English Springer Spaniels Anal Glands

Has your beloved English Springer Spaniel surprised you by squirting a foul, fishy-smelling liquid from his rear? If you’ve never owned a breed of dog that has issues with anal glands, you might think that he has diarrhea or bowel issues. All carnivores have anal glands – including English Springer Spaniels.

All dogs have anal glands, but some breeds like spaniels may be more prone to gland problems. If a dog’s anal glands are not emptied, it can lead to infection, impaction, and abscesses. A healthy diet, roughage, and exercise help prevent impacted anal glands in English Springer Spaniels

Not all dogs experience issues with their anal glands, and you might be lucky enough to have a spaniel who never has to have his treated or expressed. Some dogs are prone to infections, and if they have soft stools, to not effectively empty these secretions from the sacs.

English Springer Spaniels Anal Glands

Anal glands are a natural part of dogs, even if it’s a rather unlovely topic. These glands are two oval sacs containing a pungent fluid on either side of your spaniel’s anus. When your dog goes to pass a bowel movement, the stool helps compress the sacs, releasing the fluid.

This fluid smells rather nasty – some people say it has a strong fishy odor – and can be yellow to brown in color. It’s most often noticed when your spaniel gets a fright, is stressed, or marks his territory.

In a healthy dog, firm stools help to keep the anal sacs emptied, but in some dogs, things don’t always work quite as well. Certain breeds – such as English Springer Spaniels – can be more prone to issues with their anal glands and may need treatment from their veterinarian.

Some spaniels have constant trouble emptying their anal glands, and you can ask your vet to demonstrate how you can express these glands yourself if this is appropriate, rather than having to make many costly vet visits.

Care needs to be taken that the glands are not expressed too often or unnecessarily, as this can create different problems.

Signs of Anal Gland Trouble in English Springer Spaniels

If your spaniel has issues with his anal glands that are not fully emptied, the glands may become impacted and even infected. If you spot the following in your English Springer Spaniel, they likely suffer from problems with their anal glands.

You should contact your vet if your spaniel shows the following behaviors or symptoms:

  • Your dog is constantly licking or biting at the base of his tail and seems irritated by something. He may be snappy if you try to touch the area.
  • If your spaniel is scooting/scraping his rear along the ground, trying to stimulate his anal area because it is inflamed or itchy. This action can also be a sign of worms.
  • Your dog is constantly struggling to pass a bowel movement, appears to have difficulty, and is straining.
  • If there are signs of blood or infected matter (pus) around his rear or in his stool.

These signs indicate an issue with your English Springer Spaniel’s anal glands; most likely, they are full of impacted fluid and have become infected. Expressing impacted glands is not a job for you to deal with but should be treated by your vet.

There are ways to reduce the likelihood of anal glands not emptying correctly, usually involving correcting your dog’s diet and improving his exercise. In some cases, dogs are more prone to infections, and your vet may put them on a course of antibiotics.

Why Did My English Springer Spaniel’s Anal Glands Become Infected

When the anal glands are blocked or impacted, this is usually because the ducts have become inflamed. Because the fluid cannot be released, it begins to harden, and the anal glands swell. When this happens, it becomes painful for your spaniel to pass a motion.

Usually, when your dog goes to pass a stool, the movement also squeezes the anal glands, expressing the fluid within. However, if they have a very soft stool, this can lessen the effect. Bacteria from the stool can enter the ducts and enter the anal glands.

When the glands are impacted, the bacteria stay there and breed, creating infection in the gland. As the infection worsens, the fluid can fill with pus and blood, creating a very painful abscess for your dog.

Anal gland problems are more likely to occur if your English Springer Spaniel:

  • has a poor diet, and his stools are soft due to insufficient fiber
  • is inactive and doesn’t get enough exercise to stimulate his bowel movements
  • has allergies to his environment or specific foods
  • is obese
  • suffers from chronic skin dermatitis.

How Do I Treat my English Springer Spaniel’s Anal Gland Issues

Your vet will prescribe any necessary medications or antibiotics to treat an anal gland infection, but if this is a recurring problem, there are lifestyle changes you can make.

Make sure your English Springer Spaniel is on a high-quality, vet-endorsed food suitable for his age, size, and breed. You can add extra roughage to his diet to help bulk up his stool.

If your spaniel is obese, you will dramatically improve his quality of life and extend his years by putting him on a suitable pet diet. Not only can obesity affect his anal glands, but it can also cause heart disease, worsen his kidneys and liver, and generally make him unhealthier.

English Springer Spaniels are meant to be active dogs, and if your spaniel is not getting adequate exercise, this will also cause problems for his anal glands. Ensure he is getting enough daily exercise to help bowel movements pass smoothly.

How Often Do English Springer Spaniels Need Anal Glands Expressed?

If your spaniel is relatively healthy, he should not need to have his anal glands expressed often. Usually, your vet will check (and empty) his glands if necessary during his yearly check-ups and vaccinations.

Older dogs usually visit the vet more frequently and will be treated if glands need to be expressed. If your dog regularly goes to the vet to have his glands expressed, your vet will either help you find the underlying problem or treat infections, usually with antibiotics.

If your English Springer Spaniel has frequent anal gland infections and a cause cannot be found, your vet will speak to you about alternative treatments.

Can I Have my English Springer Spaniel’s Anal Glands Removed?

In extreme cases, it might be necessary for your vet to perform an anal sacculectomy on your spaniel. Removing your dog’s anal glands is usually only done if your dog has frequent, untreatable anal gland impactions and infections.

Yes, your English Springer Spaniel can have his anal glands removed, and in cases where the dog has suffered from repeated gland issues, this is permanent relief from pain and infection.


Smaller dogs are more prone to problems with insufficiently emptied anal glands. These full sacs are more likely to become infected and cause your dog pain and distress. You can help prevent anal gland problems by feeding your English Springer Spaniel the right food and providing plenty of exercise.

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