Whether you’re a new pug owner or a long-time pug devotee, you’ll inevitably discover that sometimes pug butts can emit a distinctive, fishy odor. Not only is the smell noticeable—it’s usually quite strong and sometimes even nauseating.
Luckily, the fish smell usually doesn’t indicate that there’s anything wrong with your pup. But, there are a few things you—and your groomer—can do to fix the problem.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about pug anal glands, why they sometimes fill the air with a fishy stench, and how to mitigate the problem.
All About Pug Anal Glands
Anal glands—also called anal sacs—are small sweat glands located on either side of your dog’s anus. They’re filled with a unique liquid scent that’s secreted in small amounts every time your dog poops.
The purpose of this liquid is to communicate chemical information to other dogs—it’s a scent marker that attracts other dogs to the spot, sharing their presence and other details about your dog.
When your dog sniffs another’s butt when they meet, or if you see your dog studying a nearby pile of dog poop, they’re collecting the chemical information released by another dog’s anal sacs.
While all dogs have anal glands, pugs’ anal sacs—like those of other small dogs—are slightly more prone to impaction. If your dog’s poop doesn’t put enough pressure on the anal glands, they won’t release liquid, causing it to build up and solidify in the glands.
This buildup can—at best—lead to bacterial growth and—at worst—cause an abscess that could burst, which sometimes requires surgical repair.
While the fish-butt smell isn’t always an indicator that your pug’s anal glands are impacted, it does communicate that your dog’s anal sacs didn’t release enough liquid the last time they pooped. In addition to the odor, a few other signs of impacted anal glands include:
- More frequent tail-chasing
- Scooting their butt along the floor, ground, or carpet
- A red or swollen anus
If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms in addition to the odor, it may be time to see your vet or groomer for an anal gland expression, and to check for other potential health issues.
Anal Gland Expression
If you’ve noticed the fishy smell multiple times, visit your local vet or groomer for an anal expression.
What exactly is anal sac expression? Do pugs need their anal glands expressed?
To relieve buildup or excess fluid in the anal sacs, vets or groomers insert a finger into your dog’s anus—with gloved hands and plenty of lubricant—and use their thumbs to squeeze the anal glands, releasing (or expressing) excess fluid.
Vets and groomers use the liquid expressed to determine whether or not your dog is suffering from a bacterial infection or an impaction in their anal glands. If it takes significant effort to express the glands, or if the liquid is thick or discolored, your dog may have an abscess or an infection.
While most dogs’ stool applies enough pressure to the glands for them to operate normally, dogs with significant dietary restrictions sometimes don’t create stools that are solid or large enough to naturally express their glands. While diarrhea is often a normal, temporary condition, prolonged soft stools could impact your dog’s ability to express their own anal glands.
Can I Express My Pug’s Anal Glands Myself?
While you certainly can express pug anal glands yourself at home, it’s not the most pleasant activity. Plus, squeezing anal glands without exposing your dog to discomfort takes some skill and adjustment to learn, and vets and groomers are trained professionals.
If you ever suspect that your pug may have a medical problem, the best first step is to make an appointment with your vet. While a fishy odor coming from your pug’s butt doesn’t constitute a veterinary emergency, making an appointment with your vet as soon as possible ensures that your pet stays comfortable and healthy.
If you choose to express your pug’s anal glands at home, there are a few essential materials you’ll need to complete the process:
- Latex or nitrile gloves
- A non-toxic lubricant like Vaseline
- Your pup’s collar and a non-stretching, non-extendable leash
- Paper towels
It also helps to have another person gently restrain your pug while you express their anal glands. Complete the process by lifting your dog’s tail, inserting your index finger into your dog’s anus, and using the thumb of the same hand to feel around the external anal area for two small glands, located at approximately 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock.
Gently squeeze the glands between your index finger and thumb, and use your other hand to place a paper towel over the anal area to prevent spraying. After completing the process on both sides, clean up, wash your hands, and give your dog numerous treats.
How to Fix the Fishy Odor
Other than expressing their anal glands more regularly (either at home or with the help of a vet or groomer), there are a few additional steps you can take to prevent anal gland buildup and the fishy smell:
- Make sure your dog is getting plenty of fiber. Supplement their food with brown rice, lentils, or oatmeal to help them produce more solid stools.
- Add probiotics and prebiotics to their healthcare regimen to promote a healthy gut and regular bowel movements.
- Reset your walk schedule to reinforce a healthy bowel routine. Set alarms on your phone to let your dog out (or take them for a walk) once every two hours. Even though they’re unlikely to poop on every walk, knowing that they’ll have regular potty breaks will help encourage your dog to poop instead of holding it.
Fish-Butt, Begone! Solving The Problem Of Pug Anal Glands
If you’re tired of your pug’s fish-butt overwhelming the aromas of your home, extra scent diffusers and candles alone aren’t going to fix the problem. Examining your pug’s anal glands with the help of a vet or groomer can help you determine if they’re emitting anal gland fluid in a healthy manner, and if not, a vet can help you fix the problem.
Most importantly, remember that regular visits to the vet, modifying your pug’s diet to produce more solid stools, and keeping a watchful eye on your pet’s behavior are the best preventative measures for keeping anal gland problems—and their accompanying odors—at bay.