First, what are anal glands? They are two sacs on either side of your dog's anus. When they have a bowel movement, they are expressed naturally. Solid, regular bowel movements should require no maintenance of your dog's anal glands.
Most dogs can express their own anal glands. However, sometimes there are issues. If the dog does not express them naturally, or have chronic soft stools, they might have to be expressed manually. This might be a temporary issue due to short term bowel distress. Or, this might be an ongoing issue due to your dog's natural body shape and build. Anal glands that do not express can become impacted or rupture. This is very painful for the dog and will require medical intervention.
If your dog is scooting their rear across multiple surfaces, or constantly licking their anus, they might need their anal glands expressed. Sometimes you'll smell a foul, fishy odor from your dog that doesn't go away after having a bowel movement. Most of the time your dog can express their anal glands on their own. If they are having issues expressing on their own, have your dog's anal glands checked.
There are two ways to express your dog's anal glands (See video below - if you can stomach it):
Internal Expression: Using gloved fingers, they are inserted into the anus, then into the gland to sweep out any secretions. This is the most thorough way to express anal glands.
External Expression: The anal sacs are squeezed together and upwards, towards the anus. This can relieve pressure, but doesn't always empty them completely.
We only use External Expression at Positive Pooches, and only if the dog will allow us to do so. If your dog needs a more thorough expression, or needs Internal Expression for medical reasons, we recommend taking your dog to the vet.
The general policy with anal glands is: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." If your dog has never had an issue before, there is no reason to manually express your dog's anal glands. In fact, regular manual expression can lead to a need to express your dog's anal glands for the rest of their life.
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