All You Need To Know About Your Dog’s Anal Glands (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Two words that both confound and terrify some dog owners: Anal Glands.

What are they? What are they for? Why do they smell so bad? And why can’t they be removed? There are no doubt many more questions regarding the importance of these two grape-sized glands, and one fact we know for sure; they’re certainly nothing to be afraid of.

Owning a dog can be a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. And if that someone is you, it helps to understand how to keep your pet healthy and happy.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Anal gland infection can pose a serious health issue for dogs.


Here’s what you need to know about your dog’s anal glands:

What are they?

Humans and dogs have different anatomies, so it’s natural for people to misunderstand what these glands actually are. For starters, they come in pairs. There are typically two small pouches on either side of the anus, “between the internal and external anal sphincter muscles,” PetMD, reports.

The glands secrete a mixture of sebaceous oil and sweat through the anus, which can easily be smelled, and often just as easily seen. The secretions are brown in color, which pet owners may confuse for fecal matter, as it’s released each time a dog poops.

Source: Pexels Do you check your pet's anal glands regularly?

Source: Pexels
Do you check your pet’s anal glands regularly?


What are they for?

Anal glands essentially act as a natural form of identification for your dog. If another were to give it a sniff (and we’ve all seen that before), it could discern your pet’s age, sex, and health.

The glands serve other purposes, too. According to the American Kennel Club, anal gland excretions may help dogs pass hard stools easier. Others maintain they release pheromones, which dogs use as territorial markers.

It’s also possible that the glands once served a much more important purpose than they do today. Domesticated dogs see less benefit to marking their territory than their wild ancestors. Many years from now, we may see the anal gland go the way of the appendix. However, just like the appendix, these organs can still pose a serious health risk if issues are overlooked.

Click the button below to learn what can happen if these glands are ignored

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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