How To Get Rid of Dog Anal Gland Smell

Written by Dr. James Bascharon

Dogs can have a variety of scents, but one of the less pleasant odors your furry friend might emit is that fishy smell. While it may not be due to an affinity for sardines, it often stems from secretions from the anal glands.

Understanding Anal Glands

Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are small pouches located on either side of your dog's anus. These sacs contain specialized sweat glands that produce a unique-smelling secretion, which serves as a scent marker for dogs. When your dog defecates, these secretions are released onto their feces, conveying vital chemical information to other dogs. This explains the inquisitive behavior your dog displays toward other dogs' poop.

Dogs also "express" their anal sacs when scared, emitting a rather odorous scent. This characteristic aroma is often described as fishy. If your dog consistently smells like fish, it's a strong indicator of potential anal gland issues.

Common Anal Sac Problems

Anal sac issues, collectively referred to as anal sac disease, are prevalent, especially among small and overweight dogs. The following problems may arise:

  • Impactions

    Normally, a dog's anal glands empty partially with each bowel movement. However, if the sacs aren't fully emptied, their contents can dry up and cause impactions. This condition is painful for dogs, and if left untreated, it can lead to abscesses. Impactions can occur due to anal sac abnormalities or soft stool, which doesn't adequately express the glands.

  • Infections and Abscesses

    Anal glands can become infected and may even develop abscesses if not treated promptly. This condition is painful and often requires veterinary intervention, including antibiotics and pain medication.

  • Anal Sac Tumors

    Tumors in the anal glands hinder a dog's ability to express them naturally. They can make the glands feel firm and enlarged, and diagnosing them usually requires a biopsy and ultrasound.

Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease

In addition to the fishy smell, there are other signs of anal sac disease, including scooting on the floor, excessive licking or biting of the anus, difficulty defecating, vocalization during bowel movements, and the presence of a hard lump near the rectum. If you notice these symptoms, consult your veterinarian promptly.

Factors That Increase the Risk

Several conditions can increase the likelihood of anal sac disease, including obesity, food and environmental allergies, hypothyroidism, skin mites, and bacterial or yeast skin infections.

How To Get Rid of Dog Anal Gland Smell

If your dog exhibits a fishy smell, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian. They may recommend the following:

Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands

Manually emptying the anal glands is a procedure that can resolve the odor. However, over-expressing the glands can lead to inflammation and scar tissue, so it should only be done when necessary.

High Fiber Diet

For impacted anal sacs, your veterinarian will provide assistance, possibly using softening agents or saline rinses. A higher fiber diet may be recommended to help your dog express their anal sacs naturally.

Anal Gland Supplements

There are also various anal gland wipes and supplements available to address underlying anal gland issues, such as Glandex.

Antiseptic & Antibiotics

In cases of infections or abscesses, the affected area is cleaned with an antiseptic and treated with antibiotics. Hot compresses may be recommended, and multiple flushings may be necessary for complete resolution.


In severe cases, surgical removal of the anal sacs may be required, particularly for anal sac disease that doesn't respond to treatment or in the case of anal sac tumors. While there may be potential complications, most procedures are successful and do not adversely affect your dog's quality of life.

Use Pet Wipes for Dog Anal Glands

Pet wipes, like Glandex Wipes, are specifically designed to assist in cleaning the anal region after anal gland expression as well as to help support healthy anal glands. Glandex Wipes contain DeoPlex® natural enzymatic deodorizers that don’t mask, but eliminate bad odors.

How To Prevent The Dog Anal Gland Smell

While it's not always possible to prevent anal sac issues, there are measures you can take.

Provide Your Dog With an Appropriate Diet Rich in Fiber

One of the primary causes of anal gland problems in dogs is a lack of fiber in their diet. Fiber plays a crucial role in promoting healthy digestion and can help prevent anal gland issues. Ensure your dog's diet includes high-fiber foods like vegetables, pumpkin, or specialized dog food designed to support digestive health. Consult your veterinarian for dietary recommendations tailored to your dog's specific needs.

Monitor Your Dog's Stool For Consistency

Keeping an eye on your dog's stool consistency is vital for preventing anal gland problems. Loose or soft stools are more likely to fail to stimulate the anal glands during bowel movements, leading to blockages and odor issues. If you notice changes in your dog's stool, consult your vet to address potential dietary or health issues promptly.

Regular Baths & Grooming

Proper grooming and regular baths are essential to preventing the buildup of odor and discomfort associated with anal gland problems. A clean and well-groomed dog is less likely to develop issues. Pay special attention to the area around the anal glands during grooming, and consider using dog-specific wipes, such as Glandex Wipes, to maintain cleanliness between baths.

Offer Plenty of Fresh, Clean Water

Hydration is key to overall health, including proper digestion. Ensure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. A well-hydrated dog is less likely to experience constipation, which can lead to anal gland issues. Make it a habit to refill your dog's water bowl regularly, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

Provide Your Dog with Probiotics & Digestive Supplements

Probiotics and digestive supplements can be a valuable addition to your dog's daily routine. These supplements help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, promoting smooth digestion. A healthy digestive system reduces the risk of anal gland problems. Glandex Chews contain both prebiotics and probiotics to promote healthy GI function as well as soluble and insoluble fibers to help firm and bulk stool.

No More Fishy Smells

Understanding and managing anal gland issues in dogs is essential for their well-being and odor control. If your dog has a persistent fishy smell or displays symptoms of anal sac disease, consult your veterinarian promptly. With proper care and attention, you can keep your furry friend free from the unpleasant aroma of fish and ensure their overall health and comfort.

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