“Mmm… That’s pungent.” Your partner expresses (HA!) as they walk through the front door. “Seafood for dinner again, love?”
Just the resident doggo, unintentionally giving his best umami impression.
You may rightly wonder, “Why is it that the dog still smells after its glands have recently been expressed?”
Well, there are actually a variety of possible reasons for the unwanted fishy odor.
For one, did you know that it is actually quite normal for a dog to still smell for up to a day after expression?
This is due to the fact that oftentimes small amounts of the malodorous substances have been accidentally sprayed onto the fur surrounding the buttocks area.
If this is not the case and your dog is fresh out of a bath, then the answer could be that your pup’s glands were simply not expressed cleanly enough. This can occur out of inexperience or incompetence on the part of the human expressor.
A dog may also initially be rid of the nasty smell, only for it to return after a few days have passed. This can be a clear sign of faulty glands that fill too quickly, compacted anal sacs, or a developing infection.
So, what can you do about the stench?
The most effective way to get rid of the miasma once and for all is to directly address the specific underlying cause.
A simple cleanup via pet wipes or a bath can be all that you need to remove the offending odor.
If it is a case of glands that accumulate too quickly, more frequent extractions may be the best option. You can either do this by yourself if you are brave, or by taking your pooch to a qualified groomer or vet for the quick procedure.
In the scenario where a dog has been confirmed to have infected or impacted anal glands, it will need veterinary care and the likely administration of antibiotics and antiseptic ointments.
Surgery to remove the organs completely is technically also an available option, though it is generally not recommended in most cases due to the accompanying complications.
Finally, in terms of long-term freshness, your best bet would be to provide your dog with a nutritious, high-quality diet.
Feeding your best friend with the right combination of proteins, fiber, and probiotics will ensure that its anal glands are able to do their job without human intervention!
- My Dog Still Smells After Glands Expressed… Why Does My Dog Keep Releasing His Glands?
- How Do You Know If Your Dog’s Glands Are Full Again?
- How Do I Clean My Dog’s Stinky Glands After They Have Already Been Expressed?
- Can You Express Your Dog’s Glands At Home?
- In Summary
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It’s not that your dog is intentionally releasing his glands at every given opportunity- he really just can’t help it!
If you didn’t already know, anal glands are the small sacs that are situated on both sides of a canine’s anus (See the picture above).
It is likely that your dog has neither choice nor control when it comes to smelly anal gland emissions.
This is especially the case with smaller dog breeds, as they tend to experience more problems with their anal sacs and secretions than larger dogs do.
Keep in mind that it is fairly normal for a dog to have that signature fish-like scent in the 24 hours immediately following an expression.
This can happen even if your dog was professionally expressed by a vet or groomer- both of which will likely have already used deodorizing agents after the procedure to try to hide the stench.
So, if your dog only had his anal gland fluids expelled the day before, give it a bit of time. (Top Tip: Maybe give the furball a bath or a wipedown as well; this can definitely help!)
Usually the smell will go away by itself within a day, and your pup and home will again be as fresh as a spring breeze.
However, there are certain situations where a dog retains that fishy smell days- or even weeks– after an extraction. This is usually caused by one (or more) of the following three reasons:
- The expression was performed poorly, whether by yourself or an inexperienced professional;
- The fluid refilled rapidly in the glands shortly following expression; or
- The dog is suffering from compacted anal glands or anal sac disease.
One of the most probable causes for a dog to still smell after anal sac expression is simply that its glands were never completely emptied in the first place!
This can occur more frequently than you might think, either out of oversight or sheer incompetence of the extractor.
A job that is poorly done will result in glands that continue to hold and secrete the liquid, even if the process was only very recently completed.
Thus, the main way to establish whether or not your dog’s anal glands were expressed effectively is to give your dog a bath and to wait for a few days.
If the smell persists beyond the first day and continues indefinitely, then there is a high likelihood that the procedure was not carried out correctly.
Thankfully, there is a very easy fix for this: Take your pooch to a genuine, skilled professional for a proper gland extraction! Always opt for vets over groomers (unless the groomer has specific expertise in this area) for the best results.
You might be under the impressions that canines’ anal glands are all the same. Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the case.
Just as there are real differences between different breeds, sizes, and even personalities of dogs, their anal sacs are also unique to each. (Weird topic, I know…)
If your dog starts to smell again merely days after its last expression, it could be the case that it simply has anal glands that fill up with fluid more quickly than the average hound.
Since the volume and speed at which this happens is different for every dog, the required frequency of expression naturally also differs.
For example, while one particular dog may only ever need one (or even none) manual glandular expression in its lifetime, another may require monthly or weekly treatments to help it maintain a pleasant scent.
If you find that your pooch doesn’t smell in the day following expression, but then quickly regains the smell a few days or a week later, it could very well mean that its anal sacs have rapidly filled with fluid once again.
Again, it should be emphasized that this can occur even if the dog’s glands were properly expressed by a competent and skilled professional.
So, what can you do if this is a problem for your pup?
The simplest long-term solution that most owners will opt for in this situation is to simply express their canine’s anal glands as frequently as needed- whether that be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
This can either be done by a professional vet or groomer, or by the owner themselves if they want to save on recurring costs.
(If you do want to learn how to express your dog’s anal glands yourself for free, you totally can! It’s actually a more simple task than you might think. Keep in mind that it can definitely be a smelly, messy endeavor however.
Scroll down or CLICK HERE to go to our section on how to properly express your pup’s anal glands safely and effectively.)
Complete removal of the anal glands by way of surgery is also another possible solution. However, this option does come with its risks and should only be considered after extensive consultation with a vet.
Impacted/compacted anal glands are not always as serious a problem as they may sound; in fact, mostly every dog gets them at some point in their life.
Compacted glands are glands that experience buildup and which are unable to discharge naturally.
Usually, this is due to irregular or unstable bowel movements– such as when a dog experiences stomach distress and has bouts of runny, soft stool or diarrhea.
Anal glands ordinarily rely on the pressure exerted by regularly-sized, consistent stools to release their accrued substances. As softer-than-normal poop is unable to expend such forces, the amount of fluid accumulates continuously in the sacs.
Other risk factors for compacted anal glands and anal sac disease include:
- Size- Smaller dog breeds (Poodles, Chihuahuas, etc.) are more likely to experience this affliction
- Old age
- Poor muscle tone
- Food and environmental allergies
- Bacterial or yeast-related skin infections
As the substance builds up, it typically becomes harder and thicker– making it even more difficult to be spontaneously expelled during normal bowel movements.
The relentless accumulation of fluid stretches the glands, creates pressure, and ultimately results in discomfort, pain, and even infection if the buildup is prolonged.
In severe cases, anal sac abscesses can form when the gland becomes so infected and swollen that it eventually ruptures.
When a poor pup is affected by compacted anal glands/anal sac infection, you may notice it scooting around or licking at its bottom in an attempt to relieve the irritation.
You will most definitely notice the unavoidable smell as well– which is what brought you to this post in the first place!
Thus, if your dog has just experienced a sore stomach and diarrhea not too long ago (and/or fulfils some or all of the risk factors listed above), and is now still smelling after a recent expression:
It is definitely a possibility that it previously suffered from compacted anal sacs and may currently have a residual infection or inflammation.
In this case, it’s a good idea to have your dog examined by a vet for any such signs of infection, inflammation, or even for the existence of a tumor in the anal gland tissue.
From there, your vet will then be able to determine the best course of action moving forward for your pup, whether that be a repeated expression of the sacs, administration of antibiotics, a positive change in diet, or even a complete surgical removal of the glands.
Oh… The “Smell”. You know the one I’m talking about.
The moment that your dog’s glands are full and aren’t expressing properly on their own… you’ll know for sure.
When that fishy scent first hits you, it’s probably not because your pooch decided to spritz itself with Chanel K°9 ‘Pacific Poisson’.
The substances that are secreted inside a dog’s anal sacs usually serve as a chemical mode of communication between itself and fellow canine friends or strangers.
The specialized sweat glands contained within are what produces the foul-smelling, scent-marking secretions. This helps to explain why dogs are so fascinated by each other’s poops (so much so that they even eat them sometimes) and butts.
However, once you, poor human owner, can smell them too, that serves as a mode of communication that your pooch’s glands are full again and are in serious need of some (natural or manual) expressin’!
While these glands typically empty automatically when a dog goes to do a Number Two, overly full glands may leak even when the canine isn’t toileting.
This can include times when it is resting, sleeping, walking around, or being picked up. Sometimes dogs can even leak anal fluid when they are scared!
Apart from the despicable aroma, there are also other signs that can clue you into the fact that your dog’s glands are full (or that it has an anal sac infection or disease). These can include:
- White, cloudy substances leaking from the area
- Licking and biting at the anus
- Difficulty with bowel movements
- Scooting on the carpet and grass
- Sitting down abruptly and reluctance to walk
- Vocalization during defecation due to pain
- Depressed mood
- Objection to having their tail handled or lifted
- Hard, red lumps near the anal area
- Discoloration around the anus
- Bloody or pus-tinted stools
If you notice any (or a combination) of these things happening with your pup, it could be a clear indication that the anal glands are not emptying by themselves as they should.
If this is something that you know happens occasionally with your dog, it isn’t too big of an issue and will usually resolve by itself or with a one-off expression.
However, if it is a more frequent problem then it may be a good idea to make an appointment with your vet so that your dog can be properly examined and evaluated.
You will have discovered from reading the first section above that it is quite normal for a dog to still retain a bit of the fishy odor even after recently being expressed. This can occur even when the expression was thorough and professionally executed.
In the majority of cases, the bad smell lingers due to remnants of the fluid sticking to the fur around the dog’s rear end.
As such, cleaning up your pup’s behind with a baby or pet wipe (or even a wet paper towel!) can go a long way in reducing the unpleasant aroma.
Unfortunately these substances do have a tendency to be quite difficult to remove completely, so multiple attempts or combinations of methods may be necessary to reduce the pungency.
Here are a few other options you can try to maximize smell removal:
- Wash the rear end of your dog with diluted Dawn dish soap and water. Make sure to get the underside of the tail as well.
- You know what? Bathe the whole dog while you’re at it!
- It’s a good idea to wash any bedding, blankets, or pillows that your pup comes into contact with frequently as well- for smell and hygienic reasons
- Become familiar with the whole range of Glandex products for dogs. Extremely highly-rated across the board on Amazon and very well-tolerated;
Keep in mind that the gluteal area may be a little sensitive and red after a pooch has just undergone anal gland expression. This is completely normal, and should recede in the next few days.
Vaseline or a baby rash cream like Desitin can be used as a moisturizer to help to protect the area and keep it soothed. If it looks particularly irritated, an ice pack can also help- though this largely depends on whether your dog will allow it or not!
Licking of the rectal area is also quite common due to the itching or irritation that may be present. Though this is quite unappealing, it is largely harmless.
If the licking appears to be getting excessive, consider employing the use of a Comfy Cone E-collar to prevent the behavior. Remember, licking equals moisture, which in turn results in bacterial growth.
Bacteria mixed with anal gland fluid? Just perfect!
If at any point during the cleaning you come across blood, be aware that this is abnormal.
Blood can be an indication that there is an infection afoot, and this could be the cause of the unsavory smell rather than leaking anal sacs.
If you find yourself in this situation, contact your vet immediately for the appropriate antibiotic and antiseptic measures to take.
While wiping and bathing a dog’s behind can be effective temporary measures for making your dog smell fresher after an anal gland expression, they are exactly that- temporary.
Chances are your dog’s rear end will be emitting that inescapable fishy flavor in the future as well, whether or not its anal sacs are emptying properly.
The one proven, long-term solution to this problem is an appropriate diet. The healthier your pooch’s body, inside and out, the nicer it will naturally smell!
An inadequate diet will often lead to anal glands that are unable to empty effectively on their own. This is because the secretory organs are reliant on large, firm stools to release their fluids, so poop that is soft or runny will not have the same effect.
A high-quality diet will ensure that a dog’s bowels and digestive system stay in tip-top shape, and that everything functions as nature intended. It should contain the following components:
- Digestible, bioavailable protein sources
- Fiber-rich foods such as sweet potato, pumpkin, bran, and green beans
- Superior dog food ingredients that are low on allergens (Will also help with itchy skin!)
- Probiotic supplementation like FortiFlora or kefir to build beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Apart from diet, there are a few other supplemental ways that can help to prevent anal sac disease in your pup.
These include taking your dog out for exercise regularly, keeping it at a healthy weight, and making sure that it drinks plenty of water throughout the day.
Thankfully, anal gland conditions are usually pretty straightforward to treat and positive results can be achieved relatively quickly. Once the underlying cause is discovered and resolved, the accompanying smell should also disappear as well!
Anal gland removal is an option that may be available in certain situations, but it is generally not recommended for most dogs due to unnecessary risks and complications which may follow.
For example, a dog can end up with permanent fecal incontinence (read: inability to control bowel movements) after such surgery- which by all accounts is a MUCH worse problem than smelling like fish.
This can occur due to the highly delicate and specialized nature of the surgery. As the anal glands are removed, nerves that run through the surrounding soft tissue and which control the anal sphincters can become damaged.
While this damage usually resolves naturally in the majority of cases (though not without the dog experiencing a temporary lack of bowel control for 1-3 weeks), sometimes the infection and damage can be so deep that the trauma (and feces leakage) is permanent.
Surgery also carries with it the risks associated with general anesthesia, though these are typically insignificant.
While surgical removal may become the best option for chronic anal sac problems, impactions, or tumors, every other possible option should still be considered first before going down this route.
The first thing to note is that most dogs DO NOT NEED to have their anal glands manually expressed!
Unless your pup has a confirmed glandular issue, any dog groomer/handler that tries to convince or sell you otherwise is most likely acting irresponsibly for a few extra bucks and should be actively avoided.
I count myself among the lucky ones in that none of my three dogs have ever needed to have their glands expressed by a groomer or vet.
Thankfully, all three have fully-functioning anal sacs that empty a little bit each time they go to the toilet.
However, there are some dogs (especially smaller ones) that aren’t so fortunate.
For whatever reason, their anal glands either do not release enough or any fluids- even when the dog has a great diet and excretes perfectly firm poops!
This results in the organs that become irritated, leaky, impacted, and even infected.
In these situations, manual expression will then be necessary. Anal gland extraction is most commonly carried out by vets or groomers, but it is definitely possible to learn how to do it yourself as long as you don’t mind the smell!
Be aware however that even when a dog needs its anal sacs emptied by human intervention, it should only be done only when absolutely needed.
If anal glands are expressed too often, it can result in complications such as inflammation, infection, and scar tissue formation.
Also, if you know that your dog has/had compacted or abscessed anal sacs, any procedure should only be carried out by a experienced and trained vet. More harm than good can be caused if the correct process is not followed in these circumstances.
Expressing compacted anal glands requires delicate care and the use of softening agents or saline to loosen the dried compaction. Meanwhile, abscessed sacs need to be treated with sufficient antiseptics and antibiotics in order to counteract the infection.
If your pup has glands that need to be manually emptied- and which have been confirmed to not be impacted or abscessed by the vet- and would like to learn how to express them yourself, continue to the section below!
Once you are practiced enough, expressing a canine’s anal glands is actually a relatively simple procedure that takes all of five minutes.
However, it will take practice (and patience), so be mentally prepared for it to be a bit messy and smelly at least the first few attempts!
First things first: Unlike the professional groomer in the video above, you’re probably not as experienced in this aspect of canine care- so remember to wear gloves and have cleanup products on hand!
Gloves that you wear to express your dog’s anal glands should be disposable, durable, thin and preferably powder-free. One that meets these criteria is the MedPride Powder-Free Nitrile Gloves, which you can purchase from Amazon or your local drug store.
Here are the steps to follow:
Before getting started, try to get your dog to relax as much as possible. The more still they are, and the less they clench their bottom, the easier it will be for you.
Make sure that you are in a comfortable position yourself, and try to be level with your pooch’s rear end. Don’t forget the paper towels!
Locate the anal glands. Using your gloved hand, lift your dog’s tail out of the way and and feel the areas to either side and slightly below the anus (see below image).
If the anal glands are indeed full, you will be able to feel them distinctly. They may feel like two large, firm peas.
Begin expressing the liquid by gently milk the glands in an inwards-and-upwards motion. Never make the mistake of squeezing the sacs! Patiently massage upwards and watch to see if any substances are coming out.
If nothing seems to be coming out, adjust both your technique and the angle of which you are expressing. Once you see the first drops of liquid being expelled, continue the same motion till the glands are emptied and no more liquid can be extracted.
After the glands have been expressed fully, check that they are sufficiently empty by feeling for the sacs in the areas described in Step Two. They should feel flat and deflated at this point.
Give your dog’s rear end a good wipe with Glandex Wipes and reward it with a well-deserved treat!
If you can’t seem to massage any liquid out of the glands after several tries, leave it for the day. Continual failed attempts can lead to pain, irritation, and bruising.
If you still fail to extract any of the substances despite the glands clearly being full, it would be a good idea to consult your vet for further advice.
If full anal glands are a constant issue for your pup, a beneficial thing to do would be to take note of the amount of time it typically takes for the glands to fill up. This way, you will be able to know in advance approximately when the dog is due for another expression.
Once again, it is extremely important to emphasize that a dog’s anal sacs should be manually emptied only when absolutely necessary. A canine’s body is normally more than capable of taking care of itself!
If you’ve browsed through the above section and decided that stroking your dog’s butt till fishy liquid erupts just isn’t for you (and who can blame you, really), the best thing to do is to simply leave it to a trained groomer or vet!
So, how much does it cost to have a dog’s anal glands emptied by a professional?
The answer: It depends.
First of all, the most important thing when it comes to canine anal gland expression is to make sure that the person performing the procedure actually knows what they are doing.
It is vital that they know the difference between full and impacted/infected glands so that they do not simply press down on particularly difficult glands with brute force. Unsurprisingly, this can (and will) lead to serious damage.
Therefore, you will likely see prices ranging anywhere $5 at a grooming parlor to $50-$100 at the vet’s office. The average price for the procedure usually settles at around $25-40. Of course, this will differ from city to city, and clinic to clinic.
If you want my honest opinion though- Opt for the vet’s office, even if it will be more expensive. Vets are more likely to be more extensively-trained and experienced, and will likely do a better job.
Top Tip: Schedule the procedure during a routine check-up with your vet, rather than book an appointment specifically to have your dog’s anal glands expressed!
This way, the cost is usually cheaper as you will save on additional consultation fees that would otherwise have been charged. Also ask your vet for potential discounts if your pooch needs to have the procedure carried out regularly!
If you came into this article wondering, “Why is it that my dog still smells after its glands have been expressed?” Hopefully you’ve been able to find your answer today.
When a dog still smells after glands expressed, it’s usually one of four things:
- Anal gland fluids may have squirted onto surrounding areas of fur during the expression;
- Glands that have not been cleanly emptied;
- Glands that refill too quickly; or
- Glands that are compacted, abscessed, or infected.
Each possibility has its own specific solution.
The first is the most straightforward– simply clean the rear end of your dog either with Glandex pet wipes or a bath!
For glands that have not been expressed properly, or for anal sacs that refill too quickly, a newly scheduled appointment with a competent vet or groomer will do the trick.
If your dog requires regular attention in the area, you can even learn to express the glands yourself at home!
Finally, glands that are impacted, infected or abscessed will need professional veterinary treatment. This typically involves the use of antiseptic substances and oral antibiotics, as well as a change to a higher-quality diet.
Though smelly anal glands can be a bit of a pain-in-the-youknowwhat (pun intended), they are not typically too difficult to resolve. Tackle the issues directly, and you’ll have your fuzzy-scented best friend back in no time!
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.