6 Natural Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Anal Sac Distress

Does your dog have an itchy butt? Is your dog scooting across the floor? Anal gland or anal sac issues might be at play. After checking with your vet, help your dog's anal sac distress by getting his anal glands to regularly empty on their own with diet and exercise.

A dog's butt.
A dog's butt. Photography by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.

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Ever watch your furry friend “walk” by without the use of his paws? This exasperating little amble is often executed on some sort of textured surface — such as your new living room carpet or Aunt Emily’s heirloom Persian rug. But it can also be performed on hardwood, ceramic tile or the garage floor. To the uninitiated, it looks like some quirky canine-yoga move. The rest of us have a special name for it: dog scooting to relieve a dog’s itchy bum. And we know it’s just one sign of a dog’s anal sac woes.

Holistic veterinarian Dr. Jeffrey Feinman, V.M.D has noted that scooting dogs are often struggling with some sort of pesky posterior pain or discomfort. Sometimes, it’s just a freaky-yet-fleeting thing. Sometimes, it’s a parasite problem. But another key cause of derriere-related dog distress lies in an area commonly known as the “anal sacs” or “anal glands.” And yes, you can probably sense it’s officially time to put down whatever you were eating. Because as pet parents, we need to understand how a dog’s anal sac functions — and when it’s poised to cause serious (and expensive) health issues.

The Anatomy of … Your Dog’s Anal Sac

A merle coated dog looking back, showing his butt.
What is your dog’s anal sac? What are dog anal glands? Photography ©GlobalP | Thinkstock.

First, a quick anatomical overview of your dog’s rear end and a dog’s anal sac. Envision, for just a nanosecond, the point right beneath the tail where your pup poops. Good, that’s plenty; now take deep cleansing breaths while I explain that the anal glands are two tiny sacs situated within that opening, on either side.

This biological feature has existed in wild animals for thousands of years. The material secreted into them is profoundly unpleasant — thick, oily, kinda fishy-smelling. But it’s useful to wild animals like skunks, who can empty these glands at will in threatening situations. Our domesticated dogs have largely lost this ability — but the anal glands have hung around to fill up regardless.

Usually, everyday defecation helps empty a dog’s anal glands, but sometimes — as I’ve discovered with several of my own dogs — that’s not the case. When the glands remain full for too long, they can become impacted and extremely uncomfortable. And if the situation continues to worsen, an abscess can form and then rupture. This actually happened to Maizy, and it required expensive emergency surgery, antibiotics, the oh-so-cruel Cone of Shame, and eight days of stomach-upsetting pain medication.

What If a Dog’s Anal Sac Needs to be Emptied Every Few Weeks?

So if your sweet pup simply won’t stop scooting around or chewing at his itchy, uncomfortable bum, consult your vet immediately. A rupture is an emergency situation. However, if the vet simply detects some (ahem) fullness in your dog’s anal sac, you’ve got options. The first is manual draining. Not to mince words, but this is a strong, solid 9.5 on the gross-out meter. Really, don’t try it yourself. Done improperly, it can cause severe injury. Done properly, your house could still reek for days. Having dealt with this dog-related issue for years, I’d suggest cheerfully doling out a few dollars and having it done at your vet’s office. It’s a non-surgical procedure that takes only a few minutes  — and your canine returns to you clean, comfy and fresh as a daisy.

If you find that your dog’s anal sac needs to be emptied every few weeks or more, think long and hard before considering the permanent removal of a dog’s anal sac. This is definitely a surgical procedure — and because it can disrupt delicate nerve pathways, it can occasionally lead to incontinence, infections and other chronic complications. Instead, consider trying these natural home remedies to ease your dog’s anal sac distress. In combination over time, they can often eliminate — or at least minimize — the angst and aversion caused by this unpleasant issue.

1. Increase fiber

Pumpkin puree.
Adding pumpkin to your dog’s diet will increase their fiber intake. Photography by Liliya Kandrashevich / Shutterstock.

This has been a magic bullet for my dog’s anal sac distress. We add a teaspoon of Metamucil to her morning meal, and then give her a teaspoon of ground flax later in the day. Both dietary supplements have a stool-softening effect, which can help the glands empty on their own. We also let Maizy snack on high-fiber treats like baby carrots or dried sweet potato, and every so often, we treat her to a tablespoon of plain, fiber-rich pumpkin.

You may be thinking, “that’s a lot of fiber for one furry friend,” and it’s true. Every dog responds differently. That’s why it’s important to start small and increase very gradually. Begin with just a half-teaspoon of Metamucil or another psyllium fiber supplement daily, and work up until you notice slight stool softening.

2. Increase moisture to your dog’s food

Some dogs just aren’t wowed by their water bowl. One simple solution is to add more liquid directly to their food. You can also invest in a pet drinking fountain. Instinctively, many pets find moving water more palatable than a plain, tepid, motionless puddle.

3. Decrease your dog’s weight

According to Dr. Junia Borden Childs D.V.M, a dog’s anal sac issues are often a symptom of broader systemic issues. Perhaps this is one reason why pudgy pups are more likely to struggle. That certainly doesn’t mean skinny dogs like Maizy are off the hook, but if your pooch is packing a few extra pounds, switching foods or going on a diet might help alleviate pressure so the sacs can empty more easily.

Read labels carefully, and choose options with real meat as a top ingredient. Notice animal byproducts, cheap carbohydrate fillers or weird additives you can’t pronounce? Put the package down, and try an established whole-food brand.

4. Boost beneficial bacteria with probiotics

Re-fortifying with canine-formulated probiotics can also help encourage your dog’s anal glands to empty on their own. Well-respected brands include Prozyme Digestive Enzyme Supplement and Digest-All Plus. Simply follow the dosing instructions on the package.

5. Apply a warm compress

Dr. Childs and other vets have noted that holding a warm washcloth against the under-tail region can sometimes encourage natural drainage. Try soaking a washcloth in warm water infused with 1 to 2 teaspoons of Epsom salt or Witch Hazel. Hold this in place for five to 10 minutes, twice per day, every day. Wear household gloves, and use a clean cloth each time.

6. Exercise!

Regular exercise encourages consistent elimination and elimination encourages anal sac emptying. Thinking back to high school math class, we might term this the transitive property of anal sac triumph.

Tell us: Have you encountered dog anal sac or dog anal gland issues? Share your insights about your dog’s anal sac distress.

Thumbnail: Photography by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2016.

38 thoughts on “6 Natural Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Anal Sac Distress”

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  2. As gross as this sounds, I’ve trained my dog to empty his own.. every weekend, we put him in the doggy bath and I hold a towel in front of his butt and he squirts away.. at first I was holding a warm towel and squeezing myself but now he does it himself and I don’t have to squeeze.. he’s always had leakage issues and can’t sleep with anyone because he’ll squirt you while sleeping… eeewww .. this weekly squirt encouragement has calmed that down greatly. We’ve tried special butt scoot powders to bulk up the stools but they never helped.

  3. I have a 12 year old shih-tzu and never had anal sac issue – never saw her scoot. I wash her butt everytime she does her number 2.

    1. I have a shih-tzu and he has to have his glands done by the vet…internal expression. Have tried a lot of things..nothing left. The things that let him go for longer periods are glandex and bone broth. Pumpkin works good but he won’t eat it but about twice a week.
      Fussy little dogs but such a great companion.

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  5. Kayla M Anderson

    I do a spoon full of organic pumpkin puree with my dogs super as well as some bone broth onto of their dry food for each meal. They are very active dogs too which helps. They have had very stinky fish smelling anal sac issues. When I stick to this, it really helps them. My one dog was biting and licking the area often and her breath would be awful. They both would Scott on the ground often. Now they are both doing much better.

    1. I changed my Junebug’s diet to no chicken. It worked! If you decide to try this option please read all labels….you’ll be surprised how many contain chicken or some kind of chicken byproduct. I just tested her again, feeding her some roasted chicken and she is scooting. I won’t do that again. No chicken or turkey works.

    2. Kim can I ask the name/type of the dog food you switched to? I’m hoping this would help my dog as well. I’ve tried lots of stuff.

  6. It’s interesting to learn more about our dogs anal sac. I didn’t realize that it needs to be emptied so that it doesn’t cause chronic complications or anything! Getting food that’s high in fiber is a great idea, so I’ll make sure to try that, like you said.

    1. Just wanted to say, not every dog needs help with emptying their anal glands. Most dogs empty their glands just fine on their own and it can actually cause problems if you start having a dogs anal glands emptied when they do not need it. But, yes, their are some dogs that really do need to have help by getting their anal glands expressed. It is a problem especially with the smaller dogs. I have a Chihuahua that needs it done about every 6-8 weeks even though he is on a high fiber diet and gets pumpkin every day. If your dog starts licking a whole lot and scooting then that usually means they need help and you should get him checked by a vet . Most Groomer’s will express anal glands also if asked. Just don’t let them unless you know your dog needs them expressed. Most Groomer’s used to always do it to all dogs as a courtesy regardless if they need it done or not and it caused problems with dogs that did not have anal glands issues, so I think that most Groomer’s quit doing it unless asked to.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for reaching out and so sorry that your dog is experiencing this. We suggest reaching out to a vet to get the best help on this situation — perhaps a different vet would be best if you did not like the experience with your current vet.

    2. Hi Stephanie, I am so sorry that you and your fur baby are having such problems. I don’t have any advice that might help. I just wanted to reach out and express sorrow re: the problems your furry friend and you are having. I pray that you will find a vet that can help you both.

    3. Hi I’m so sorry this is a late reply but I’ve only just read your post. I must say it sounds to me as if lifting his tail right up for that length of time has caused some damage to his spine. I have certainly never heard of them doing this sort of thing before and I have 4 fur babies. I hope you have managed to find some answers for your baby and it sounds as though you were doing everything you can. Lots of love Debbie XXX

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  9. My dog just died of anal sac cancer. The tumor was very aggressive. We took him to the vet because he was constantly drinking water. They found it with an ultrasound. The recommendation was not to put him through the surgery, radiation, and six months of chemo. He lived two months from the time we found out. He was ten years old. We are devastated.

    1. Charles Venango Jr

      I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved pet. The pain involved with the loss of a great friend and companion is deep. I wish you all the best and that one day soon another little life can come in to rescue your loving heart.

    2. So sorry! I found a comforting book called For Every Dog an Angel, also a journaling book The Kingdom of Heart, Also, The Pet Loss Companion, i just now read your cmmt, so sorry to hear

    3. Marilyn im so sorry about ur fur baby going to tbr rainbow ? Bridge.. know he is always with you. sending u love and hope and hugs. xoxo

    4. in THE BIBLE several places state animals will be with us in 'heaven'. i got 2 dogs there now. call me if u want to know anything about anything have a good one i have a dog named loyd pug] michaelspersan420@gmail.com anytime

  10. I had this problem with my chocolate lab and beyond a doubt it is the worst smell I have ever encountered. We went to the vet and she excused herself, dog in tow and manually emptied the sacs. She told us to try some psyllium powder which I happened to have at home. I put half a teaspoon in her morning and evening food and the problem was gone within a week. We continue to do this each day and we have not had the problem come back and that was two years ago.

    1. Our dog vet said use couple teaspoon pumpkin help anal gland I bought baby food pumpkin with water only in it she has every morning 3 teaspoons and a fish oil capsule for her dry coat mix in it ok?

    2. I have a 4yr. Old female chi-weenie that I rescued last year. I find myself taking her to the vet. About every 4-6 wks. To have her anal sacs expressed. She is overweight and is on a dry kibble that I buy at the vet. I take her for 2-3 walks per day for approx. 20 minutes each. She is fed twice a day, and I also give her a TBSP of pumpkin with each meal. It was determined about 9 months ago that she had a Thyroid problem, so she is now on medication for that as well. Is there anything else I could be doing to help her? I’d love to see her lose a few lbs., and not have to go to the vet. So often to relieve the anal gland situation.

      1. #1 get her off of the dry kibble you buy at the Vet. Pu her on a RAW diet ONLY (hat’s the way all dog’s are suppose to eat regardless of what a “vet” says). She more then likely has an allergy & chicken, along w/ all of the other toxic unnatural things in the food, are causing her to have issues. I suggest Aunt Jeni’s Digestive Aid & Primal Food (raw of course). You can make your own raw food for her too but start w/ an excellent brand such as Primal to get her started (petvalu has it as well as other pet boutique type stores). If you keep getting her anal glands squeezed excessively like you are doing they will NEVER learn how to do it naturally anymore. All of these things should fix the “Thyroid problem” as well.

        Dog Anal Glands: DIY Solutions That Work

  11. Pingback: Let's Talk Dog Anal Glands — Common Issues and How They're Treated – Sporty Pets

  12. I have a dog and its a yorkie and today i discovered that he was scooting. And it seem to bother him alot . And i dont know what to do i dont know what he has. I dont kmow if its his anal sacs but if i tried these things do u think it will ease down the itching ?

    1. Hi Noelia,
      These articles might help provide insight and we also suggest you contact a vet:

    2. I have the same problem with my Yorkie. At night she wakes me up licking the underside of her tail close to her body. I had her to the vet tech for anal gland expression, but it’s not that. I bath her weekly, which seems to give her relief for a day, then back at it. I go over her with a flea comb every night and haven’t seen anything.
      Now O am spraying her butt and tail with Wondercide natural flea and tick spray. I have also added organic pumpkin to her food. Her stools are regular and firm. This is a process of elimination. If all these measures don’t work, it is either parasites or allergies. I will get a stool test and tests for allergies, if necessary. I can’t stand that she is so itchy it wakes her up at night!

  13. Marilyn Drechsler

    Months on antibiotics, then tried steroidpills stop itching now back again itching around anal and tails 3x at vets, last had a bath. Nothing seems to help good for about week then back to itching. What to do next HELP

  14. My dog is not scooting he banging his bottom half up against anything he can is that analysis gland problem it’s distressing him

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