Golden Retriever Anal Gland: How to Detect + How to Deal

Detecting Anal Gland Issues

Golden Retrievers, known for their friendly and loyal nature, are among the most popular dog breeds. However, in addition to their regular grooming needs, some owners might encounter concerns related to their pet’s anal glands.

Understanding the importance of anal gland care for these beautiful dogs is essential in maintaining their overall health and comfort.

Anal glands, or anal sacs, are small, oval-shaped sacs found on either side of a dog’s anus. They produce a fluid with a strong odor that is unique to each individual canine.

While most Golden Retrievers may never require any intervention related to their anal glands, there are instances where these glands can cause issues, such as inflammation, infection, or blockage, necessitating manual expression every few months.

Understanding Anal Glands

Golden Retreiver anal gland issues

Function of Anal Glands

The anal glands are small, oval-shaped sacs located on either side of a dog’s anus. These glands produce a fluid with a strong, pungent odor that is unique to each dog.

This fluid serves as a means of communication and territory marking between dogs. When your Golden Retriever defecates, the pressure from the feces passing through the anus helps to express the anal glands naturally.

However, some dogs, including Golden Retrievers, may require manual expression if they’re unable to empty the glands on their own. This could be due to various factors such as the consistency of the feces or any medical conditions affecting the glands’ function.

Location of Anal Glands

As mentioned earlier, the anal glands are situated on either side of the anus, specifically at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions around the anal opening.

The gland openings, called ducts, secrete the fluid that gets released during natural defecation. It’s essential to keep an eye on your Golden Retriever’s anal gland health since issues like impaction or infection can lead to discomfort and further complications.

To maintain your dog’s anal gland health, observe your pet closely for any signs of strain during bowel movements, excessive licking of the anal area, or scooting their rear on the ground.

If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian to address any potential issues. Although Golden Retrievers are not particularly prone to anal gland problems, individual dogs may need manual expression by a professional approximately every six months.

Symptoms of Anal Gland Problems in Golden Retrievers

Not a Golden, but it’s easier to see the gland location on this dog

Golden Retrievers, like any other dog breed, can occasionally experience anal gland problems. Although not exclusive to this breed, it’s essential to know the signs of anal gland issues. As a Golden Retriever owner, recognizing these symptoms early can help ensure proper treatment and care for your canine companion.

Sitting Issues

One noticeable symptom of anal gland issues is your dog’s difficulty in sitting still or sitting at all. If your Golden Retriever seems to be in discomfort while trying to sit or refuses to sit, it may be a sign of anal gland problems. Additionally, paying attention to your dog’s posture when sitting can give further insight into potential issues.

Tail Chasing

Another sign that may indicate anal gland problems in your Golden Retriever is excessive tail chasing. While this behavior can be normal in some cases, if it’s combined with other symptoms, it’s likely signaling discomfort related to anal glands.


Swelling and redness around your dog’s anus are also indicators of impacted anal sacs or other anal gland issues. The area might become inflamed, and a change in color can occur due to the swelling. Inspect this area carefully to determine any noticeable differences.

Butt Dragging

Furthermore, if you notice your Golden Retriever frequently scooting or dragging its rear across the floor, this might be a desperate attempt to relieve discomfort caused by anal gland problems. Recognizing this behavior is essential to address underlying issues and prevent further complications.

Treatment Options

Veterinary Treatment

If your Golden Retriever exhibits signs of anal gland issues, such as scooting, biting the base of their tail, or excreting a pungent liquid, it is essential to consult your veterinarian.

They can assess your dog’s condition and recommend appropriate treatment. In some cases, the veterinarian may need to express the anal glands manually to relieve any discomfort and inflammation. If an infection or an abscess is present, they might prescribe medication such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.

In more severe cases, like anal gland cancer or recurrent issues, the veterinarian might suggest surgery to remove the problematic glands entirely. This procedure is typically a last resort when other treatments have not been successful.

Home Care Treatment

For minor anal gland issues, there are some home care options you can try. It is important to remember that, while these measures can help maintain your dog’s anal gland health, they are not a substitute for proper veterinary care. Always consult your vet before implementing any home treatments.

  • Diet: Increasing your dog’s dietary fiber intake can help promote regular bowel movements and natural expression of the anal glands. You can achieve this by incorporating high-fiber vegetables or a fiber supplement into their meals.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is essential for overall health and can also help improve your dog’s bowel movements, leading to better anal gland function.
  • Grooming: Keeping your dog’s rear area clean with regular grooming and bathing can help prevent infections and irritation in the anal glands.
  • At-home Expression: If you are comfortable and experienced with expressing your dog’s anal glands, you may be able to do this at home. However, only attempt this after proper guidance from your veterinarian and use proper hygiene measures like gloves and warm soapy water.

Remember, your Golden Retriever’s health and well-being are top priorities. Always consult your veterinarian for assistance and guidance in treating anal gland issues.

Preventive Measures

To help prevent anal gland issues in your Golden Retriever, it’s important to take certain steps to maintain their overall health and well-being.


First, ensure that your dog has a healthy diet. Providing your pet with a balanced diet that includes high-quality protein, age-appropriate nutrients, and the right amount of calories can significantly reduce the risk of anal gland problems.

It’s also crucial to avoid over-feeding your dog, as obesity can contribute to the development of such issues.

Another key preventive measure is to add more fiber to your dog’s diet. Increased dietary fiber can help bulk up your dog’s stools, which in turn puts more pressure on the anal glands during defecation, helping them to empty naturally.

You can achieve this by including high-fiber vegetables, such as pumpkin or sweet potato, in their meals or by using a specially formulated fiber supplement.


In addition to diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are essential. Be sure to monitor your Golden Retriever’s weight and engage them in daily physical activity, such as walks or playtime at the park.

This will keep them in good shape and reduce the likelihood of developing anal gland issues.

Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your dog’s diet is also beneficial. These essential fats, which can be found in fish oil supplements or specific dog foods, have anti-inflammatory properties that can keep the anal glands healthy.

Consult with your veterinarian for the appropriate dosage and product recommendations for your dog.


Lastly, proper grooming and hygiene are crucial in preventing anal gland issues. Regularly check your Golden Retriever’s hindquarters for any signs of discomfort, swelling, or discharge, and consult your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual.

Keeping your dog clean and well-groomed can help detect potential problems early and prevent them from escalating.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your dog’s routine, you can significantly reduce the chances of encountering anal gland issues and ensure that your Golden Retriever remains happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my Golden Retriever smell like fish?

Your Golden Retriever might smell like fish due to anal gland secretions. These glands secrete a fishy-smelling fluid that can sometimes be noticeable. This smell usually isn’t a cause for concern, but it can become a problem if the anal glands get impacted or infected.

What causes a fishy smell from my dog’s anus?

The fishy smell coming from your dog’s anus is due to the release of fluids from the anal glands. These glands are located inside the rectum and help dogs express scent during social interactions. The fluid they secrete is typically thick, brown, and has a strong odor.

How can I tell if my dog needs anal gland expression?

If your dog needs anal gland expression, they may show certain signs, such as scooting their rear across the floor, licking the anal area, or having difficulty sitting comfortably. If you notice these signs, it’s best to consult your veterinarian, who can examine your dog and determine if the anal glands require manual expression.

How frequently should a dog’s anal glands be expressed?

The frequency of anal gland expression varies for each dog. Some dogs may never need their anal glands expressed, while others may require it more often. It’s important to keep an eye on your dog for any signs of discomfort or unusual behavior around their anus. If you’re concerned, consult with your veterinarian for proper guidance.

What can I do to prevent anal gland issues in my Golden Retriever?

To help prevent anal gland issues in your Golden Retriever, make sure they’re getting proper nutrition, as this can affect the consistency of their feces. Firm stools naturally help express the anal glands during defecation. You can also provide your dog with regular exercise and grooming to help maintain overall health.

Are there any home remedies for anal gland problems in dogs?

If your dog is experiencing mild anal gland discomfort, you can try a warm compress on the impacted area to help alleviate the pain. However, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your dog’s anal gland health. They can provide you with a proper treatment plan based on your dog’s specific needs.