Feline Anal Gland Disease

The anal glands (sacs) lie beneath the skin, on each side of the rectal opening. The anal glands are lined with glands that produce a secretion with a strong odor. This is the same gland as the “scent gland” of the skunk.

The secretion is normally discharged from the rectum with the stools or when the rectal muscle tightens--such as when your cat is frightened.

Types of anal gland disease include:

  • Impaction: Abnormal secretions are thick and unable to escape through the duct. This may result from a change in the nature of the secretions. The sacs become swollen and painful.
  • Infection: Bacterial infection produces a thin, foul-smelling discharge. Licking of these glands may cause other body infections, such as tonsillitis and skin infections.
  • Abscess formation: If left untreated, infections may abscess resulting in a painful swelling filled with pus that cannot escape. Often the gland will burst from the pressure as the infectious discharge accumulates. Many cats are presented to their veterinarian with a “hole” beside the rectum, which is a result of a bursting abscess.

Symptoms Of Anal Gland Disease: 

Symptoms of anal gland disease include:

  • Scooting or dragging the rear-end on the floor or ground. A discharge may be seen on the floor.
  • Jerking around quickly to lick the tail area or excessive licking of the rectal area.
  • Reluctance to lift the tail or allow you to touch the rear-end.
  • Constipation.
  • Bloody drainage around the rectal area.

If your cat is exhibiting these types of symptoms, you should seek veterinary assistance for him/her.

Diagnosis Of Anal Gland Disease:

Diagnosis is accomplished through a physical examination. Your cat's veterinarian will need to examine the anal glands and the area surrounding the anal region. This may involve a rectal examination.

Treatment Of Anal Gland Disease:

Treatment will depend on the severity of the disease.

If the anal glands are merely full of fluid and not diseased or if they are impacted, manual expression of the glands may be all that is necessary to relieve your cat's discomfort.

Manual expression is accomplished by physically emptying the anal glands.

In some cases, this may require inserting your index finger into your cat's rectum and squeezing the area to the left and to the right of the anus using your thumb and index finger.

In other cases, especially with small dogs and cats, you can express the anal glands by placing your thumb on one side of the rectum and index finger on the other and squeezing the area in between.

With practice, you will be able to feel the anal glands between your fingers and will be able to tell if they are full of fluid.

Be warned, this process is messy, smelly, and unpleasant.

If you are unable to express your cat's anal glands, or are uncomfortable doing so, your cat's veterinarian will be able to perform this procedure for you.

If the gland is infected or an abscess has formed, it may be necessary not only to manually express the anal gland, but to start antibiotics to control the infection and sometimes even flushing the infected anal gland will be required.

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