Anal gland issues are a very common and frustrating problem for dogs and their guardians. All dogs have these two small glands (sometimes referred to as anal sacs) on either side of the rectum. These glands release a few drops of scent marking fluid whenever your pet has a bowel movement (observed near the end of defecation).

Anal glands should release naturally and should not need to be expressed regularly. If you smell an awful “fishy” smell in areas where your dog sleeps, then these glands are likely the culprit. It’s seriously the worst smell on the planet if you ask me.

Expressing anal glands manually when they do not need it can cause inflammation and chronic issues. For example, don’t allow your groomer to “squeeze” your dog’s anal glands if he does not have a history of anal gland issues.

Anal gland inflammation is most often a result of a food allergy and a low fiber, overly processed diet. Here are some recommendations to help get your dog back on track and your house smelling nice again:

  1. Diet – Switch to a high-quality whole food diet. A freshly prepared or commercial raw diet that contains bones is the best choice. Other good options include balanced homemade or commercial cooked diets, human-grade dehydrated freeze-dried or air-dried diets. Choose a novel protein that your dog has not been fed before, such as rabbit for the first 3 months. Stop all processed treats. If you elect to home prepare your dog’s food, just be sure it is balanced. is a great resource for this.
  2. Increase Fiber
    • Add plain psyllium husk, one teaspoon per 10-15lb dog, twice daily with each meal.
    • Add fresh vegetables (15% of the diet) and fresh fruits (5% of the diet). You can check out my Dog’s Life Facebook posts for specific veggie and fruit recommendations:
    • Add canned organic plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) – 1 tablespoon per 10-15lb dog with each meal.
  3. Probiotics – Providing a good source of probiotics will help keep your dog’s gut biome healthy and limit gastrointestinal and anal gland inflammation. Not all probiotics are equal. Here is my blog post on probiotics to help you choose an effective one.
  4. Exercise – If your dog is at his/her ideal weight and the core is strong, this will lead to more effective defecation, thus releasing the anal glands naturally.

When your dog releases anal glands unintentionally, it is a signal that your dog is dealing with inflammation due to his diet. It may take a few tries to find the diet that works, but it is worth the trouble. Not only will the right diet ultimately provide health and vitality for your dog, but it will relieve you from the torture of that terrible odor.