Anal Glands – Cleaning

How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands

Laura from New Jersey wrote:

I’ve been grooming on my own for 4 years and trained under a groomer who never cleaned anal glands. I’ve been asked by customers if I would and I’ve always repeated what she told her customers, “That should only be done by a veterinarian.”
I know that this can be a hot topic for some vets and groomers, but I’ve been told that many groomers clean glands routinely.
What is your take on the subject? Is this a service groomers should offer? After grooming for so long, I’m embarrassed to admit that I do not know how. Should I ask my veterinarian to teach me?

Hi Laura,

I do believe that groomers (and some owners) should know how to express anal glands. Whether or not you offer this service should be your decision. I personally do not express glands routinely, but only when needed. (Click here to understand more about anal glands)

There are 2 ways to express anal glands, internally and externally. Leave the internal procedure to your veterinarian. This is dangerous and painful.

External cleansing of the gland is easy. Check the anal area as follows, before the bath.
(I always look when clipping the anal area with a #10 blade)

    1.Have someone hold the dog’s head or restrain with a loop on your grooming table or tub.
    2.With the dog standing, lift upward on the base of the tail firmly.
    3.Examine the anal area. Below the rectum at 5 and 7 o’clock are the 2 glands. Feel this area with the tips of you index finger and thumb. If they are swollen, they can be expelled.
    4.Place a paper towel, tissue or baby wipe covering the area to catch the secretion.
    5.Gently press below this swelling, inward and upward toward the rectum. You should see anal fluid excrete from the rectum. You can increase pressure until nothing comes out.

This fluid can be white, tan, brown, black or bloody. It can be watery, granular, like pudding or dough. Guaranteed it will smell horrible. Also be warned that it can ooze out slowly or expel explosively on you and your surroundings.

Signs that the dog needs to see a veterinarian:

    1.Blood in the secretion
    2.A hole in the skin from one of the glands. This is an abscessed anal gland that has ruptured.

In the second case, don’t groom the dog, call the owner and refer them to a vet immediately.

When should you expel the gland?

    1.The customer says the dog’s been scooting (dragging is rear)
    2.When you notice very swollen glands.

When asked by a client to routinely express the gland, I reply that I will check it. Routine cleansing is not effective and can actual cause problems. (Also see explanation below)

When I’ve found it necessary to express the glands, I tell the client to expect the dog to lick or scoot for a day or so. If the irritation lasts longer, it may need a second cleaning.

Good luck and good grooming.
Peggy

Our Policy

We have reviewed this policy with two highly respected veterinarians, who gave us their 100% seal of approval.

When you groom a dog, you need to examine every inch of skin and fur including the anal area, removing excessive hair and clean away any debris. Also look for signs of problems with the anal gland, and if a problem exists, (indicated by swelling, soreness, oozing and odor) you may choose to express the gland. If it appears infected, refer the owner to his or her veterinarian. If there is not a problem,  leave it alone.

Routinely cleaning a healthy anal gland has no benefit and can actually cause harm by disturbing the natural balance of the secretions or by causing irritation.

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