How to express your pet's anal glands at home


This is not a job for the squeamish!  But if you've scooped enough litter boxes, it probably isn't an insurmountable task for you to handle.

Impacted or inflamed anal sacs should only be addressed by your vet!
If your pet has any redness or irritation in the rectal area, just go to the vet, don't mess with it.  You can do more damage than good!


Many cats and dogs never have a problem with their anal glands, and most will express themselves comfortably and adequately without assistance.   Some express their sacs involuntarily when startled, nervous or overly excited.  Some cats and dogs simply have an abundance of secretion and manually expressing their sacs makes them much easier to live with! My rule of thumb is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  If your pet doesn't have a problem, leave them alone.

My first show cat had the unpleasant habit of expressing himself occasionally at inopportune moments, like on the judging stand - EWWWW!  This is one of those cases where manual expression would come in very handy!  I sure wish I had known how to do this back then....

There are two types of anal sac expression, external and internal. The external technique is done from the outside and is the most common method used. It's really a simple procedure, however an exact one. You will only want to attempt to express externally; if this is unsuccessful, have it done at the vet's office. 

If you have long fingernails, please do not attempt to express the anal sacs.  You may inadvertently injure your pet! 

 The anal sacs are located just inside the rectum to either side of the anus at approximately 4 and 8 o'clock (though they may be as low as 5 and 7 or as high as 10 and 2).  The diagram shows a normal sac on the left (1) and a ruptured sac on the right(2).  While anal gland problems are more prevalent in dogs, some cats may experience issues as well.  If in doubt, have your vet examine your pet!

Since expressing the anal glands releases an objectionable odor, I prefer doing it in the tub  before bathing so that the area can be quickly flushed with large volumes of water and cleaned immediately. You may want to use gloves.  Since a cat rarely has much secretion, you can use a paper towel in your hand to catch the fluid at any time.

Hold your hands in front of you like you're holding a present out to someone in a box - this is the position you want to be holding your pet when you express the glands. The contents may be under pressure and can shoot great distances very quickly! You'll want to use the palm of your hand to block it.  It's not fun to have this vile substance hit you in the face!

The pet will likely not enjoy the procedure, so especially with a cat you may want to have a second person on hand to help control them.

Hold the tail up vertically, high enough to make the rectum prominent but not so far as to make the pet uncomfortable. The anal sacs are located just inside the rectum at approximately 4 and 8 o'clock (though they may be as low as 5 and 7 or as high as 10 and 2).

Place your thumb and index finger to either side of the rectal opening and feel the indented space between the rectum and the rear hip bones.  Your hand should be in a C formation, with your palm positioned behind the anus. Gently press inward and toward the rectal opening until the fluids are released.  If nothing comes out the first time, slightly adjust the position of your fingers and retry. If you still canít get any secretion out, stop trying. Pushing too hard can be painful and may cause injury to your pet.

Anal sac secretion may vary greatly in texture, color and odor. Don't be alarmed if one pet has a brown thick discharge and another has a yellowish oily fluid.  The secretions are actually an identification of the individual animal in their scent-oriented world of communication, so think of them as "fingerprints" in the animal kingdom.



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