Cat’s Anal Gland Issues
Two tiny glands called the anal glands are located right inside a cat’s anus (sometimes referred to as anal sacs). The anal glands are situated at the 4 and the 8 positions on the face of a clock if you were to visualize your cat’s anus as the dial. They secrete a pungent odor.
These glands were originally used by cats to mark their territory and ward off predators, but after domestication, they are no longer very useful. When a cat urinates, little amounts of anal gland secretion are discharged; but, when cats become agitated or frightened, the whole contents of these glands may be expressed.
As a cat veterinarian, I can’t even begin to count the number of times a scared or anxious cat has “glanded” me in the examination room. The air in the room starts to smell strongly fishy and musky. I have to change clothes right away if it gets on my lab coat or shirt because otherwise the odor will stick to me all day.
Anal gland disorders are more frequent in dogs, though they can also affect cats. Impaction, abscesses, and tumors are examples of common anal gland problems.
When it’s impacted
Impaction happens when the duct connecting the gland to the anus gets blocked; as a result, the gland swells as it fills with secretion. The pressure inside the gland grows as it stretches, which hurts.
Although this behavior is more frequently observed in dogs, cats will occasionally show their displeasure by “scooting,” or dragging their anus on the carpet or floor. Cats with anal gland inflammation tend to lick, clean, and generally bother around the anal area more than usual. Cats occasionally display resistance to pooping or sitting, and they may keep their tail in an odd position.
Your veterinarian can manually express the anal glands to treat anal gland impaction. This opens up the blocked duct and releases pressure within the gland, which typically fixes the issue. All cats detest having their anal glands expressed, despite the fact that I’ve performed thousands of them throughout my career and have learnt how to do so fast and rather painlessly.
When it’s an abscess
The secretion of the anal gland that is imprisoned occasionally gets contaminated. Given the glands’ near closeness to the anus, this is not surprising. Within the gland, pus will start to build up and create an abscess. When the duct from the gland to the area just inside the anus is blocked, the pus inside the gland will attempt to exit through the skin around the anus. The first symptom that an owner may notice is when the pus bursts through the skin and flows away naturally in certain cases.
Skin damage from an anal gland rupture frequently necessitates anesthesia, meticulous cleaning, surgical cutting, and/or excision of the affected skin. To decrease the size of the wound and encourage rapid healing, a few stitches could be needed. Your cat will need to be sedated or put under anesthetic so that your veterinarian may lance the abscess if it is discovered before the gland bursts. Following lancing of the abscess, a few days of antibiotics are recommended. Warm compresses administered to the area helps hasten healing, although this can be challenging because most cats don’t like having a warm cloth placed on their bottom.
A high-fiber diet may help cats with recurring anal gland issues because it makes the stool bulkier, which increases pressure on the anal glands during defecation and improves the efficiency of the glands’ expression.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can help lower the likelihood of anal gland illnesses in cats because overweight cats are more susceptible to them. Cats with recurrent abscesses or impactions might need to have their anal glands surgically removed. From what I’ve seen, it’s rarely necessary.
Kitty got anal gland problems?
If something is happening, you will likely observe this type of activity in the anal sac region:
- excessive licking
- reluctance to sit or poop
- tail held in unusual position
- an abscess forms
If you see this, you should take your cat to the clinic so they can treat the impaction and express the anal glads.
Could it be cancer?
Thankfully, anal gland adenocarcinoma, or cancer of the anal glands, is a rare disease in cats. The following signs frequently resemble those of an anal gland abscess:
- ulceration of the skin surrounding the anus
Anal gland adenocarcinoma in cats is most commonly treated by surgically removing the diseased anal gland; however, because these tumors are frequently aggressive and the cancer has already spread to other regions of the body by the time a diagnosis is established, the outlook is not good. Being able to diagnose no cases in my practice makes me feel fortunate.
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