Anal Glands: What’s That Smell


Have you ever seen your pet scooting their butt across the floor? Notice them licking tirelessly at their behind? Got an awful whiff of something as they walked by? If so, then your pet may need to have their anal glands examined by your veterinarian.

Anal glands are scent glands located within the anus at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. They secrete a creamy substance that is unique to each dog and cat. These glands are normally expressed by contractions of local muscles when your pet poops.

In the wild, animals “express” their anal glands to mark territory. This means a small secretion of anal gland material is left behind for other animals to smell. The odor also communicates information about the health, age, and sex of an animal who left it. Opossums, bears, beavers, skunks and many other carnivores have glands. Even humans have anal glands, however ours are nonfunctional.

You may be asking yourself, Doc, I have seen my dog rub his butt on the carpet what should I do? If your animal has anal gland issues it is best to have them checked and expressed on a regular basis by your veterinarian. If you find your pet needs them expressed very often (weekly or twice a month), a simple weight loss plan or diet change may help reduce the frequency of anal gland problems. If dieting and food change do not resolve the need for constant veterinary visits it may be time to consider removing the glands all together.

What happens if I don’t have my pets animal glands expressed? Imagine a balloon being blown up larger and larger. The larger the balloon becomes, the more pressure builds until finally it pops. Similarly, when anal glands are not expressed on a regular basis, they may overfill, become plugged, and rupture. This is referred to as a ruptured anal gland and generally requires a thorough flushing of the gland and medications to clear any infection and inflammation. This issue is much more common in dogs than cats, though it still occurs with our feline friends.

If you notice your animal scooting on the carpet or licking their butt ask your veterinarian what you can do to improve your pet’s anal gland health.

Peter Lands