to make friends.

In addition to marking territory, the scent from a dog’s anal glands plays a critical role in communication among canines. When dogs greet each other, they often sniff each other’s rear ends. This behavior allows them to gather information about the other dog through the scent emitted by the anal glands.

The specific odor is unique to each dog and can provide information on factors such as the dog’s age, sex, and health status. By sniffing, dogs are able to identify and recognize individual members of their social group, as well as detect any newcomers or potential threats.

Common symptoms of blocked anal glands

Dogs with blocked anal glands may exhibit various signs that indicate discomfort or pain. In this section, we will discuss some common symptoms, including scooting, licking and biting, swelling, and foul odor.


Scooting is a common behavior in dogs experiencing issues with their anal glands. When a dog’s anal glands are blocked or irritated, they may drag their hind end along the ground in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. This behavior may be accompanied by whining or crying, indicating that the dog is experiencing pain.

Licking and Biting

Small yellow dog laying down in bed and biting its back

Another common sign of blocked anal glands in dogs is excessive licking and biting at the anal area. This behavior is a dog’s attempt to alleviate the irritation caused by the blocked glands. In some cases, this excessive grooming may lead to the development of hot spots or skin infections, which can further exacerbate the issue.


Swollen or enlarged anal glands are an easily noticeable symptom of blocked glands. Owners may observe an asymmetry between the two glands or feel a firm lump when gently palpating the area around the anus. Swelling may cause the dog significant discomfort, and in severe cases, may even lead to an abscess or rupture if left untreated.

Foul Odor

Blocked anal glands often produce a strong, unpleasant odor. This is due to the buildup of secretion in the glands, which can become infected and emit a foul smell. The odor may be more noticeable after the dog has had a bowel movement, as the pressure of the feces against the glands may cause a small amount of secretion to be released.

By keeping an eye out for these symptoms and seeking prompt veterinary attention when needed, owners can ensure their dog’s anal gland health is maintained and potential complications are prevented.

Causes of Blocked Anal Glands

Blocked anal glands in dogs can be caused by several factors. In this section, we’ll discuss the most common causes, which include constipation, obesity, inflammation, and structural abnormalities.


Ginger rough collie dog with constipation is trying to defecate.

Constipation can lead to blocked anal glands in dogs. When a dog experiences constipation, the stool becomes hard and difficult to pass. This can cause pressure on the anal glands, making it difficult for them to empty naturally. Over time, this can lead to blockages and even infections if not addressed.


Obesity is another common factor that contributes to blocked anal glands. Excess body fat can put pressure on the glands, making it harder for them to function properly. Additionally, overweight dogs may have more difficulty grooming themselves, which can also lead to anal gland issues.


Inflammation in the anal region can cause the glands to become blocked. This can occur as a result of infection, allergies, or irritation from parasites like fleas and ticks. Inflammation makes the gland ducts more narrow, making it harder for the glands to empty.

Structural abnormalities

Some dogs may be predisposed to blocked anal glands due to structural abnormalities. These can include narrow gland ducts or improperly positioned glands. In these cases, the dog may require regular veterinary intervention to help manage the issue.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinary Evaluation

Closeup of a breath mask and a young veterinary woman consulting a dog with medical problems

If a dog owner suspects that their pet may have blocked anal glands, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The veterinarian will conduct a physical examination, which may include palpating the area around the dog’s anus and performing a rectal examination. During the evaluation, the veterinarian may express the glands manually to determine if there’s any blockage or infection.

Treatment Options

Once a blockage or issue with the anal glands has been identified, the veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate treatment options to address the problem. Below are some common treatments:

  • Manual Expression: In mild cases, manual expression of the anal glands may be all that is necessary. The veterinarian will gently press and squeeze the glands to release the built-up fluid. This procedure may need to be performed regularly to prevent future issues.
  • Medications: If the dog has an infection, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the pain and resolve the issue.
  • Sitz Bath: The veterinarian may recommend a sitz bath, which involves soaking the dog’s rear end in warm water, to allow the glands to drain and promote healing.
  • Surgery: In severe cases where blockages persist or become recurrent, the veterinarian may suggest surgical removal of the anal glands. This option should only be considered for dogs that have ongoing issues and have exhausted other treatment alternatives.

By seeking prompt veterinary care and implementing the recommended treatments, dog owners can help their furry friends find relief from blocked anal glands and maintain optimal health.

Prevention and Maintenance

Dietary Changes

jack russell dog with healthy vegan or vegetarian food bowl, holding a blank empty blackboard, isolated on white background.

Maintaining a healthy diet for your dog can help prevent blocked anal glands. A high-fiber diet can improve the consistency of their stools, which can help express the anal glands naturally during defecation. Some options to consider are:

  • Feeding your dog a high-quality commercial pet food that contains adequate amounts of fiber
  • Adding fiber-rich vegetables, like green beans or cooked pumpkin, to their meals
  • Providing fiber supplements as recommended by your veterinarian

Regular Grooming

Grooming plays a significant role in keeping your dog’s anal glands healthy. Regularly checking for any unusual swelling or signs of discomfort can help detect issues early on. Moreover, keeping the area clean reduces the risk of infection. Some grooming steps include:

  • Cleaning the perianal area with a mild soap and warm water during baths
  • Regularly checking for signs of scooting or licking, which may indicate discomfort
  • Visiting a professional groomer or veterinarian to express the anal glands if necessary

Weight Management

Dog jack russell terrier food choice.

Obesity can contribute to blocked anal glands in dogs, as excess fat may make it more difficult for the glands to expel their contents naturally. Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight can help prevent this issue. Weight management tips include:

  • Feeding your dog an appropriate amount of food based on their age, size, and activity level
  • Engaging them in regular exercise, such as daily walks or playtime
  • Avoiding excessive treats, especially those high in fat and calories
  • Consulting with your veterinarian to develop a weight management plan if your dog is overweight

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