Dog Expressing Glands When Sleeping [Understand Why]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Did you ever notice that your furry friend leaves a peculiar smell in their favorite sleeping spot? Or maybe you’ve seen them scooting their butt across the floor after waking up from a nap?

It’s not common to see a dog expressing glands when sleeping, and it can be quite puzzling for their owners.

The reasons they do that include being in a relaxed state, a possible infection, or just the fact that they have a leaky anal gland. Although it’s normal behavior, if your dog is frequently scooting or licking their rear end, it may indicate an issue that requires veterinary attention.

But don’t worry, there’s a simple solution to this stinky problem! In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know about your dog’s expressing glands when sleeping and how to handle it.

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Why Do Dogs Need to Express Their Glands?

Why Do Dogs Need to Express Their Glands?

Dogs use their anal glands, or anal sacs, to communicate with other dogs and mark their territory, and each dog has a unique smell when released.

Anal sacs can be found on either side of the anus, often called “scent glands”.

They secrete an oily substance that helps dogs identify each other and establish dominance, as well as being a way to mark territory.

When your dog sniffs another dog’s rear end, they gather information about the other dog’s identity and status.

Doggy says, you might wanna read this too: What dog breeds need their glands expressed?

What Are the Reasons for a Dog Expressing Their Glands in Their Sleep?

We all know that dogs are expressive creatures.

You know, they’re always wagging their tails, licking your face, and “smiling” when they see you.

But sometimes, dogs will express something unpleasant: their anal sacs.

And sometimes, they do that while sleeping for a couple of reasons, and sometimes, our dog leaves brown spots on the bed. Ick.

1. Relaxed muscles

It is usual for a dog to go through several stages of sleep in a typical day.

They will sleep deeply between stages 2 and 3, which is also when they are likely to go through the act of expressing their anal glands.

It can happen when the sphincter muscles relax, allowing the fluids to release.

I get it. Seeing something coming out of your dog’s bottom while it’s sleeping (or even when it’s awake) is certainly concerning and causes you to become alarmed and worried.

But, this should not be interpreted as a sign that they are ill.

It is also common in older or overweight dogs because they have more difficulty controlling their bowel movements and have higher stress levels.

2. A leaky anal gland

A leaky anal gland occurs when your dog’s glands continuously produce fluid, and the muscle that normally holds the gland closed is not strong enough to keep the fluid in. 

It can cause the fluid to leak out of the gland, leading to unpleasant smells, discomfort, and irritation for your dog.

Your dog may also leak because of an infection or other medical condition.

3. Anal gland impaction

Anal gland impaction is one of the most common reasons why your dog expresses their anal glands involuntarily while sleeping.

It occurs when the anal glands do not empty properly and become too full, to the point where the pressure can cause it to express involuntarily, even when your dog is sleeping.

You can often notice symptoms such as scooting their rear ends on the ground, licking or biting at their anus, or having trouble defecating when they have an anal gland impaction.

4. Infection of the anal gland

If the glands become impacted (the stool builds up and causes blockage), this can result in an infection.

A buildup of fecal matter inside usually causes infection in the anal gland.

If this happens, you’ll notice more than just a little fluid coming out when your dog poops.

An infection of your dog’s anal glands can cause them to express themselves in sleep. 

Surgical intervention may be necessary if the infection does not respond to antibiotics or other treatments.

5. An emotional response

We all know that dogs have a lot of emotions. They can be happy, sad, excited, frustrated, and more. 

But what we don’t know is that these emotions can sometimes cause your dog to express themselves in their sleep.

Ask yourself, was there a lot of activity during the day?

Have there been changes in your home recently, such as you bringing home a new puppy?

These events can cause your dog to experience a wide range of emotions including stress, which leads to them expressing themselves while sleeping.

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Is There Anything Wrong With Dogs Expressing Their Glands While Sleeping?

It is not necessarily “wrong” or “abnormal” for your dog to express its anal glands while sleeping, as this can be a natural bodily function.

This is a normal physiological process.

The thing is, the fluid is nasty smelling and can be in various colors, including dark green, yellow, and brown.

This means that it might leave stains on your dog’s bed, your carpet, or wherever your dog sat.

Also, if it occurs too frequently or excessively, it might mean there’s a problem with your dog’s anal sac, maybe an infection or it’s blocked.

In addition, dogs that experience strong emotions like fear or stress may sometimes express their anal glands unconsciously, including during sleep.

Therefore, it is essential for dog owners like you to monitor your dog’s gland expression and seek veterinary advice if you notice any unusual or excessive discharge.

Is There a Way to Prevent My Dog From Expressing Its Anal Glands While Sleeping?

There’s not really any 100% foolproof way to stop your dog from expressing itself, but there are some things you can do to try and prevent or reduce the likelihood.

The methods include:

  • Diet: Giving your dog a high-fiber diet, like pumpkin or a fiber supplement, can improve their bowel movements and prevents impaction on the anal glands.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help stimulate your dog’s bowel movements and promote healthy gland expression.
  • Weight: Maintain a healthy weight for your dog as obesity can contribute to anal gland issues. If your dog is overweight, it may have trouble expressing its glands and could be suffering from chronic discomfort or pain as a result.
  • Regular gland expression: Regularly expressing your dog’s glands can help prevent impaction and reduce the chances of them expressing their glands while sleeping. You can learn to do it yourself or ask your vet for assistance.
  • Low-stress level: Dogs need to express their glands to keep their stress levels low, and stress is a big deal for dogs. It can cause behavioral and physical problems, so it’s essential to recognize it quickly.
  • Grooming: Keeping your dog’s anal area clean and regularly grooming their fur can help prevent infection or inflammation.

When is There a Need to See the Vet?

Expressing your dog’s anal glands is a routine task that most pet parents should always be ready for.

However, there are situations when you need to consider seeing your vet. 

For example:

  • Excessive gland expression: It happens when your dog produces too much substance in its glands. Dogs often lick and gnaw at their paws or belly during this time, which can cause serious damage to themselves if left untreated.
  • Discharge with blood or pus: If your dog’s gland expression contains blood or pus, it could be a sign of infection or injury.
  • Scooting or licking: If your dog scoots or licks excessively, it may have skin allergies, infections, intestinal parasites, fleas, tumors, or other causes.
  • Pain or discomfort: If your dog is in pain or discomfort when expressing their glands, it could be a sign of a health issue such as an abscess.
  • Changes in behavior: If your dog acts differently, it could mean a health issue. Usually, they are more aggressive and less affectionate. Sudden behavior changes in your dog are likely due to trauma or severe pain.
  • Changes in appetite: If your dog appears uninterested in food and refuses to eat, it may indicate pain or could be due to medical issues, behavioral problems, and problems with the food itself.


Should I express my dog’s glands manually?

Yes, you should express your dog’s anal glands manually but under the guidance of a vet. While it seems simple, there is a risk of injury or infection.

Can dogs naturally express their own glands?

Yes, dogs can naturally express their own anal glands. Anal glands, also known as scent glands, are located on either side of the anus. These glands release a musky scent unique to each dog, and they can expel it when they defecate, get scared, or are excited.

Why does my dog express his glands on my furniture?

Dogs may mark their territory by expressing their anal glands on furniture or objects. Stress or anxiety can also cause this behavior. A vet can evaluate if there are underlying health issues, and a trainer or behaviorist can provide solutions to prevent this behavior.

How often should a dog have their glands expressed?

Dogs need their anal glands expressed every 3-4 weeks when they cannot do so naturally. The frequency depends on breed, size, diet, overall health, and individual gland size and function differences. Note that not all dogs require regular gland expression, and some may never need it at all.

Why do my dog’s glands keep leaking?

A dog’s glands continually leaking may indicate an underlying health problem, such as inflammation, infection, or impaction. It’s important to seek veterinary advice to diagnose the cause and get suitable treatment. The vet may suggest dietary or lifestyle changes to manage the condition, if necessary.

Do dogs feel relief when their glands get expressed?

Yes, your dog often feels relief when expressing their anal glands. The glands can become uncomfortable and painful if impacted, and expressing them can ease the discomfort. However, regular expression of the glands is not always necessary or only when there is a medical need.

In Conclusion: Dog Expressing Glands When Sleeping

I hope this article has answered your questions, and provided you with some useful solutions.

You don’t worry too much but just stay alert and keep an eye on your dog if things take a wrong turn.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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