What You Need to Know about Anal Gland Disease in Cats

Have you ever wondered why cats greet each other by sniffing each other’s behind? Well, cats, just like most mammals, have anal glands that secrete a sticky substance whose smell is unique, thus sniffing each other helps them identify one another. Unfortunately, sometimes, the anal glands may develop issues, mainly if the glands do not express the liquid naturally.

As a result, anal gland disease in cats has become a prevalent problem, despite most pet owners mostly associating the health condition with dogs. So, here is your chance to equip yourself with information about the disease and save yourself from the heartache of watching your cat in pain.

Importance of anal glands

First things first, for you to understand why anal gland disease should have you worried, you need to know the part it plays in a cats’ life. Cats have anal glands on the rectum, and you can easily spot them if you look at each side of the anal opening. Most sources say that they are located at the five and seven o’clock position, though some say they are at the four and eight o’clock position.

The glands secrete a sticky substance which is naturally expressed when a cat defecates. Therefore, the moment a cat defecates and releases the fluid, it helps to establish a territorial boundary, especially in the wild. For domesticated cats, the anal glands have been said to be vestigial.

Moreover, some pet owners have observed that their cats “poop a little” whenever they are afraid. However, the substance they find is not feces; it is anal sac secretion. A cat that is scared will manually express the pungent-smelling liquid to indicate it is scared. It is the same defense mechanism that skunks use whenever they feel cornered, and the only difference perhaps is the stench and aim.

On the other hand, a cat that is excited also expresses his anal glands; since cats will rub their noses around their favorite humans, a cat will also secrete the fluid to show how happy he is. Unfortunately, most pet owners do not understand this phenomenon; thus think the cats cannot control their bowels.

When should you be worried about your cat’s anal glands?

Glandex explains that as much as cats have high standards of hygiene, if your cat licks himself repeatedly around the anal area, it could be a sign of discomfort and pain. Alternatively, to relieve the pressure of the inflammation whenever they sit, cats usually put their body towards the front so that the hind end is in a scooting position.

Additionally, a cat can keep crying whenever he has to use the litter box due to the pain; some may even choose to do away with the litter box because they associate it with pain. Finally, a foul smell when the cat poops indicates an infection, and so is the redness or inflammation of the anal glands. While these are only symptoms of anal gland disease, it is crucial to know how it develops to enable cat owners to prevent repeat scenarios.

In a healthy cat, whenever it defecates, it expels bacteria as the secretions are flushed out meaning that if the anal sac ducts are impacted, the fluid fails to empty naturally providing bacteria with the ideal conditions to multiply. Consequently, the anal sac fills up with the secretions and the bacteria causes an infection that forms pus in the sacs, resulting in anal sac abscess.

The swellings can form on both or either sides, and if not treated, they will keep swelling until they burst open leading to anal sac rupture. Once open, the pus drains out, and as it flows to the surrounding anal area, the damage continues to worsen. You can identify a ruptured sac by sticky and bloody discharge oozing from beside or beneath the cat’s rectum.

However, sometimes, it is usually not the bacteria that cause anal gland disease in cats. Other times, a cat that has recurrent conditions such as constipation, inflammatory bowel syndrome or food allergies, is predisposed to the disease.

Treating anal sac disease in cats

Impacted anal sacs need to be emptied out, and if the area is swollen, then anti-inflammatory drugs will be used. However, if the cat has an infection in its sac, then antibiotics have to be administered. On the other hand, if the feline has a ruptured sac, a surgical procedure may be necessary, but in all anal gland diseases, pain-relieving medicine is required since they cause pain.

If you feel that the only issue is to empty the sac, do not be quick to do it yourself without consulting the veterinary since you do not know if there are underlying issues. Once given the green light, The Spruce Pets points out all the materials you need: a sturdy surface, surgical glove, treats, wet wipes and an extra pair of hands.

Instruct the person helping you to hold the cat reassuringly, with the feline facing away from you as you calm the feline down and give him treats to keep him distracted. Wear the gloves and use one hand to hold the tail up while the other locates the anal sacs at the 5 and 7 o’clock positions. Once found, use the thumb and index finger of one hand and the index finger of the other to gently press inwards and upwards on the sac so that it releases the content.

Use the same procedure on the other sac and once both sacs are emptied, wipe the cat’s anal region with the wet wipes, discard them and remove the surgical gloves. Of course, even the cat should be congratulated for being a good patient; hence, give him a treat as you release him from the work surface.

All the same, if you are not confident about doing the procedure on your own for the first time, you can take the cat to the vet and watch as he empties the sacs. If the problem is recurrent, cats are usually put on a high fiber diet so that the stool is bulky enough to push on the anal sac and prompt release of the contents. However, if the issue keeps recurring, then surgically removing the sacs is usually the best option.

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