Anal Gland Expression and Choosing a Premium Dog Food

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell, and I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best’s Facebook page. The first question comes from Linda who writes, “I have to take my dog into the vet every two weeks for anal gland expressions or else they leak. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?”

This can be really a frustrating problem. Anal glands are really stinky. They’re basically underdeveloped scent glands that dogs have that are normally used to kind of mark their territories. In a normal dog, a little bit should probably be expressed every time they defecate. For some reason, your dog isn’t doing that the way that it would normally happen. When dogs are really relaxed, sometimes this fluid can leak out a little bit.

Getting the dog in regularly to have the glands emptied is one way that you can keep it from happening. Some other things that you might try, there are some things that you can do to kind of bulk up the stool a little bit so that every time your dog defecates it’s more likely to do sort of some expression and squeezing on its own. Fiber is a good way to do this. Most dogs like canned pumpkin, which is a pretty good source of fiber. You could try that, depending on the size of your dog. You can talk with your veterinarian about how much is appropriate. You could also do human fiber supplements, but, again, talk with your veterinarian about what dose would be appropriate for your dog.

The next question comes from Keshla who says, “Do you recommend premium or holistic foods? Which are better?” This is a really good question. There’s a lot of dog food out there, and it can be hard to know what to buy and what brands to use. A premium dog food generally refers to a dog food that has maybe higher quality ingredients, a little bit more quality control, not as much fillers is in it, whereas a holistic dog food might be more organic, preservative free, hormone free, that type of thing.

I think both types have a great place. I think either one of them are going to be far superior to sort of your grocery store brands that are a little bit less expensive and tend to have a lot of fillers. If the price is too good to be true, it probably really is too good to be true. Whatever works best for your pet and whatever your pet does best on is probably going to be fine, either a premium food or a holistic food.

If you guys have questions for me about your pet, feel free to post them at


  • green cleaning

    I’ve been hearing more and more that watermelon is a wonderful way to detox the kidneys.

  • Dominick

    I don’t get it.. why would you go in to the vets? I do it myself!!!

    Take a tissue, press on both sides and call it good. That is a waste of money and I’m surprised that Pets Best would keep paying for this under insurance.

    Just saying.

  • Carmel Cameron

    This was a good article. I have this problem with my maltepo. I have to take her in every two weeks and it costs $17.38 every time. Very expensive. It’s too bad that this cannot be part of an insurance policy but no policies that I have checked covers it especially since this seems to be a major problem for a lot of pet owners. I tried to do it myself but I just don’t have the guts to do it for fear I may hurt her since she is so fragile, only 5 pounds. Thank you so much for the recognition of this issue with pets.

  • Sandra

    My Boxer is going on 3 years now. After a rough 1 1/2 years with stomach problems I’ve found that giving her food with lamb and rice is best for her. I also give her plain brown rice and oatmeal once a week and I add flax seed to her food 3x’s a week. Shes been doing very well and is a happy healthy crazy pup.

  • JillyBean

    Being overweight affects the function of anal glands, too. If a dog has too much fat in pads around their rear end, the glands won’t get pressure as the feces moves past, which keeps them from being expressed naturally. If they’re just full, and not impacted or infected, and you’re not squeamish, you can get the vet to show you how to do it at home. It’s really not difficult, once you get over how gross and odd it is (and you’re not hurting the dog … compare your finger to the size of what comes out lol).

  • Nina

    When our little Shih Tzu is groomed, every 6-8 weeks, we always make sure that our groomer takes care of his anal gland. We stress this and they always say that will or have done it, so we have to take their word for it, and he has had no rubbing or scooting on the floor problems – unless something is clinging there.

  • Deb

    Take a tissue and press? Down? Together?

  • Linda

    I had a foster Poodle and a Shih Tzu groomed and gland expressed. The poor dogs scooted for 3 days after. I found out that the proper way to express is to do so from inside not pressing from outside. Groomers press from outside. You must go to a vet to have it done from inside or learn to do it yourself. I will never let a groomer express a dog again.

  • erni ruslie

    Pets Best is actually NOT covering the anal gland expression.

  • Juanita

    Anal Gland? What is it and what should I be looking for? I have noticed that my 6 year old Bichon scoots on her behind lately. Is this something I should be aware of or looking for?

  • Louise

    I have schipperkes, and when the tails were docked, it also can damage their ability to express their anal glands. My first schip scooted, letting me know it was time. My second girl never showed a problem, until one night when I noticed a tennis ball sized protrusion near her anus, necessitating an emergency vet trip, for a impacted/infected anal gland, which had to be incised and cleaned. Very painful, and took time to heal. So now I have it down to a science- every 9 weeks, both my girls go to the vet for the INTERNAL anal gland expression. I always ask how full and quality of stuff, so I can compare and keep them on schedule. An ounce of prevention….


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