Why Do Dogs Express Their Glands When Scared?

Does your dog turn into a skunk when scared? It means that your dog expressed its anal glands out of fright. The odor is revolting, which many dog owners describe as something rotten and fishy. But the question is, why do dogs express their glands when scared?

While the smell is offensive, this occurrence is normal among dogs. However, you should still check your dog’s rear to ensure that it’s not dealing with anal gland diseases.

What are anal glands?

why do dogs express their glands when scared

Anal glands are the grape-sized sacs located on both sides of your dog’s anus. These sacs contain special sweat glands that emit a unique scent that allows dogs to be recognized by other canines. It serves as your dog’s ‘identification card’, which is the reason why canines smell each other’s bum when meeting for the first time.

However, these specialized glands can also harbor the nastiest smell due to their location. When the dog poops, the sacs could catch remnants of feces. This is in addition to environmental dirt and other secretions from your dog’s body.

Over time, your dog’s anal glands will become full of smelly matter. If not expressed, the accumulated matter will be odorous and will result in impaction in the long run.

Most of the time, pet owners will ask professional groomers to express the glands of their dogs. However, in some cases, a dog can express the glands on its own, especially when stressed or scared.

Why do dogs express their glands when scared?

When dogs become extremely scared, the accumulated fluids inside their anal sacs can shoot up. But unlike skunks, such excretion isn’t intended for protective or deterrent purposes. It’s more like an involuntary contraction, similar to when you piss your pants when you’re scared.

Overall, this anal gland secretion is normal among dogs. Unless your dog is releasing the foul odor when unprovoked, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern.

Aside from that, dogs can also express their glands when excited or experiencing any strong emotion. It could be the moment you open the door for a walk or a car ride.

Most of the time, the smell from a dog’s anal glands will dissipate within minutes. But if your dog’s fishy odor is lingering, you should consult the vet. Such lingering odor might be a sign of a health problem.

Anal gland problems you should know

While the expression of anal glands when scared is normal, you should still check your dog for potential problems. Generally, the following are the issues often found on a canine’s anal glands:

Anal gland impaction

why do dogs express their glands when scared

A dog’s anal glands can become impacted if it’s not emptied regularly. It then becomes filled with nasty matter, which will block the glands.

When the anal glands become blocked, they will swell and soon develop an infection. It will also cause pain in your dog, which can lead to scooting and frequent licking of its rear area.

If you can’t remember the last time you expressed your dog’s anal glands, there’s a chance that it’s already impacted. Do a quick check and see if the sides of your pet’s anus are swollen or have a strong odor. If so, you should bring your dog to a professional groomer or a veterinarian.

Anal gland abscess

If anal gland impaction isn’t treated right away, it can develop infections and abscesses. This anal gland disease isn’t just smelly, it’s also painful for your dog.

It’s only a matter of time before your dog’s swollen anal gland bursts. The abscess would be greenish-yellow or pus with traces of blood. When this happens, your dog will be in extreme pain and your nose will be bombarded with a smell you won’t forget.

Overall, if your dog has a fishy smell that doesn’t go away and is scooting its bum, take it as a sign of anal gland problems. Symptoms like changes in anal gland fluid and licking its bum area often are also tell-tale signs of the same issue.

What to do when your dog expresses its anal glands?

If your dog is expressing its anal glands every time it’s scared, you can consult the vet for remedies. Here are some of the common solutions you can try:

✔️Express your dog’s anal glands

You can spare your nose from the foul smell by expressing your dog’s anal glands regularly. However, you should ask a professional groomer or vet to show you how it’s done. This is because improper anal gland expression can hurt your dog and even make the sacs swell.

To express your dog’s anal glands, you need to use a piece of cloth or paper towel to squeeze the goo out of the sacs.

However, impacted anal glands don’t often get fully emptied this way. In this case, you need to wear a glove and insert your index finger into your dog’s anus. From there, you’ll squeeze each anal sac to fully remove any trapped matter.

Overall, the internal method of emptying a dog’s anal sac is the most effective. However, it’s also the most difficult and it’s advisable for you to just let a professional do it.

✔️Switch to a better diet

Dogs can empty their anal sacs naturally if they have firm and solid stools. So if your doggo’s poop is runny or too soft, it might be time to change its diet.

Cutting back on fiber could also be necessary, depending on what your dog’s vet recommends. Take note that you should always consult the vet first before making a diet switch for your dog. Also, the switch should be done gradually to prevent upsetting your canine’s stomach, especially if you own breeds like Bulldogs or Huskies.

✔️Surgical removal

In cases when a dog’s anal glands are located deeper into the rectum, a surgical procedure might be necessary. The vet will perform a thorough examination of your dog to determine whether surgery is an efficient solution or not. 

If your dog often suffers from anal gland issues, removal could be the ideal solution. This procedure is called anal sacculectomy, wherein the anal sac is cut off from the dog’s rear. After that, the duct to which it is connected will be stitched to prevent leakage.

However, anal sac removal is an elective procedure, which means it’s not really required. Veterinarians often reserve this solution for dogs suffering from serious complications related to their anal gland problems. 

✔️Reduce stressors

Lastly, it’s important to limit anything that’s scaring or stressing your dog. This way, your pet won’t express its anal glands out of the blue.

Aside from that, desensitization will go a long way to help your pet overcome its triggers. For example, if your dog gets overly excited about going out, you can desensitize it to the stimuli, so it becomes a normal part of the canine’s routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you know if your dog needs its glands expressed?

A: Some signs of anal glands due for cleaning are the fishy smell as well as swelling around your dog’s rectum. Most of the time, the smell would be the giveaway that you need to take your dog to the groomer to have its glands expressed properly. If you want to save money, you can also do it at home given that you’re taught how to do it properly.

Q: How do you unblock your dog’s anal glands?

A: In some cases when a dog’s anal glands become blocked, it’s best to bring the canine to the vet or groomer. This way, your doggo will have its glands expressed properly with little to no pain. Take note that the improper way of unblocking a dog’s anal sacs can lead to injuries, so you should let a professional do it for you.

Q: How often do dogs need to have their anal glands expressed?

A: To prevent infection and bad smell from forming, you should express your dog’s anal glands every four weeks. You can schedule this for the same day as your dog’s bath. However, some dogs may require more frequent anal gland expression. It’s best to watch out for symptoms like scooting, licking its anus, and hunched posture.

Q: Does it hurt a dog when its anal glands are expressed?

A: Expressing a dog’s anal glands won’t hurt as long as it’s done properly. Also, it will only hurt if the anal glands are already infected or impacted. So if you’re planning to express your pet’s anal sacs at home, I highly recommend that you ask the vet to teach you the right way of doing so.

Q: What dog breeds need their anal glands expressed?

A: All dogs need their anal glands expressed. However, owners of Poodles, Chihuahuas, Beagles, and Basset Hounds should pay more attention to this part as these breeds are prone to impacted anal sacs. Overall, once a month would do for all breeds.

Final words

Why do dogs express their glands when scared? This is a normal reaction as canines involuntary squeeze their anal sacs due to the intense emotion. Aside from fright, your pet may accidentally express its glands when excited, stressed, anxious, or angry.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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