The Ideal Diet to Keep Your Dog’s Anal Gland Disease-Free

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

The Ideal Diet to Keep Your Dog’s Anal Gland Disease-Free
Reading Time: 7 minutes

joana garridoReviewed By Joana Garrido DVM

Dog anal gland impaction is reported to affect an estimated 2% to 12% of dogs. This medical condition rarely becomes life-threatening but can reoccur several times throughout a dog’s lifetime if not cautiously managed.

Let us delve into the causes and symptoms of anal gland impaction in dogs and learn about the health complications it can cause. We will also give you helpful pointers on how to create an anal gland impaction preventative diet for your canine companion.

What Are Dog Anal Glands?

back facing puppiesAnal glands are two small grape-sized pockets located on each side of a dog’s anus, just between the external and internal sphincter muscles. Both of these sacs are connected to a small tube that contains a distinctive malodorous fluid.

Dog anal glands are not unique to a particular sex. It is present in both male and female canines.

What Is the Purpose of Dog Anal Glands?

The anal sacs of dogs function as scent glands. The fluid inside the organ has an oily texture and a fishy smell that provides information about the approximate age, health, and sex of Fido to other pooches.

It is the main reason why our four-legged friends have a peculiar habit of sniffing each other’s butts.

The stinky fluid in the anal glands of dogs is also used to mark their territories via feces. When pooches eliminate, their feces moves through the anus and expresses the sacs, resulting in the secretion of the fluid.

How Do Dog Anal Glands Become Impacted?

Healthy anal glands in dogs are naturally expressed through regular bowel movements. However, several factors can prevent this process from happening properly, which can lead to impaction. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Poor diet
  • Injury or trauma to the anal sacs
  • Sphincter muscle dysfunction
  • Anal gland fluid overproduction
  • Generalized seborrhea (which produces glandular hypersecretion)

When dogs have impacted anal glands, it prevents the fluid inside the organ from getting

excreted. The fluid will eventually thicken into a pasty brown substance and cause blockage.

If not given proper attention, dog anal glands may become swollen, distended, and infected. This condition can make it difficult and painful for pooches to pass stools.

What Happens If the Anal Gland of Dogs Become Impacted?

a poodle on sofaImpaction of anal glands in dogs is the beginning of anal sac disease. It develops into an infection brought on by bacterial overgrowth in the sacs. As a result, pus-filled abscesses will begin to form.

If they burst, bloody pus is released to the anus and rectum, further spreading the infection. Severe cases of anal sac disease may require surgical removal of the glands.

Anal gland impaction in dogs can reoccur again. As stated in a 2021 study, impaction and inflammation tend to manifest after 4 to 5 months on average. Anal sac abscessation recurs 10 months on average.

Which Breeds Are More Prone to Dog Anal Gland Impaction?

Any dog can suffer from anal gland impaction, but small dog breeds are observed to be the most commonly affected by this health issue, including:

  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel crosses
  • King Charles Spaniel
  • Poodle
  • Shih Tzu

Additionally, research shows that Spaniel breeds are 2.09 times more susceptible to anal gland issues than non-Spaniel-type dogs.

Brachycephalic breeds are 2.64 times more likely to face problems with their anal glands than long-faced breeds. Lastly, Dachshund breeds have a 1.38 higher risk of developing anal gland disorders than non-Dacshund-type dogs.

Aside from breed, age is also another predisposing factor to dog anal gland impaction. According to a study, anal gland issues are more often seen in dogs at the age of 5.6 years old.

This finding suggests that adult dogs and older canines are more susceptible to developing this health problem compared to puppies.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Dog Anal Gland Impaction?

a spaniel looking uncomfortableThe clinical signs of an impacted anal gland in dogs are:

  • Scooting
  • Bloody stool
  • Presence of pus in feces
  • Abnormal discharge in the anal area
  • Difficulty in eliminating
  • Persistent licking of the anal area

While some dogs may manifest most of these symptoms, it is not uncommon for other canines to only experience swelling and inflammation around their anus.

Thus, we recommend getting your dog diagnosed by a veterinarian even if he only shows slight signs of irritation in his perianal area.

How Does Your Dog’s Diet Come Into Play in Anal Gland Impaction?

a selection of healthy ingridents for dogs

There is no definitive proof that diet contributes to the development of anal gland impaction in dogs.

However, experts have anecdotal evidence that meat-based diets may induce anal sac problems in dogs. In a study, 60% of canines with anal gland disorders were on an all-meat diet.

It indicates that there is an extreme lack of crude fiber in their meals. This can make dogs’ stools soft and runny, causing abnormalities in defecation.

As the feces are not firm and compressed, they are significantly less effective in expressing the anal glands of dogs. It consequently results in the buildup of anal gland fluid, which increases the risk of impaction.

How Does High-Fiber Diet Help with Preventing Dog Anal Gland Impaction?

12 high fiber food for dogs with anal gland problems infographicIncreasing the fiber intake of dogs can help hasten the passing of rectal contents and make defecation easier for them.

Most importantly, fiber also promotes the formation of bulky and firm stools, which aids in the natural expression of the anal glands.

If you are looking for healthy high-fiber foods for your canine companion, here is a table of options you can add to your list:

FoodTotal Dietary Fiber (g/100 g)
Bitter Gourd16.6
Wheat Germ14
Whole Grain Wheat12.6
Sesame Seeds7.78

Skins of fruits and vegetables have higher dietary fiber content compared to their flesh. Thus, as much as possible, do not remove the skin of fruits and veggies with edible peels when feeding them to your dog.

What Are Other Dietary Changes That Help Prevent Dog Anal Gland Impaction?

Consider implementing the following dietary changes to reduce your furry pal’s chances of developing anal sac issues:

1. Feed Your Dog Natural Sources of Prebiotics.

Naturally occurring prebiotic compounds such as inulin, beta-glucan, and oligofructose can be found in certain types of food such as:

The beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract of dogs feed on these substances to maintain a stable population.

Keeping the gut microbiome of canines healthy helps facilitate regular bowel movement, ensure proper food digestion, and bulk up stools.

2. Increase the Moisture Content of Your Dog’s Diet.

Dogs with low water intake are at risk of dehydration, which is the primary cause of constipation.

Constipated canines tend to strain when passing stools. It can contribute to the worsening of dog anal gland problems. Hence, make an extra effort to increase your furry pal’s water intake.

Some simple yet useful ideas you can try are:

  • Providing your dog with more water bowls and placing them in his favorite areas in your home.
  • Regularly replacing his water every day to keep it tasting fresh.
  • Mixing low-fat and sodium-free broth into your dog’s water to improve its taste.
  • Combining fruits and veggies with high water content in his meals like watermelon, cucumbers, and broccoli.
  • Adding water to dry food to give its moisture content a significant boost

3. Give Your Dog Supplements Good for Anal Gland Health.

According to studies, three fiber sources greatly help improve the fecal volume and defecation frequency of dogs, which promotes regular expression of their anal glands, namely psyllium hull, cellulose, and beet pulp.

Psyllium hull

Psyllium hull is high in soluble fiber, which absorbs water from your dog’s intestines to form normal-sized stools. It prevents diarrhea and constipation, which contribute to anal disease in canines.

Mix ½ teaspoon of psyllium hull per 10 pounds of body weight into your dog’s meals twice daily.

Digestive enzyme supplements with cellulose

Digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down ingested food. In some cases, dogs only produce a low amount of them due to health issues like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

Giving them digestive enzyme supplements provides additional aid in digestion and prevents stalling of food and fecal transit.

Be sure to choose digestive enzyme supplements containing cellulose since it absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool.

Cellulose is not a digestive enzyme found in canines. Thus, some supplements for dogs skip adding it as an ingredient. For this reason, always check the ingredients list of products.

Beet pulp

Beet pulp has the ability to hasten the flow of alimentary tract content toward the anus of dogs, thereby increasing their frequency of elimination. Canines can have up to a tablespoon of mashed beet pulp a day.

Before making any changes to your dog’s diet, discuss them with a veterinarian or a certified veterinarian nutritionist. They will assist you in choosing the most appropriate course of action for your beloved dog.

FAQs About Dog Anal Glands

dog's anal glands

1. Can Dogs Empty Their Anal Glands?

Yes, dogs can empty their anal glands through regular bowel movements. During defecation, the fecal transit expresses the anal glands and relieves them of the fluids they contain.

2. Is It Safe to Squeeze Your Dog’s Glands to Express Them?

No, it is not safe to squeeze your dog’s glands to express them. Carrying it out by yourself can accidentally rupture the sacs or cause other serious injuries.

Thus, we advise against manually expressing your dog’s anal glands at home. It would be best to have a professional do it for his safety. So be sure to take him to the vet.

3. Are Anal Sacs in Dogs Cancerous?

The anal sacs of dogs are potentially cancerous, but this type of medical condition rarely occurs.

Malignant tumor formation in the anal glands requires immediate medical care as it can quickly spread throughout nearby organs.

4. Can Dog Die from Anal Sac Rupture?

Dogs do not die from anal sac rupture unless their condition is left untreated for a long time.

Keep this health problem from turning fatal by taking your dog to the veterinarian if he shows even the slightest symptom of anal gland infections or impactions.


Anal gland impaction in dogs can progress to a more serious and painful disease if proper care is not given.

Feeding your dog high-fiber food promotes better stool formation, accelerates fecal transit, and improves bowel movements. These are all essential for the regular expression of his anal sacs, which prevents the development or recurrence of impaction.

Download our Can Dogs Eat It app to gain more knowledge on how to prevent the progression of ailments in dogs by making changes in their diets.