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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Assignment : Help a Vet Squeeze Anal Glands

posted by on December 5 at 14:45 PM


Dana, a vet on Vashon Island, needed help “expressing dog’s anal glands.” This is a procedure performed on dogs who have too much fluid in the glands surrounding their butt hole.

“What I need is for you to hold a cloth over the dog’s anus while I am doing the expression,” Dana said in an email, “Last week I made a terrible mess during the procedure. As a result, there were anal sac contents on my watch, my coat, the floor, the wall and the dog’s medical chart. As the medical chart is a legal document, I’m sure you can appreciate the gravity of this situation.”

I drove to Vashon and met Dana at the Fair Isle Animal Clinic. She led me into the employees-only area in the back of the clinic, where most of the medical procedures take place. In the center of the room was a big hollow steel table with a drain in it. There was also a large metal cage containing four dogs, including Dana’s dog.

Dana warned me for the fourth time about the smell. She seemed to get a thrill out of describing it to me. She told me the anal sac’s contents produced the kind of smell that stays with you. “You’ll remember it, and if you get it on your shirt you’ll smell that way for at least a day,” she said and grinned. A middle-aged woman wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants emerged from behind the kennel wall. “Pet owners hate the smell so much,” she said, “that they pay for vets to squeeze their dog’s anal sacs. They could do it themselves, but the smell is just so pungent.” Then she sat down next to the table. I was confused; did this woman work here? I felt like she’d just been brought in for dramatic effect.

“And we’re ready!” Dana emerged from another room and laid out my supplies on the steel table. There was a pair of small gloves for me to wear, a bottle of dog perfume to spray on the dog’s butt after the procedure, a washcloth, and a wet disinfectant pad. I asked Dana if she had a mask I could wear. She seemed reluctant to give it to me. After performing anal sac procedures all day, I think she wanted someone else to experience the smell.

Oh well, too bad for her, I thought and put on the mask.

The mask smelled terrible. It was like breathing through a cloth drenched in vinegar. I kept it on though, thinking even vinegar would be a more pleasant smell than an expressed anal sac.

Dana walked to the cage and lifted her dog on to the steel table. She held up the dog’s tale and showed me her anus. It looked like a small prune. “Some doggies have hidden butt holes, don’t they?” she asked. I assumed the question wasn’t aimed at me.


Dana squirted some petroleum jelly on her gloved finger and slowly stuck it up the dog’s butt. The dog whimpered and shook her legs. I held my washcloth over her anus. “Watch how I do it,” Dana said to me. I didn’t. I knew if I moved the washcloth and took a peek, the sac could expell all over Dana’s lab coat and my sleeve.

Dana squeezed hard and the sac squirted out into the washcloth and dripped on to the table. It was a brownish liquid that smelled like anchovies. The nurses smiled at me, glad someone of such importance was bearing witness to a routinely icky part of their day.

After she was done with her dog, Dana grabbed another dog, and we repeated the procedure. “See, this one’s contents look more like a paste,” she said to me, holding up a glove with brown tread marks.

Then Dana went to assist other dogs and one of the other nurses let me wear a dog collar.


By the third dog, I took off my mask. I figured no smell could be worse then the mask. This is when Dana messed up and a few droplets of anal juice dropped on my sleeve. “Uh-oh,” Dana said “that smell is going to stay with you for a while.”

After I was done with the assignment, I went out to lunch. True to Dana’s word, the smell remained in my nose. Everything I ate tasted just a little bit like anchovies.

Steven Blum
Public Intern


RSS icon Comments


Ewwwww. What a great assignment!

Posted by Katelyn | December 5, 2007 2:46 PM

Is your internship over at the end of the quarter/December? =/

Posted by Lake | December 5, 2007 2:49 PM

Why didn't you roll up your sleeves?

Posted by Nick | December 5, 2007 2:51 PM

I notice you're no longer taking requests at the bottom of your posts....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 5, 2007 2:53 PM

I'm not into one-night/day stands, Steven. Does the clinic have need for a semi-temporary volunteer?
Much appreciated,

Posted by June Bee | December 5, 2007 2:55 PM

I can't even read this, because I have to get the vet to do this for my dog a couple times a year. They've offered to teach me how to do it myself, but NO EFFING WAY. I am pretty unflappable about a lot of bodily functions, but that's one place I will readily admit to being a squeamish squealy girl from girl-ville.

Posted by genevieve | December 5, 2007 2:58 PM

HA! I don't feel the least bit sorry for you.

Posted by Amelia | December 5, 2007 3:00 PM

I'll be here till the end of December, Napoleon. Thanks for reminding me to add my email addy. Will I be receiving a request from you?

Posted by Steven Blum | December 5, 2007 3:00 PM

Let me think on it.....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 5, 2007 3:02 PM

The line about the random middle aged women being their for "dramatic effect" made my day. Thanks for being brave in the line of swollen anus', Public Intern!

Posted by Marcel Duchump | December 5, 2007 3:04 PM

i'm an lvt. expressing glands is extraordinarily satisfying. "like squeezing a grape" i was told, and how true it is. the little buggers deflate in a most relaxing way. i laughed very loudly at the library whilst reading that. the dog's shaking legs were the best part.
you know, the glands can abscess. consider an anal gland filled with pus and blood, attached to a miserable whining dog scooting his ass across the carpet. fixing those requires anesthesia, flushing of the gland, suturing... all while your head is mere inches from a wizened rectum. worst-case scenario: removal of the gland, which is when i decided i may not want to be a surgeon after all. public intern, you got off easy.

Posted by anal ain't banal | December 5, 2007 3:05 PM

Alright, I've ready some nasty stuff on Slog, but this... this is vile. Just the two words together 'anal sac' makes me dry heave.

I thought the Public Intern thing looked like fun. Now I pity you.

Posted by Travis | December 5, 2007 3:06 PM

Damn... While they are at it, why don't they just have you stand there and kick you in the balls?

I LOVE THE PUBLIC INTERN!! I would watch this TV show every week.

Posted by Clint | December 5, 2007 3:13 PM

Thanks for reminding me why I never ever want to get a dog.

Posted by Peter | December 5, 2007 3:16 PM

This public intern business has gone FAR ENOUGH!!

Posted by Jaymes | December 5, 2007 3:19 PM

Public Intern, you consistently make my day. I am very sad to hear we have less than a month of you left.

Posted by giantladysquirrels | December 5, 2007 3:22 PM

I love the fact that this post comes after "Aurora Business Owners Worried About their Backdoors". I'm childish like that.

Posted by tsm | December 5, 2007 3:24 PM

Anybody want to explain to me why this needs to be done? What happens to wild dogs who don't have somebody to finger their asses?

Posted by Greg | December 5, 2007 3:26 PM


Beats me. I used to be a dog owner and no one, not the books I read nor a series of vets, told me to do that.

Posted by keshmeshi | December 5, 2007 3:29 PM

You make the cutest lamp, Public Intern.

Posted by Gloria | December 5, 2007 3:29 PM

Do we get a new public intern?

Posted by Amelia | December 5, 2007 3:37 PM

the aroma (if you can call it that) is actually more akaline, like battery acid gone really really bad.

the act itself not so bad (i.e. get over it y'all). far better than, as one poster has already noted, your dog scooting around your carpet, leaving behind the aforementioned battery acid 'aroma'

Posted by ho' know | December 5, 2007 3:55 PM

@18... I don't know either. I have a dog and this has never come up. I was vaguely aware of the fact that some dogs get this done when they start scooting their butts on the carpet, but my dog has never done this. Maybe the wild dogs just scoot around on the grass until it fixes itself...

Posted by Julie | December 5, 2007 3:58 PM

What happens to a gland deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 5, 2007 4:03 PM

@18 - I don't know the logistics of how/why this is and I don't want to know, but when my dog is needing, um, expression, I can tell because she periodically releases a smell that could wake the dead and kill them all over again. It's like a combination of week old fish entrails, moldy boots and hot sauerkraut. For her, butt scooting has nothing to do with it - it happens when she is lying down, or standing around, or sometimes when she is startled.

Posted by genevieve | December 5, 2007 4:18 PM

I think it's mostly a small-dog thing. The kinds of dogs that go to groomers and sit in laps.

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | December 5, 2007 4:41 PM

If any of the Stranger editorial staff claim to need their anal glands expressed, we, the readers, don't want to hear about it.

Posted by Fnarf | December 5, 2007 4:45 PM

This is getting out of hand...

Posted by Amelia | December 5, 2007 4:49 PM

I saw something about this on Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel or something. Apparently those really gross bodily fluids that collect in the anal gland can get infected causing a lot of pain for the dog. (Hence the butt-dragging across the carpet.) Popping the sac relieves the pressure and is no more painful to the animal than popping a zit.

Bon voyage, Public Intern. We'll miss you.

Posted by RainMan | December 5, 2007 5:26 PM

I love the public intern.

I called you out in Aladdin's a while back. Sorry about that.

Posted by Tim | December 5, 2007 5:32 PM

I *heart* Public Intern.

But this is going too far. I see Public Intern as sweet and good neighborly. This has crossed the line into utterly disgusting. A cruel torture of the Public Intern, like a sick frat house hazing gone awry.

Next you'll be waterboarding the poor guy. When will it ever end?

Posted by SDA in SEA | December 5, 2007 5:40 PM

I'm still wondering why I read this.

Posted by Dianna | December 5, 2007 5:58 PM


Public Intern is a hero.

I used to be a vet tech. It is quite a smell.

Though, the procedure is kind of satisfying. Like squeezing a big ripe zit. :D

Posted by violet_dagrinder | December 5, 2007 6:08 PM

I don't really get anal sacs. None of my doggies have ever had anything resembling what I've heard about these things and have never required squeezing. Is this phenomenon universal, or one of those rare things like female ejaculation, or what? Could someone explain.

Posted by johnnie | December 5, 2007 7:31 PM

NapoleonXIV @24, that was...beautiful.

Posted by Irena | December 5, 2007 7:32 PM


I'm a student of the Benjamin Nicholas school of poetry.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 5, 2007 8:00 PM

i used to have a basset hound and they had to do it occassionally. once they made me stay in so i could hold him...the smell is something you will never forget. kind of like dirty feet sitting in a bowl of spoiled milk, cheese, and feces.

thankfully this was the only dog i'd own with angry ass sacs.

Posted by JACKSON POLLOCK | December 5, 2007 8:32 PM

uh 25... it's called flatulence

your dog is letting go of big old ripe farts scraped off the face of a turd

Posted by ho' know | December 5, 2007 8:37 PM

uh 25... it's called flatulence

your dog is letting go of big old ripe farts scraped off the face of a turd

Posted by ho' know | December 5, 2007 8:37 PM

uh 25... it's called flatulence

your dog is letting go of big old ripe farts scraped off the face of a turd

Posted by ho' know | December 5, 2007 8:37 PM

SDA in Sea - The Stranger employees/interns sign a full disclosure at the beginning of their work sentences in which a heartily acceptive acknowledgment of masochistic behavior/thought with occasional briefings into sadism will be A#1 motivation for their pithy best efforts. Carry on staff/anti-staff (as in continue pretending your Tonka trucks are penis substitutes to lure in the Barbies).

Posted by A. Birtch Steen | December 5, 2007 8:43 PM

Hello everyone interested in anal sac/were unfamiliar with said anal sacs.

Here is an informative page on that topic. It's literally called "The Anal Sacs Page." How bluntly apt, don't you think?

Our cockerspaniel had to have this done, and the vet said that if we took the dog for walks more often it wouldn't be as big of an issue.

Eventually, our beloved cocoa got internal infections because of these and had to be put down because the sickness from the infections had spread through his body. He really suffered.

Posted by Sam | December 5, 2007 9:11 PM

Best. Public Intern job. Ever.

Posted by Dod | December 5, 2007 9:32 PM

Sam, that's sad and I'm sorry.

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | December 5, 2007 10:18 PM

No worries, AKH, I'm over it now. Of course, at the time I was in college and my all-too-dramatic mother calls mat at 11 p.m. on a Friday night, I'm ready to go to the bar and she begins the conversation like this:

"Hi mom," is say.

"Sam, he's dead."

"What, mom?"

"Cocoa's dead."

"What are you talking about?"

"We killed Cocoa."

"You what!?"

"We had to put him down."

"What the fuck, mom. Great way to start the conversation."

"We killed him, Sam."

"Mom, seriously. You don't just say that."


My mother is quite the dramatic person.

I'm over it now.

But the moral of the story here, of course, is make sure to squeeze your dog's anal sacs!

Posted by Sam | December 5, 2007 10:57 PM

@27 Oh Fnarf, you just KNOW that Dan has been begging the little public intern to express his "glands" since the day he arrived;) He just can't help himself.

Posted by Winston | December 6, 2007 1:30 PM
Posted by LT L | December 6, 2007 2:02 PM

It's not just little dogs that get this. My parents' 100+ lb lab mix has this problem, too. The vet told my mom to use a warm wet washcloth on the dog's butt to stop her "acting out".

The "acting out"? The dog dragging her bed into the front yard and enthusiastically humping it in front of God and the neighbors. Since she's not dragging her ass across the yard, my mom just lets her hump. It's truly a sight to behold, especially when she makes eye contact.

I wonder how many people got those little purse dogs and found out about anal glands the hard way (preferably all over their $500 Coach dog carriers)?

Posted by Jessica | December 6, 2007 2:36 PM

TAIL, not "tale."


Posted by Matthew | December 6, 2007 2:51 PM

Ok, for those of you who are really dying to know. . .

Anal glands shouldn't require expressing. They should express on their own when the dog defecates. In some dogs, though, they don't express normally on their own. This causes discomfort for the dog, which is why you'll see the scooting (which sometimes releases the glands, and sometimes doesn't).

Proper diet and hydration can fix the problem in some dogs. In others, it's a genetic problem and has to be done for them. Smaller breeds do seem more prone. . . seems like I saw a lot of poodles and spaniels with the problem. But it can be an issue for any dog if their stools aren't the right consistency.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | December 6, 2007 4:55 PM

Just had my Australian shep's glands expressed yesterday, coincidentally (@38-40: the paint-peeling odor is decidedly NOT flatulence). Sadly, one was infected. Vet had to inject an antibiotic fluid into the gland. Analglandectomy to follow soon...

Posted by emma's bee | December 6, 2007 7:46 PM

None of my dogs have ever needed their anal glands expressed either. From time to time they poop out two-toned turds -- that's how you know everything's functioning normally.

Posted by tommy tutone | December 6, 2007 9:28 PM


Holy Jesus Napoleon, that is the best ever.

Even better that you used my favorite poet. (Langston Hughes for those who didn't recognize it).

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