Best Home Remedies To Prevent Swollen Anal Glands In Dogs

Plus 8 Home Remedies For Dog Scooting!!

Swollen anal glands in dogs are one of those things that you were probably blissfully unaware of until one day when you saw your dog scooting their butt across your carpet and leaving a nice brown streak behind them.

A quick visit to Google, searching “why is my dog scooting?” brought up a page full of articles about swollen anal glands in dogs.

Each article probably recommended something different, and now you’re not sure what to do— you just know you want to approach it in the same healthy, natural way you approach all of your dog’s medical issues.

So, let’s talk about how to prevent swollen anal glands in dogs!

My Dog’s Encounter With Swollen Anal Glands

Golden retriever that has swollen dog anal glands

My latest foster dog, Bella, came in to rescue with hip dysplasia and needed surgery on both hips. 

Within 24 hours after I brought her home from her second hip surgery, I noticed some uncharacteristic behavior. First, she hadn’t had a bowel movement. Not completely abnormal after surgery, but since Bella had already had 2 other surgeries (her spay and hip surgery #1) I knew it wasn’t normal for her.

Next she started randomly jerking her head around – like she had been stung or had a pain twinge – and biting at her rear end. She had an incision back there, but it still didn’t seem right.

It was a Friday, and when I called the vet they thought I was overreacting to a post-surgical soreness issue and told me to watch and wait over the weekend and see if it got better. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have much choice, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would get better over the weekend.

What Are Dog Anal Glands

diagram of anal glands in dogs

Let’s start with the basics and talk about what exactly dog anal glands are and why dogs have them.

Anal glands are scent glands located next to a dog’s anus. Each gland contains an anal sac which stores a strong-smelling, oily fluid. 

Healthy anal glands vary in size based on the dog breed, ranging from the size of a pea to a kidney bean. 

When the anus is streched as stool is passed, the sphincter muscles squeeze the anal sacs and force some of the contents onto the surface of the stool. If a dog’s diet contains sufficient fiber (roughage), they are expressed each time a dog poops, and they remain a “healthy” size.

What is the point of this smelly anal gland fluid? I found multiple reasons when I researched this article:

  1. To mark the dog’s territory, i.e. for one dog to tell other dogs who they are and where they’ve been — a doggie calling card, so to speak.
  2. To leave a pungent scent that helps them find their way back home when hunting.
  3. To help eliminate toxins from the dog’s body, kind of like sweat glands in humans.

These anal gland secretions are what dogs are smelling when they do the standard dog nose-to-butt greeting (and is just another reason we humans need to let dogs sniff each other’s butts, it’s an important part of them getting to know the other dog).

For some dogs, problems can occur that cause the glands to swell and become painful for your dog.

How does this happen?

What Causes Swollen Anal Glands

Important Disclaimer: I am not a vet. I’m just sharing my own personal experience and information I have read. If you think you want to try something you read about here, talk to your vet! But first read this and many more articles to empower yourself for a good discussion in which you can ask your vet great questions about what you want to try.

There is a lot of debate about what exactly causes swollen anal glands:

Hereditary body structure

Some believe that heredity plays a part in why some dogs have anal gland issues and some do not. 

Although I doubt it’s the reason for all cases, it does make sense that the bodies of some dogs may lend to easy anal gland expression while others may be built a bit differently making their natural anal gland expression less productive: perhaps the opening in their glands is smaller, the muscle function is sub-par, or gland location slightly offset.

Surgical Bone Structure Changes

This can be the case with dogs like my foster Bella. She had TPO surgery on each hip, which slightly altered her anatomical build, and may change how effectively her anal glands are expressed when she poops.

Diet

Many vets agree that high fiber diets create more (and larger) fecal material, which in turn empties the glands more often.

Low fiber high carb diets, in turn, are said to cause inefficient emptying of the anal sacs.

Richard Pitcairn

In Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (4th Edition), he lists three main causes of anal gland problems.

  1. Inadequate exercise and exploration
  2. Constipation or infrequent bowel movements
  3. Toxicity from poor diet and inadequate exercise.

Peter Dobias

Dr. Peter Dobias discusses some causes I had not read about before, and that I found very intriguing:

  1. Obesity (from processed food, carb-based diet, overfeeding, and/or lack of exercise) makes anal glands ‘sink” into fat tissue, thus making natural anal gland expression incomplete.
  2. Injuries to the lumbar spine can cause tight muscles, which in turn can cause the nerve flow to decrease, muscle tone to decrease, and natural anal gland expressing to diminish.
  3. Toxin build-up in the body from poor diets that contain preservatives and other chemical agents, or liver disease or imbalance, can all negatively affect anal gland expression.

Impacted Anal Glands: Infections, Abscesses, and Ruptures

diagram of a dog with an abscessed Anal Gland

If the anal glands don’t get emptied naturally when your dog poops, the glands become too full and don’t drain properly. The fluid inside becomes thick and plugs the openings – this condition is referred to as swollen anal glands or impacted anal glands. One or both glands can be affected.

When the glands become impacted with built-up fluid they will swell and become uncomfortable. Your dog may try to empty the glands by scooting their butt across the ground, as well as licking and/or biting the glands, and you may notice a nasty smell when they do that.

Bella Gets Worse

Over the weekend, Bella’s symptoms worsened. She was constantly jerking her head around towards her back end as if she had been stung. 

Because she had a blow-up neck collar on to prevent her from licking her surgical incisions, she couldn’t bite her back end, but she definitely was trying to.

By Monday morning, she was walking with a low tail as if she was in significant pain. When I tried to look under her tail, she lifted her lips and gently snapped at my hand. 

It was obvious that she in no way wanted to bite me and was trying so hard to get the message across without actually making contact with her teeth, but she was in so much pain she needed me to understand that I could not touch her back there.

I called the vet first thing Monday morning.

If the problem isn’t addressed, an anal sac infection (sacculitis)  can develop. When the anal sacs become infected, the areas next to the anus will become swollen and extremely painful. 

You need to get your dog to your holistic vet.

If the infection is not treated the glands may fill with pus (abscess). This can be very painful and the dog may attempt to bite if you try to touch or inspect the area. You may notice that your dog is reluctant to poop, or they may strain while trying. They may also carry their tail low and the area may turn red or deep purple.

Don’t underestimate how painful this is for your dog: in severe cases infected anal glands can be so painful that the dog needs anesthesia before your vet can treat the infected sacs.

While in rare cases the body may fight the bacteria and absorb the pus, in most cases the body can’t fight the infection on its own, the pus continues to accumulate, and eventually the pressure causes the abscess to rupture. This causes a hole where bloody, pussy discharge comes out.

If you allow the abscess to get to this point (rupture) more complex treatment will be needed from your vet.

Signs Of Swollen Anal Glands In Dogs

I want to quickly summarize the signs you may see if your dog has impacted (swollen), infected, abscessed, or ruptured anal glands.

  • Scooting

Your dog may drag it’s back end over grass, dirt, carpet, or other rough surfaces to try and stimulate the release of anal fluid.

  • Licking or biting their back end

The dog may bite at or copiously lick their back end trying to stimulate the release of fluid.

  • Skin discoloration

Skin on the back end appears red or deep purple and possibly swollen.

  • Dog is hesitant to go poop, or whimpers/cries when pooping

Your dog may start to poop, then stop and run a few steps ahead – as in they have to go but when they try it hurts, so they stop and run ahead a few steps, but they still have to go, so they try again . . . etc.

  • Dog acts like it’s in pain

Tail may be down, back slightly hunched, dog may be walking and suddenly sit to try and relieve the pain.

The Vet Was Closed . . . NOW What??

When I called the vet first thing Monday morning, I was getting desperate to get Bella some help. She was obviously hurting and I now knew for sure that this had nothing to do with her surgical incisions.

They were not one bit red or weepy, and I could tell Bella was trying to chew/bite the anus area; I suspected anal glands.

But when I called, I got a message that the vet was CLOSED that Monday – it was July 6 and apparently they had added a day to the holiday weekend.

I was angry – why didn’t they tell me that when I called Friday, and why didn’t they have me bring her in then, knowing she had just had surgery and it would be a 3 day weekend?

At that point I had to try to comfort her and get her through 24 more hours. I tried an ice pack and she told me in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t going to let me put that there, it obviously hurt her when I tried.

So next I tried a warm compress, and when I gently held it to her back end she relaxed and literally sat down on it. OK – heat felt good. So that is what I did all day, just frequent warm compresses to try and bring her some relief.

The next day I called and got her in ASAP and they confirmed that she had infected and abscessed anal glands. She was in too much pain for them to express them, so they put her on antibiotics and sent me home.

Her surgeon said that her hip surgery may make her more prone to this condition; the hip bones are reformed to better hold the leg bone and in the process it may change how effectively her anal glands are expressed when she poops.

Treatment of Swollen Anal Glands in Dogs

So what will your vet do if your dog has impacted, abscessed, or ruptured anal glands?

Treatment may involve one or more of the following:

  • Expressing the glands
  • Flushing the glands
  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery

Peter Dobias makes a great point about these methods, however:

“this approach doesn’t address most of the causes  . . . and the problem usually recurs.” 

This means that in addition to treatment, you want to work with your holistic vet to develop a prevention plan that addresses possible causes and therefore prevents recurrence.

Prevention of Swollen Anal Gland in Dogs

So what can you do to prevent swollen anal glands from occurring? 

wondering about swollen anal glands in dogs

1. Feed your dog a high quality diet, ideally raw or home cooked. 

Lickimat raw food dispensing toy for dogs

Peter Dobias has a helpful Raw and Cooked Natural Diet Course if you want to try making your dog’s food, just be sure to work with your holistic vet to ensure you are accounting for all the nutrients that your dog needs.

When you feed your dog a diet that has a higher bone content (raw diets typically contain chicken and turkey bones), the dog’s poop is small but hard. The hard stool pushes against the anal glands when your dog poops, helping express the glands.

Adding healthy fiber will bulk up the hard stool a bit more which will also increase the pressure on the glands and help express them.

If you aren’t able to make your dog’s meals, work with your holistic vet to find a high quality kibble and add one of the healthy fibers listed in the next paragraph.

2. Add some healthy fiber to your dog’s meals

Options include:

  • Green beans
  • Canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
  • Wheat germ (about 1 t./meal)

In Bella’s case, her vet thinks that her hip surgery and the resulting anatomical changes may have caused her natural anal gland expression to be less effective than an average dog, so I added fiber to each meal.

I tried wheat germ (vet recommended 1 teaspoon/meal) and didn’t see much of a change; her poop was still quite soft and not very bulky. I later read that you should soak the wheat germ before using it so that it doesn’t absorb fluids when it moves through the digestive tract.

I knew that one of the many benefits of canned pumpkin was its fiber content so I tried that (1 tablespoon) next. It was better, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough to help keep the problem from recurring.

So, I called Elaine Reinhardt, my go-to (and wonderful) nutritional consultant at Reinhardt Ranch Holistic Nutrition Center for Pets in Elk Grove, California, and asked her if she had anything she recommended in addition to the canned pumpkin to help bulk up Bella’s stool.

Her recommendation was green beans – just a small handful with each meal (canned, frozen, or right out of the garden). I added that and – knock on wood – Bella has had no problems with her anal glands since.

3. Give your dog adequate exercise

This helps your in two ways:

First, exercise stimulates the digestive system and thus results in more regular bowel movements, which in turn empties the anal sacs.

Second, exercise prevents obesity. Too much fat tissue around the anal sacs can prevent them from getting expressed when the dog poops.

4. Chiropractic adjustments

According to Peter Dobias, lumbosacral spine and muscle injury can lead to decreased energy flow to the anal glands and lack of muscle tone in the muscles that express the anal glands.

Regular chiropractic adjustments can prevent the dog’s muscles from becoming tight and restricting nerve flow to the area.

5. Limit extreme exercise

Peter Dobias recommends reducing intense exercise like ball retrieving, frisbee, and other sprinting-based activities, and giving your dog more varied exercise. He often sees improvement with this change.

6. Add prebiotics and probiotics to your dog’s diet

Prebiotics and probiotics make your dog’s digestive system and gut healthier, reducing diarrhea and soft stools. Healthy stools help express the anal glands.

7. Address any allergies

Allergies can affect your dog’s intestines and stool, so for a dog with allergies it can lead to inadequate expression of the anal glands. 

If you think your dog may have an allergy check out this article about natural supplements for dog allergies, or this one about dog seasonal allergies  & home remedies that help.

8. Less common but interesting preventative measures

I read other, less common, recommendations that were intriguing and worth mentioning:

  • Bruce Fife, ND, recommends coconut flour and shredded coconut as excellent sources of fiber for dogs with anal gland issues. He recommends soaking coconut flour or shredded coconut in water or broth to hydrate it then add it to your dog’s food.
  • Multiple websites talked about using dried fruit, especially prunes. In one story the owner started giving their (larger) dog 3 pitted prunes a day and the problem disappeared, in another the owner gave their mid-size dogs 3 pitted prunes a week and anal gland issues resolved.

The caveat with dried fruit is not to use it if your dog has a yeast imbalance because the fruit is high in sugar and can worsen the yeast issue. So if your dog has frequent ear infections, chronic allergies, or other possible yeast-related health issues, use a different source of fiber.

Bella’s Outcome

Happy Golden Retriever without swollen dog anal glands

After about 48 hours on antibiotics Bella’s pain started to diminish. 

I also gave her probiotics (at the opposite meal of the antibiotics) to help re-populate her gut flora, and added pumpkin and green beans to each meal to bulk up her stool.

Thankfully, that seems to have done the trick. It has been 2 months since her anal gland infection and we have had no issues.

Her adopters will continue to add extra natural fiber to her diet as a precaution for the rest of her life.

Do NOT Do These Things If Your Dog Has Swollen Anal Glands!

Halt hand signal to signify don't do these for swollen anal glands
  • Don’t try and express your dog’s anal glands yourself, nor have your vet express them regularly

As I researched for this article I repeatedly read that you should NOT express your dog anal glands yourself.

One reason is that the repeated squeezing and pinching can cause inflammation, swelling, and injury.

In addition, multiple articles mentioned that if you express the dog’s anal glands regularly the muscle tone in that area decreases and the anal glands won’t express well on their own anymore.

  • Don’t have the glands surgically removed

I thought Peter Dobias’s thoughts on this were a good summary: he states that unless there is a growth in the anal gland, do not remove it. Anal gland removal is very painful for your dog and the surgery can sometimes lead to fecal incontinence

He also explains that removing the anal glands severely disturbs the body’s detox process, which can lead to the development of other health issues.

  • Don’t give Metamucil or psyllium without vet supervision

Too much Metamucil (or other psyllium-containing product) can cause diarrhea, and if your dog isn’t drinking enough water it can actually cause an obstruction in the digestive tract or the esophagus.

Home Remedies For Dog Scooting 

So now you probably are wondering if there are any home remedies for dog scooting.

In all honesty, the best home remedy for dog scooting is to prevent it.

But, if you’re reading this article, chances are you are already dealing with swollen anal glands and are trying to help your dog.

If you catch it early, there are a few things you can try that may help your dog’s body express the glands:

Fiber

Add some natural fiber to your dog’s meals to bulk up their stools. As I mentioned above, green beans and canned pumpkin are great options.

Warm Compress

As I found out with Bella, a warm compress is very comforting for your dog. Although I didn’t know it when I tried it on Bella, a warm compress can actually encourage drainage.

Add 1 tablespoon Epsom salt to a bowl of warm water, soak a cloth in it, and gently hold it to your dog’s rear end. Do this at least a few times a day.

Work With A Holistic Vet

Don’t wait too long to contact your holistic vet, this condition is too painful for your dog.. They can examine your dog and determine if the sacs are infected, and help you develop a treatment plan that will hopefully avoid drugs or manual expression.

Chances are that by the time you notice the glands are bothering your dog – especially the first time it happens – that having your vet express them or use antibiotics may be unavoidable.

Don’t beat yourself up. Work with your vet to develop a prevention plan so that it doesn’t become a chronic issue.

Home Remedy Products For Preventing Swollen Anal Glands In Dogs

Some of these are listed above, but I’m including all of them here for convenience. Here is a list of possible products that you might use as part of your prevention and treatment plan:

Combination product for previnting swollen anal glands:

I have not used Glandex, but I stumbled onto it while researching this article and it definitely intrigued me. It contains a number of beneficial products (pumpkin powder, probiotics, etc), and if it is effective it would be a lot easier than giving them all separately like I have for my dogs.

The only question would be if the pumpkin powder does as well as canned pumpkin, but based on the 3000+ high reviews it seems like it ‘s worth checking out.

Fiber, Probiotics, and Prebiotics

Home Remedies For Dog Scooting Can Treat & Prevent Swollen Anal Glands In Dogs!

Preventing swollen anal glands in dogs takes planning, but once you have a plan in place you can reduce or eliminate your dog’s swollen anal glands.

Home remedies for dog scooting help bulk up the stool, which in turn can help express your dog’s anal glands.

Have you experienced swollen anal glands with your dog? What worked, and what didn’t? 

Share in the comments below to help other readers learn from your experiences!

Until next time-

Naturally,

Karen

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Karen Pedersen Written by:

Karen is an independent copywriter who loves dogs and everything about them. She is married to Scott, has 4 kids, and likes to take a natural and holistic approach to living and pet ownership.

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