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What’s the Best Dog Food for Anal Gland Issues?

Anal gland issues are a common canine problem characterized by inflammation, infection, or impaction of the anal glands. When these glands fail to express naturally, they become full and can cause discomfort, pain, and infections for your furry friend.

Dogs with anal gland issues may exhibit symptoms like scooting, excessive licking or biting of the anal area, and foul-smelling discharge.

While there are various causes for this condition, such as food allergies, infections, and obesity, diet plays a crucial role in managing and preventing anal gland issues in dogs. In this blog, we’ll explore the best dog food for anal gland issues to help your furry companion find relief and maintain optimal health.

What Are Anal Glands?

Anal glands (or anal sacs) are two tiny oval sacs located on either side of a dog's anus, just inside the rectum. These glands produce a strong-smelling, oily secretion that collects in tiny ducts near the anal opening.

During bowel movements, the pressure from the stool passing through the rectum causes the glands to release their contents, leaving a distinct scent on the feces. Sometimes the glands will express if your pup is stressed or frightened as well.

Why Are Healthy Anal Glands Important for Dogs?

When your pup's anal glands are healthy, they help with bowel movements and maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the colon. However, when the glands become impacted or infected, it can cause discomfort and lead to more severe issues such as abscesses or rupturing of the glands. Here's why healthy anal glands are important for dogs.

Dog-to-Dog Communication

If you've watched your dog interact with other canines in the neighborhood, you may have noticed them sniffing each other's rear ends. This behavior may seem peculiar to pet parents, but it's a form of communication for dogs.

The scent from their anal glands contains vital information about their health, hormonal status, and mood. It's how they establish dominance or submission within their pack. If your pup's anal glands are unhealthy, it can disrupt this communication, leading to confusion and potential conflicts with other dogs.

Preventing Discomfort and Pain

When your dog's anal glands become blocked or swollen, they fail to express naturally, causing discomfort and pain for your furry friend. As the glands continue to fill up, they can become impacted, leading to an anal gland abscess (anal sacculitis) that may be painful. Signs of discomfort may include:

  • Scooting (dragging their bottom on the ground)

  • Excessive licking or biting of the area

  • Foul-smelling discharge from the anus

  • Discomfort when sitting or pooping

  • Whimpering or yelping when touched near the anal area

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it's essential to take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. However, you can help prevent these issues from occurring by maintaining the health of your dog's anal glands through proper nutrition.

Overall Health and Hygiene

Dogs with anal gland issues may also experience other health concerns that can affect their overall wellbeing. Chronic anal gland problems can lead to bacterial infections, skin irritation, and perianal fistulas (open wounds near the anus), which can be painful and challenging to treat.

These issues can impact their quality of life, causing discomfort and pain that affects their behavior and daily activities.

Are Some Dogs More Likely to Have Anal Gland Problems?

While anal gland issues can occur in any breed of dog, some breeds are more prone to these issues due to their size, anatomy, and genetics. Cocker spaniels, for instance, have a higher risk of developing anal gland problems due to their small size and narrow anal glands.

Breeds with short, curly tails (such as pugs and bulldogs) may also be more susceptible, as their tails may not apply enough pressure during bowel movements to express the glands naturally.

Additionally, small breeds with long and thick coats (like Maltese, chow chow, and shih tzus) have a higher risk of developing anal gland problems, as their long hair can block the natural expression of the glands.

Some health conditions and nutritional deficiencies may also predispose dogs to anal gland issues, including:

  • Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on the glands, making it difficult for them to express naturally.

  • Soft bowel movements: Chronic soft stool and diarrhea can lead to inadequate pressure on the glands during bowel movements, causing them to become impacted.

  • Insufficient fiber: A diet low in fiber can lead to constipation, which can also contribute to anal gland problems.

  • Underlying skin allergies: Allergies can cause inflammation and irritation around the anal area, leading to swelling and blockage of the glands.

Common Anal Gland Issues and Symptoms Dogs Experience

If you notice any of these symptoms, it could be a minor issue that you can resolve at home, or it could indicate a more severe underlying problem that requires veterinary attention.

Not Self-Expressing

Every time a dog has a bowel movement, they should secrete — if they don’t, this can be problematic. Not self-expressing occurs when the glands do not release their contents naturally during bowel movements.

It's usually caused by obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, allergies, or insufficient fiber in the diet. When your pup's anal glands don't self-express, it can lead to buildup and blockage, increasing the risk of infection and abscesses. You may notice:

  • Frequent scooting

  • Licking or biting at their bum

  • Visible discomfort when pooping

  • Occasional foul odor from their rear end


Impaction occurs when the anal glands become overly full and fail to express correctly, leading to blockage. It causes significant discomfort and pain and can lead to infection if left untreated. Signs of impaction include:

  • Scooting

  • Difficulty defecating

  • Persistent licking or biting of the anal area


Obstruction happens when the anal gland ducts become blocked, preventing the glands from secreting their contents during bowel movements. Obstructions cause swelling and pain and can lead to anal gland abscesses if left untreated. Signs include:

  • Visible swelling around the anal area

  • Discomfort while sitting

  • Frequent attempts to express the glands by dragging their rear on the ground

Infection or Abscess

Infections occur when bacteria enter the blocked or impacted anal glands, leading to inflammation and abscess formation. An untreated infection can spread to surrounding tissues and cause severe pain for your pup. Symptoms of an anal gland abscess may include:

  • Redness, swelling, or inflammation around the anus

  • Foul-smelling discharge from the anus

  • Whimpering

  • Reluctance to sit or lay down

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy


Tumors in the anal glands are rare but affect the gland’s function. They can be benign or malignant. Malignant tumors can be life-threatening and require prompt medical attention. Benign tumors can cause discomfort and blockages, leading to infection and abscesses. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent swelling or lumps around the anal area

  • Blood in the stool

  • Changes in bowel habits

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

What To Do If You Think Your Dog Has Anal Gland Issues

If you suspect your dog has anal gland issues, there are several ways to address the problem, depending on its severity.

In mild cases, your dog may need manual expression by a professional groomer or veterinarian. Expressing the glands yourself can be messy, super smelly, and cause your dog discomfort if not done correctly. It's best to leave this task to the professionals.

If your dog experiences chronic anal gland problems, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the underlying cause, your vet may recommend dietary changes, supplements, or medications to help manage the issue.

Diet is a significant factor in preventing and managing anal gland problems. A high-fiber diet promotes healthy bowel movements, preventing both constipation and soft stool that can lead to anal gland issues.

Choosing the Right Diet for Healthy Anal Glands With The Honest Kitchen

The type of food you feed your dog can significantly impact their anal gland health. When you feed them a high-quality, nutritious diet, they are more likely to have healthy, regular bowel movements that naturally express their anal glands.

In contrast, a diet low in fiber and high in processed ingredients can lead to constipation and soft stool, contributing to chronic anal gland issues. So it’s important to ensure your pet food has the following beneficial dietary components:

  • Protein: Promotes proper muscle function, including the anal sphincter muscles responsible for expressing the anal glands. Excellent protein sources for dogs include chicken, turkey, beef, and fish.

  • Fiber: Necessary for healthy bowel movements, fiber adds bulk to stool, making it easier for the anal glands to self-express. Look for high-fiber ingredients like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and green beans.

  • Veggies and fruits: Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, vegetables and fruits contribute to overall health and have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce anal gland inflammation. Select dog foods that include a variety of veggies and fruits, such as broccoli, blueberries, and carrots.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Packed with anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids prevent inflammation and promote healthy bowel movements. Select dog foods with salmon, flaxseed, or fish oils to get an adequate dose of omega-3s.

  • Prebiotics and probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that maintain healthy gut flora, while prebiotics act as food sources for probiotics. Together, they improve digestion, nutrient absorption, and bowel movements.

The Honest Kitchen’s Top Options for Anal Gland Health

The Honest Kitchen offers a variety of dog food options full of natural, human-grade protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Our foods are minimally processed and free from artificial preservatives, preserving the natural nutrients your dog needs for optimum health.

Some of The Honest Kitchen's best food options for dogs with anal gland issues include:

  • Pumpkin Dehydrated Recipes: Pumpkin is a natural source of fiber and prebiotics that help keep anal gland issues at bay. Our dehydrated recipes like Whole Grain Veggie & Fruit Dog Food Base Mix are rich in pumpkin and other nutrient-dense ingredients that support healthy anal glands.

  • Perfect Form: This digestive supplement is packed with beneficial herbs like slippery elm, plantain, and fennel to soothe and protect the digestive system. It helps with loose stools from dietary indiscretion, food changes, and environmental stress.

  • Pumpkin Pour-Overs: These tasty pourable stews are full of real pumpkin, protein, and pureed apples and promote digestive and anal gland health. They are excellent as a topper on your dog's regular food or a standalone treat.

  • Treat Recipes: Make your own treats using The Honest Kitchen's dehydrated foods, which are full of delicious ingredients like pumpkin, turkey, apples, cinnamon, and ginger. These recipes are high in fiber, prebiotics, and protein to promote healthy anal gland function.

All of The Honest Kitchen foods contain the healthy fiber dogs need to express their anal glands naturally. They’re also free from common allergens like grains, corn, soy, and wheat, which can cause gastrointestinal issues and lead to anal gland problems.

Support Your Dog’s Overall Health With The Honest Kitchen’s Products

Choosing the right diet for your dog is a giant leap toward ensuring your dog's anal glands remain healthy, preventing discomfort and pain.

The Honest Kitchen offers a range of nutritious, high-quality, human grade recipes with the nutrients your dog needs for healthy anal gland function. Plus, our products are free from artificial preservatives and common allergens, ensuring your dog's overall health and wellness.

Give your pup the best chance at a happy, healthy life. Browse our full collection of  dog food  options and make the switch today.

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

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