Today I wanted to cover off one of those questions that you probably never thought you would have to ask; whether your French Bulldog needs to have the anal glands expressed.
I’ve done some extensive research into the matter and found an amazing video from a vet on YouTube which I believe offers some fantastic advice. It’s embedded below, so please take 8 minutes out to watch it. Here’s what I picked up from the vet’s advice. My response here is purely personal. Do your own research please.
Do French Bulldogs need their anal glands expressed? Frenchies don’t normally need their anal glands expressed. If your Frenchie doesn’t have an anal gland problem, leave alone and don’t get the glands unnecessarily milked. This can lead to problems. However, in case of an anal gland infection, vets may help with expressing or prescribe antibiotics
In simple terms, if you’ve got a Frenchie who has never had their anal glands expressed, please don’t go to a dog groomer or vet and ask them to do it if there’s no need to. Watch the video below to find out why this is the case, then read my notes underneath.
French Bulldog anal gland problems
Did you watch the video? Here’s a link to Dr Karen Becker’s qualifications, and why I am taking what she says seriously… it makes total sense.
Don’t squeeze your French Bulldog’s anal glands if you don’t need to.
It can and will lead to further problems, only meaning you may then be on a path where you need it done regularly by a professional.
If they do have an anal gland problem, speak to your vet to identify what the route cause could be:
- Inflammatory response
- Allergic response
- Soft stool issue
- Environmental allergy
What are Frenchie anal glands?
Anal glands are tiny little sacs that sit just inside your French Bulldog’s anus. They are designed to secrete really smelly bio-chemical material that contains the pheromones that help dogs identify each other.
This is why dog’s like to smell each other’s behinds. It lets the dogs know if the other dog is male, female, in season and offers a lot of information to let dogs communicate with each other.
For example, when you Frenchie stops to sniff another dog’s faeces it’s their way of finding out information about the dog that pooped. When a dog poops, the anal gland sac secretes material into the faeces.
In the video on YouTube by the vet Dr Karen Becker she goes into some great detail on this. I really recommend that you watch it as she puts a lot of misinformation about anal glands to the sword.
The bottom line is (no pun intended) that dogs have existed with anal glands for thousands of years with no human intervention.
Cavemen weren’t expressing dogs’ anal glands, and in fact, Dr Becker says it was only in the 1950s that this became a practice that developed from dog grooming schools. Dr Becker says that emptying the anal sacs was done as a courtesy treatment.
She then goes onto to say that the trauma associated with anal gland milking is in fact what then goes onto lead to subsequent issues.
She believes that dog groomers who go in and milk your Frenchie’s anal glands can actually create unnecessary trauma to the duct, which then can result in further problems. This trauma can lead onto the duct in the anal gland becoming swollen to the point where it does need expressing more often as it won’t be able to express naturally.
Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy doesn’t it?
Undue trauma is the most common reason why French Bulldogs have anal gland problems. If your dog groomer offers to milk the anal glands on your French Bulldog, tell them not to.
However, if your Frenchie does have an anal gland problem, then it’s important to only let a qualified vet near them. They will understand how much pressure is needed in order to express them, only doing it enough to let the anal gland recover and start expressing by itself as it should do.
It should be a vet’s responsibility only to diagnose the problem first, and then milk them if absolutely necessary.
Dr Becker then goes onto say that she sees French Bulldogs who have had their anal glands expressed monthly at a dog groomer. That has subsequently led to the anal gland losing the muscle tone to do it by itself naturally, and the duct can then become inflamed and start to not work properly.
A great analogy she used was like a balloon.
“When you first blow up a balloon its nice and taut. But the more you let it down, blow it up again, and repeat, it will start to lose its function.”
She believes it’s the same thing with a Frenchie’s anal gland sac.
Once the French Bulldog’s anal glands then become dependent on a groomer or vet to express them, the muscle tone will start to break down, meaning the glands cannot function as they should, and will then need regularly expressing.
Muscle tone can get lost with regular expression. Instead let the vet check, and if it’s working ok and the duct is full, then it should be left alone without being milked.
What causes anal gland problems
- Regular expressing and milking
Your French Bulldog’s anal gland problems will often be the secondary symptom of an underlying bowel or intestinal health issue. By fixing the root cause, you will often get to the bottom of why your Frenchie might have an anal gland issue in the first place.
In the case of allergies, your Frenchie’s anus can collection allergens whilst out of the house. This can cause itching meaning your dog then scoots around on its bottom to relieve the feeling. Getting the allergy identified and fixed up can help.
Our personal experience
We’ve had Claude the Frenchie for over 3 years now and have never had to milk his anal glands in this time… and I am truly grateful for that!
He has regular vet check-ups and not once has our vet recommended that we do it.
Perhaps as he gets older, we might have to deal with a French Bulldog anal sac impaction, but I believe that this hasn’t yet been the case as we have left his glands well alone. You can read more about anal sac impaction in my list of 31 health problems Frenchies have (it’s number 6 in the list).
What other Frenchie owners say?
Personally, I am taking the word of Dr Karen Becker. Having watched her video, I don’t believe a French Bulldog anal gland should be expressed, unless they have developed a problem and a professional says it needs to happen.
However, I didn’t just want to leave you with one opinion. I always want to give a fair response and as many conflicting views as possible.
I took a look on Facebook to see what other owners were saying, and he’s a wide variety of responses.
“We have been taking our Frenchie to have his anal glands milked once every couple of months since he was 8 months old. Our dog groomer told us that this would help him stave off any risk of anal sac impaction, including the glands exploding!”
“All of our Frenchies need to be expressed occasionally. Our vet taught my wife how to do it but sometimes it is difficult, and we have the vet do it. But definitely check and clean the tail pocket first. We use a chlorhexidine wipe and a finger. Our female’s tail pocket is close to an inch deep. They can get dirty and infected if not kept clean.”
“We have never done it and last year my Frenchie got an anal sac impaction which got really bad looking. The milking had to be done at the vet. They showed me how to do it but she won’t let me near her backside so I just hope that never happens again.”
The bottom line
I am not a vet.
But I am a French Bulldog owner.
We have never had to express the anal glands on our French Bulldog, and I believe (having watched the video) that this is one of the reasons why we’ve not had to start.
However, Frenchies can still suffer with anal sac impaction and will need some degree of care. In fact, they may need the sacs milking, but please get professional advice before coming to this conclusion.
If you Frenchie starts to scoot along the floor, or you see a leak occurring, don’t take things into your own hands. Go to your vet and ask them to look. As Dr Becker discussed, it could be a sign of a health problem that needs addressing.
That health problem could then resolve any anal gland leakage and inflammation.
It appears to be that you will often have to focus on the cause of the problem.
Don’t let a dog groomer do it as an optional extra… this could cause more trauma and lead to further problems down the line.
To reiterate, I have no veterinary qualifications. This article is purely based on my own research and experience.
I’ve heavily focused on unnecessary anal gland expressing, as I now believe that is what leads to a lot of problems.
However, this won’t’ always be the case, and your vet may need to milk them from time to time. But the key here is letting a professional do it and diagnose where it’s even needed in the first place.
My personal opinion is that we should not be doing this to our Frenchie’s ourselves as it could just be a result of a larger underlying issue.
Watch the video and make your own mind up!
Update on 27th December 2019
Since originally writing this blog post, Claude has actually had his anal glands expressed. I took him to the vet after he had a sprain over the Christmas period and the vet identified that he had an anal gland infection, and she needed to express them.
It wasn’t a nice thing to watch happening… it didn’t hurt him, but was just an unpleasant thing to witness. I describe the process in the video below which you can also find on the French Bulldog Owner YouTube Channel.