Category Archives: Health Information

Anal Glands – Cleaning

How to Express a Dog’s Anal Glands

Laura from New Jersey wrote:

I’ve been grooming on my own for 4 years and trained under a groomer who never cleaned anal glands. I’ve been asked by customers if I would and I’ve always repeated what she told her customers, “That should only be done by a veterinarian.”
I know that this can be a hot topic for some vets and groomers, but I’ve been told that many groomers clean glands routinely.
What is your take on the subject? Is this a service groomers should offer? After grooming for so long, I’m embarrassed to admit that I do not know how. Should I ask my veterinarian to teach me?

Hi Laura,

I do believe that groomers (and some owners) should know how to express anal glands. Whether or not you offer this service should be your decision. I personally do not express glands routinely, but only when needed. (Click here to understand more about anal glands)

There are 2 ways to express anal glands, internally and externally. Leave the internal procedure to your veterinarian. This is dangerous and painful.

External cleansing of the gland is easy. Check the anal area as follows, before the bath.
(I always look when clipping the anal area with a #10 blade)

    1.Have someone hold the dog’s head or restrain with a loop on your grooming table or tub.
    2.With the dog standing, lift upward on the base of the tail firmly.
    3.Examine the anal area. Below the rectum at 5 and 7 o’clock are the 2 glands. Feel this area with the tips of you index finger and thumb. If they are swollen, they can be expelled.
    4.Place a paper towel, tissue or baby wipe covering the area to catch the secretion.
    5.Gently press below this swelling, inward and upward toward the rectum. You should see anal fluid excrete from the rectum. You can increase pressure until nothing comes out.

This fluid can be white, tan, brown, black or bloody. It can be watery, granular, like pudding or dough. Guaranteed it will smell horrible. Also be warned that it can ooze out slowly or expel explosively on you and your surroundings.

Signs that the dog needs to see a veterinarian:

    1.Blood in the secretion
    2.A hole in the skin from one of the glands. This is an abscessed anal gland that has ruptured.

In the second case, don’t groom the dog, call the owner and refer them to a vet immediately.

When should you expel the gland?

    1.The customer says the dog’s been scooting (dragging is rear)
    2.When you notice very swollen glands.

When asked by a client to routinely express the gland, I reply that I will check it. Routine cleansing is not effective and can actual cause problems. (Also see explanation below)

When I’ve found it necessary to express the glands, I tell the client to expect the dog to lick or scoot for a day or so. If the irritation lasts longer, it may need a second cleaning.

Good luck and good grooming.

Our Policy

We have reviewed this policy with two highly respected veterinarians, who gave us their 100% seal of approval.

When you groom a dog, you need to examine every inch of skin and fur including the anal area, removing excessive hair and clean away any debris. Also look for signs of problems with the anal gland, and if a problem exists, (indicated by swelling, soreness, oozing and odor) you may choose to express the gland. If it appears infected, refer the owner to his or her veterinarian. If there is not a problem,  leave it alone.

Routinely cleaning a healthy anal gland has no benefit and can actually cause harm by disturbing the natural balance of the secretions or by causing irritation.

ANAL GLANDS – Understanding them

Each Anal Gland constantly produces a secretion with a pungent odor unique to your dog. Along with urine, the anal secretion is in fact, your dog’s “odor signature” to other dogs.

Dogs, being scent orientated, identify each other by their sense of smell. Dogs will “mark their territory” with urine, which usually does not change much in odor. Because the stool’s odor varies with diet, the anal gland secretes a small amount of fluid on the stool with each normal bowel movement, marking it with the dog’s “odor signature.”

The Anal Gland is an active working gland located just below and slightly outside the anus. In most dogs, the anal gland is self-cleaning, and does not require routine cleaning.

Dog care information anal glands absessed anal gland ruptured anal gland understanding How to express a dog's anal glands veterinary emergency diarrhea and soft stools Acidophilus secretion normal bowel movement DietOccasionally the glands can get clogged or blocked, causing the dog to lick at its anus or drag its rear across the floor or ground. Sometimes these actions will empty the anal gland. If the gland remains clogged, it can become infected very quickly, abscess, and can even rupture. An absessed anal gland or ruptured anal gland is a veterinary emergency.

Diet plays an important role in maintaining a healthy anal gland. Since it is the pressure applied by a normal, solid bowel movement that expresses the gland, diarrhea and soft stools may not apply enough pressure to completely empty it. If your dog has a repeating problem, you need to adjust its diet to eliminate diarrhea and soft stools. Finding a dog food that your dog can digest easily, and then staying with that food, will insure firm stools, reducing problems with the anal gland.

If your dog’s gland is overactive or you can not control the problem, then you can learn how to express the anal gland at home. Checking your dog’s anal gland is an important part of caring for your pet, is easy to learn and can save you hundreds of dollars in vet bills.

Routinely cleaning a healthy anal gland has no benefit and can actually cause harm by disturbing the natural balance of the secretions or by causing irritation. If your dog has a persistent problem, we recommend you talk to your veterinarian. If it is ruptured or appears infected seek immediate veterinary help.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

What to have on hand: You will need a nail trimmer designed for pets (DO NOT USE CLIPPERS DESIGNED FOR PEOPLE), and a nail file to trim the nails. You should also have a “blood-stop” or styptic product handy incase you trim a nail too short. You may also need a warm, wet cloth and a small scissors to clean the feet.

Inspect the nails and feet: Before clipping nails, make sure the entire foot is healthy and clean. Inspect the area between the toes, pads and at the base of the nails for dirt. debris and matted hair.
Matting between the toes and padding can pull on the skin and cause pain while you work with the feet. Removing any matting will add comfort to the foot. Remove any matting between the toes and pads with a small scissors, being very careful not to nick the skin or pads.
Clean any dirt from inbetween the toes and pads and at the base of the nail with a warm, wet cloth or cotton.

Where to cut: trimming dogs nailsWithin the center of each toenail is the blood and nerve supply for the nail called the “quick.” Cutting into this area will cause bleeding and pain. In white nails you can see the vein or “quick.” It looks like a pinkish area in the middle of the nail. You want to cut outside this area leaving a little room at the end of the nail.
In dark nails, the quick is not visible, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. Cut dark nails in several small cuts to reduce the chance of cutting into the quick.

Clipping your dog’s nails: Begin by spreading each of his toes. Using a sharp guillotine-type nail clipper, hold the clipper with the face plate and screw towar the dog’s toe as in the figure here. Cut off the tip of each nail on a 45-degree angle, just before the point where it begins to curve. If you cannot visualize the quick, trim very thin slices off the end of the nail until you see a black dot appear towards the center when you look at it head on. This is the start of the quick that you want to avoid.

Bleeding: If the tip of the nail begins to bleed, apply pressure for a few seconds using styptic powder.

Filing: Once the nails have been cut, you can smooth rough edges with a file, emery board or grinder. Do not file any nails that had bled.

Make sure to get every nail. Many dogs have an extra nail on the inside of the foot near the ankle called a dew claw. It is extremely important to trim the dew claw because it does not contact the floor and will not wear down. A few breeds also have a dew claw on the hind feet and some breeds such as the Great Pyrenees have 2 dewclaws on each hind foot.

Don’t forget to praise your dog and reward with a wonderful treat.

Nail Care

Like you, your dog’s nails grow continuously and require routine maintenance.

overgrown dog nails

(A few lucky dogs never need a trim because they wear them down by exercising on hard surfaces.)

If the nails are too long, they can cause the feet to splay (spread out) creating discomfort and possible deformation of the foot. Nails can actually curl under the foot and pierce the pads at the bottom of the feet and require a trip to the vet.

Severely overgrown nails can cause a variety of problems including broken nails which are painful and bleed profusely. Long nails can break or split, a very painful condition that can become infected. Overgrown overgrown nails on dognails become “needle” sharp inflicting injury on you and your pet and can get caught in carpeting and upholstery.

Trimming your dog’s nails is important for your dog’s overall health. Your dog’s nails should be examined every 3 to 4 weeks. A dog’s nails should barely touch the ground and should not click when walking on uncarpeted areas.

Click Here for instructions on How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Matted coats

If you followed a routine grooming schedule your pet’s grooming should be easy and stress free. If, on the other hand, your pet’s coat has been allowed to grow unattended there may be problems that you should be aware.

Matting starts at the skin and works its way toward the outer coat. matted dogThe only way to prevent matting is to thoroughly comb each section of coat from the skin out regularly. If you have been occasional brushing your pet, the top coat may appear healthy and fluffy but the coat next to the skin may be matted. If the pet has been bathed without these matted areas removed, the mats felt and become impossible to comb through. The only humane way to deal with this problem is to clip under the mats, and if the matting is against the skin, it may require a complete shave down.

To help prevent matting, see our article on How To Brush Your dog.

Many people take their pet to the groomer for a spring grooming expecting to return to find Fluffy in fully sculpted style worthy of the show ring. They are horrified to discover that Fluffy has been shaved and looks more like a Mexican Hairless than a beautiful Bichon. This creates a stressful situation for everyone. The owner may be angry and the groomer is frustrated. The pet becomes stressed because of the high emotions of the people around him and may feel embarrassed if the owner seems to ridicule or reject him.

Some tips to help ease that stress:

  • If you prefer your pet to be styled in a fuller, fluffy cut plan on staying a few minutes upon arrival and allow your groomer to examine the coat. She can point out problem areas before the grooming and tell you what you can expect from the grooming.
  • Understanding that the groomer does not have a magic wand that can just make months of damage disappear will give you a realistic picture of what would be most comfortable for your pet.
  • Discuss with your groomer what you would like and set a goal to achieve that, including regularly scheduled grooming and learning proper home maintenance.
  • Always cheerfully greet your pet when returning and if your pet did need a shave, counsel family member to never laugh or make fun of your pet.

Brushing your dog

Regular brushing at home not only helps reduce the cost of professional grooming but also has other advantages. Your pet’s coat and skin will be healthier, and regular close attention may alert you sooner to any developing physical problems your pet may have.

The “quality time” spent brushing your pet will enhance

the relationship you both have and promotes “bonding.” In the wild, grooming among pack members is an important social behavior. Your dog already knows this. You may not have realized it but every time your dog licks you or rubs its face against you, it is (in a sense) “grooming” YOU!

Poor equipment is ineffective and frustrating and can actually injure your pet. Throw out worn or broken brushes and combs with teeth that are bent or missing.

A gentle slicker brush helps break up tangled hair and will put a nice fluffy finish on the coat. A solid metal comb enables you to remove tangles, reaching the base of the coat where most matting starts.

Place the dog on a firm, non-slip surface above the floor (a tub mat placed on a washer or drier is perfect). Start by combing the dog with the coarse teeth of the comb. Pay special attention to the chest area between the front legs and under and behind the ears. Comb a second time with the medium teeth. Work mats, tangles and burrs by dividing small sections at a time. Finish by brushing the coat with a slicker brush.

Bathing – The right water temperature

Many people tend to bathe dogs with too warm of water. This can be uncomfortable for the dog and in some cases: dangerous. If the bath water is too warm, you can overheat the dog. Adding a hot dryer to this and you could cause a problem especially with large breeds and dogs that are overweight who have a difficult time cooling down.

For water to feel warm to your touch the temperature must be higher than your body temperature which is 98.6. Water that feels warm is over 100 degrees, much too warm for the dog’s bath.

Water that is between 70 and 80 degree is perfect. It should feel “room temperature” to you. Protect the dog from chilling after the bath by wrapping in a towel and using a warm (not hot) dryer.

Begging for food

Scenerio 1: You and your family sit down at the table to eat dinner. Your normally well behaved pooch is under the table nuzzling everyone or sitting at the corner of the table whining and begging.

Scenerio 2: You can ALWAYS make your dog come to you by:
1. rattling a bag of chips,
2: opening the refrigerator.

If either of these scenerios fit your dog, you DO NOT have a dog behavior problem. This is a PEOPLE behavior problem.

Dogs learn to beg (and it is a learned behavior) because they are rewarded for their behavior. It is a TRICK they learn very quickly.

Sound silly? – Think about it.

One of the quickest ways to teach a dog a trick is to wait for him to do the desired behavior, and then reward him for it. The “trick” is staring you down and whining at the appropriate time, when food is available. The reward, well, we all know is the treat he gets, and there’s nothing tastier that “people food.”

The fact is, most dogs that eat a given amount of people food become obese, less mobile and die younger, the ultimate result of a trick well to stop a dog begging at table

Correcting the behavior is really not that difficult if EVERYONE agrees to abide by the rules.

Place a mat or bed away from the table but within your view. Your pet can watch you eat from a distance.
Teach your dog the “down” and “stay” commands and reinforce this “new trick” regularly throughout the day. You can then teach him the “place” command by showing him that “place” means to go to that spot and “down” “stay.” After a while, the “place” command is all you will need.
At meal time, give the “place” command and reinforce it with praise. Don’t scold or correct your dog for getting confused. Remember that the begging was a trick you taught him. If the dog comes to the table, give a firm “NO” and a kind reinforcement of the “place” command.
After you finish eating, release him and feed your dog his regular kibble, away from the table, in his regular bowl. Why feed him last?; Because in pack behavior, the leaders eat first. By eating before your dog eats, you are telling him that YOU are the master.

It should only take a few days for the behavior to be corrected, but remember, EVERYONE must agree and stick to the training. Visitors must also be told not to feed the dog. All it takes is one person to sneak food under the table, and all your work is undone.

Tick Removal

Prompt removal of ticks decreases the chances of getting Lyme disease. The proper and easiest method is to grasp the tick with fine tweezers, as near the skin as you can, and gently pull it straight out. Be careful not to squeeze the tick when removing it which could result in more bacteria being injected.

The tick does not borrow into or under the skin, but attaches itself with 2 pincher-like mouth parts. Do not try to remove the tick with your fingers or attempt to remove with lighted cigarettes, matches, nail polish, or Vaseline.

For Information on Lyme Disease Click HereÂ

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) transmitted through a tick bite, the majority being a very tiny tick commonly called the Deer Tick, or Black-legged Tick. Often, pet owners do not know this tick is present. Smaller than the head of a pin, these ticks are hard to see! They don’t glow in the dark. They don’t make the dog itch.

Clinical Signs

Clinical Signs of Lyme disease are usually delayed for several months but start to occur about 2 months after exposure and should show up by 5 to 6 months after a dog is bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria. The reported early signs of Lyme disease in dogs are loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Lameness may occur at the same time or may occur later. In some dogs, enlargement of the lymph nodes occurs. In dogs, skin signs, heart disease, kidney problems and neurological signs are reported to be rare.

In people, lyme disease also causes headaches, skin sensitivity, sensitivity to light and depression. We could assume these symptoms may be present in a dog also. One 5 year old Rottweiler, Murphy, was diagnosed early because of a change in temperament. This normally happy, affectionate dog became grumpy and miserable and even started becoming aggressive. Instead of treating this as a behavioral problem, the owner immediately took Murphy to the vet for a thorough checkup. Lyme Disease was diagnosed and treatment started. The dog’s sweet personality returned within a few days.

If you notice unusual behavior or lameness in your dog, consult your veterinarian. A positive blood test can be diagnostic when appropriate symptoms are present. Fortunately, most dogs treated in the early stages of the disease will respond rapidly.


Prompt removal of ticks decreases the chances of getting Lyme disease. The proper and easiest method is to grasp the tick with fine tweezers, as near the skin as you can, and gently pull it straight out. Be careful not to squeeze the tick when removing it which could result in more bacteria being injected.

The tick does not borrow into or under the skin, but attaches itself with 2 pincher-like mouth parts. Do not try to remove the tick with your fingers or attempt to remove with lighted cigarettes, matches, nail polish, or Vaseline.