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Dog Anal Leakage? Everything A Vet Needs You To Know - PawSafe

Dog Anal Leakage? Everything A Vet Needs You To Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog anal leakage

Is your dog experiencing anal leakage? If so, you’re not alone. Many dog owners face this issue and wonder, “Why is my dog leaking from their bottom?” Anal leakage in dogs can have various causes and include smelly clear liquid, leaking poo, or diarrhea, depending on the cause.

This article will help you understand why your dog might be experiencing this problem, covering everything from anal glands to other potential causes like diarrhea and incontinence. We will also refer to the work of Dr. Faith Banks, DVM, in her research on canine bowel incontinence.

Understanding the root of the issue is the first step toward finding the right treatment and ensuring your dog’s comfort and health.

While some cases of anal leakage might be relatively harmless and easily treatable, others may require prompt veterinary attention. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs. Early intervention can prevent potential complications and help your dog get back to feeling comfortable and healthy.

Understanding Dog Anal Glands: The Usual Suspects

Vet expressing anal glands of Chihuahua for anal leakage issues

Dog anal glands, also known as anal sacs, play an essential role in scent marking. These small glands, located on either side of a dog’s anus, produce a unique, smelly secretion that dogs use to communicate with each other. When your dog defecates, these glands usually empty naturally, releasing their contents onto the stool.

However, some dogs may accidentally express their anal glands when they are excited, scared, or even when they are sleeping or resting. This accidental expression typically results in the release of a clear fluid that has a very bad, fishy odor. While this might be unpleasant, it is generally harmless.

Problems arise when the anal glands do not empty properly. If they become impacted or infected, your dog may develop anal sac disease, leading to discomfort and further health issues. Symptoms of impacted anal glands include scooting, licking or biting at the rear end, and visible swelling or redness around the anus.

Remember, this is different from when a female dog leaks clear fluid from her genitals. 

But if you’re wondering, “Why is my dog dripping from her bum?”, it might be time to check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s anal glands are functioning properly and to prevent any potential issues from escalating. So, let’s look at how you know if your dog has impacted anal glands.

Signs of Impacted Anal Glands

Impacted anal glands can cause significant discomfort for your dog. Here are some common signs that may indicate your dog is suffering from this issue:

  • Scooting on the Floor is when dogs drag their rear end along the floor in an attempt to express their anal glands manually.
  • Persistent licking or biting at the area around the anus is a common sign of discomfort.
  • Dogs may chase their tails due to irritation or pain from impacted anal glands.
  • Impacted anal glands can make it painful for your dog to pass stool, leading to straining or difficulty during defecation.
  • Inflammation and swelling in the anal area are typical symptoms of impacted glands.
  • You may notice a brown, smelly discharge coming from your dog’s anus, indicating that the glands are not emptying properly. If the anal glands become abscesses and rupture, this discharge can become full of pus and blood.
  • An unusually bad, fishy odor is a common sign that your dog’s anal glands are impacted.
  • If the glands are impacted, hard masses can be felt in the area of the sacs.
  • When the sacs are infected or abscessed, severe pain and discoloration of the area are often present.
  • Open tracts of tissue can lead from abscessed sacs and rupture through the skin, causing a wound.
  • Tumors involving the anal sacs are sometimes present.

If you observe any of these symptoms, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian to prevent further complications. Understanding and recognizing the symptoms of blocked anal glands in dogs can help you provide timely care and relief for your pup. Additionally, keep an eye out for a brown anal discharge dog, as this is a clear sign of potential anal gland issues.

Causes of impacted anal glands vary, but typically it’s because the glands aren’t expressing naturally when the dog poops. This is common in overweight dogs, dog’s who don’t get enough fiber in their diets and have soft stool, or it could be congenital issues, infections, cysts and other issues. 

Beyond Anal Glands: Other Causes of Dog Anal Leakage

Vet examining senior Chihuahua for anal leakage causes

Anal leakage in dogs isn’t always due to problems with their anal glands. Sometimes, it can be caused by bowel incontinence, which comes in two main types: reservoir incontinence and sphincter incontinence.

Reservoir Incontinence

Reservoir incontinence happens when the rectum can’t store stool properly. This can be due to conditions like:

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Chronic inflammation in the intestines can affect the rectum’s ability to store stool. This can also include issues like colitis

Severe Diarrhea

Ongoing diarrhea can overwhelm the rectum, leading to leakage.

Sphincter Incontinence

Sphincter incontinence occurs when the anal sphincter muscles are weakened and can’t hold in stool effectively. This type of incontinence can be caused by:

Tears or Wounds in the Rectum

Injuries in the rectal area can damage the muscles, leading to leakage.

Masses or Tumors

Growths in the rectum or surrounding areas can obstruct the sphincter, making it difficult to control bowel movements.

Nerve Damage

Damage to the nerves that control the anal sphincter can result in loss of muscle control, causing incontinence.

Also, Weakened anal muscles can lead to sphincter incontinence, causing your dog to leak fecal matter. This is a common issue in older dogs and is often referred to as dog anal sphincter incontinence. We will discuss incontinence in senior dogs below.

Other Causes:

  • Parasites such as worms can cause gastrointestinal distress, leading to anal leakage.
  • Certain food ingredients can trigger allergic reactions or sensitivities in some dogs, causing digestive issues and possible anal leakage.
  • Apart from impaction, anal sac disease can involve infection or inflammation of the anal glands, leading to leakage or dripping discharge.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary advice for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Early intervention can help address the underlying issue and provide relief for your dog.

Serious Causes of Leakage Needing Veterinary Attention

While some causes of anal leakage in dogs are minor and easy to treat, others are more serious and need quick attention from a vet. Here are two serious conditions that require immediate care:

Perianal Fistula

This is a painful condition where abnormal passages develop between the anal sac and the skin. These passages can cause pus or feces to leak out, leading to severe discomfort and infection. 

If you notice your dog has open sores or is leaking a bad-smelling discharge, it’s important to see a vet right away. Treatment may involve medication, surgery, or both to manage the condition effectively.

Perianal and Rectal Tumors

Tumors in the perianal or rectal area can block the anal sphincter, causing leakage. These tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Symptoms might include visible lumps, bleeding, and difficulty pooping. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent further problems. 

If you see any unusual growths or persistent leakage in your dog, contact a vet immediately. Treatment options depend on the type and severity of the tumor and may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Treatment Options for Dog Anal Leakage

If your dog is experiencing anal leakage, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to the underlying cause. A vet can determine the specific issue and recommend the best course of action to help your dog feel better. Here are some potential treatment options a vet might suggest:

Expression of Anal Glands

If your dog has impacted anal glands, the vet may manually express them to relieve the pressure and discomfort.

Dietary Changes

For dogs with diarrhea or food allergies, dietary adjustments can help manage symptoms and reduce leakage. This might involve switching to a hypoallergenic diet or adding more fiber to your dog’s food.


Depending on the cause, medications might be prescribed to treat infections, parasites, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This can help alleviate the symptoms and prevent further leakage.


In severe cases, such as with perianal fistulas, tumors, or significant incontinence, surgery may be necessary. The vet will discuss the best surgical options based on your dog’s condition.

Remember, the key to effectively treating dog anal leakage is to address the root cause

Anal Leakage in Senior Dogs: Causes and What to Do

Old dog with anal leakage wearing diaper

As dogs age, they may lose the ability to control when and where they defecate, leading to anal leakage or fecal incontinence. This can be distressing for both the pet and the owner. Here’s a look at the causes of anal leakage in senior dogs and what you can do to help.

Kinds of Fecal Incontinence in Older Dogs

Reservoir incontinence occurs when the rectum cannot store stool properly, leading to frequent, conscious defecation. Common causes include colitis (inflammation of the colon), cancer (tumors in the colon or rectum), and severe diarrhea. Chronic diarrhea can overwhelm the rectum’s storage capacity, making it difficult for your dog to control bowel movements.

Anal sphincter incontinence happens when the muscles around the anus are weakened or damaged. Non-neurologic causes include perianal fistulas, which are painful tracts that develop between the anal sac and the skin, causing leakage of pus or feces. 

Trauma from previous surgeries or tumors affecting the anal sphincter, such as anal sac adenocarcinoma, can also lead to this type of incontinence. Neurologic causes involve conditions like Lower Motor Neuron (LMN) disease, which leads to decreased anal tone and sensation, or Upper Motor Neuron (UMN) disease, characterized by normal anal tone but can include urinary incontinence and difficulty controlling bowel movements.

What To Do If Your Old Dog Has Bowel Incontinence

If your dog is experiencing anal leakage a vet needs to do a thorough history, physical exam, and neurological exam are necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Your vet may also recommend X-rays or MRI to pinpoint the issue. In some cases, a referral to a neurologist might be needed to decide whether surgery is indicated.


Treatment focuses on addressing the root cause of the incontinence. Medications like phenylpropanolamine, diphenoxylate, and loperamide may help manage symptoms, but these should be used under a vet’s guidance due to potential side effects. 


Dietary changes, such as switching to a highly digestible diet or increasing fiber content, can help manage stool consistency. Scheduled feeding times can also help regulate bowel movements. For dogs with arthritis or degenerative joint disease, managing pain with medications can improve mobility and reduce incontinence.

Environmental Management

Environmental adjustments can also make a big difference. Keep incontinent pets in easy-to-clean areas of the house, using baby gates, playpens, and waterproof mats to limit their access. 

Pet Diapers

Pet diapers can help manage incontinence in smaller dogs, while for larger dogs, managing urine leakage with diapers is often easier than managing fecal leakage. Provide frequent opportunities for your dog to go outside, especially after meals, to help manage their toileting needs.

Do Not Punish!

It’s important to maintain a positive environment for your senior dog. Avoid punishing your pet for accidents, as they may not have control over their bowel movements. Use supportive products like doggy diapers, belly bands, and waterproof bed pads to keep your pet and home clean.

Preventing Dog Anal Leakage

Preventing anal leakage in dogs involves several proactive steps to ensure your pet’s health and comfort. Regular anal gland expression is essential. This can be done by a veterinarian or a groomer if you are not comfortable doing it yourself. Regular expression helps prevent the glands from becoming impacted or infected.

Feeding your dog a high-quality diet with proper fiber content is also crucial. A balanced diet supports healthy digestion and can help maintain the regular emptying of anal glands during defecation. Additionally, keeping your dog up-to-date on parasite prevention medication is important. Parasites can cause digestive issues leading to anal leakage, so regular treatment is necessary to keep them at bay.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is another important preventative measure. Excess fat deposits around the anal glands can impede their proper expression, leading to issues. Ensuring your dog stays fit and at a healthy weight can help prevent this problem.

By following these preventative measures, you can help reduce the risk of anal leakage in your dog and ensure they remain healthy and comfortable. Regular veterinary check-ups will also help catch any potential issues early, allowing for prompt treatment.


Preventing anal leakage in dogs requires regular anal gland expression, a high-quality diet, parasite prevention, and maintaining a healthy weight. These steps can help keep your dog comfortable and healthy.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.