What's That Smell? Dogs, Anal Glands and Your Car


FIDO Blog | Jun 01, 2017

Dear Melissa and Dr. Sip,

On three separate occasions in the car, my dog has barked loudly (presumably at some threatening poodle on the sidewalk) and the next thing I know my whole car stinks. It's definitely not his breath. What the heck?

-- Shauna  

Reno, Nevada

"Play it cool. She'll never notice, just keep it together." (Zach Zupancic/Flickr)

Dr. Sip: Oh, Shauna, this has happened to me. You’re enjoying a sunny drive on the way back from the dog park, your head is nodding to a Rolling Stones tune, and then the hound spots some fluff-ball on the passing sidewalk. And…

Melissa: Bowwowowowowowowow! It’s like the world's worst plugin just went off and you want to pass out from the fumes. . .

Dr. Sip: Shauna, you are suffering from auto-enclosed-bark-induced-anal-sac-release nausea. Your dog just barked so hard he forced his anal sacs to release some of their putrid perfume.

Melissa: Not all dogs do this, but many do. When your dog is outside in the yard barking you might not notice the smell, but when it happens in an enclosed space, it'll get your attention right away.

Dr. Sip: Anals, or anal sacs, are well known to pup owners who observe their adorable hug-meister scooting his butt on the good rug or (ugh) licking his anus exuberantly. When these behaviors occur, the vet usually has to empty clogged anal sacs.

The telltale scoot. (Narith5/flickr)

Melissa: But your experience is likely just due to enormous enthusiasm for killing that little poodle going by. Think of a tiny pressure-bomb going off--and you got trapped with the deadly fumes.

Dr. Sip: As far as addressing the aftermath, start with leaving the windows rolled down for a good LONG time. If that doesn't do the trick, it's possible that some of the pungent fluids managed to hit the interior wall, so you’ll need to tackle that directly. Grab your favorite cleaning product and get to work! At my clinic, we use AOE (Animal Odor Eliminator) for dogs that have just had their anal glands expressed.

Melissa: We have more advice about specific products to clean up pet smells in this article about dogs vomiting in cars, but most of these cleaners should work with any animal aroma. (Plus, reading that also gives you the excuse to learn at least 10 new terms for puke!)

Dr. Sip: And who doesn’t want to read about dog puke? 

As a pet owner, you can never go wrong buying cleaning products in bulk. 

Melissa: If your dog continues to expunge the bum every time he's set off by passing dogs, consulting with a positive reinforcement dog trainer can help calm his nerves, and take some of the offense out of your nostrils.

Dr. Sip: In the meantime, consider having your dog ride blindfolded to prevent unwanted poodle sightings.

More about Melissa (who wrote the dog owner’s manual, ‘Considerations for the City Dog’) and Dr. Sip (who is a practicing vet in Berkeley, CA) can be found here.

Additional note from the authors: Oddly "scooting dog" doesn’t yield many of images, but “funny dog butt” is remarkably rich in content. Use safe image search. Trust us. 

Just one of the many delights that awaits you when you google "funny dog butt." (Deb/flickr)

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