Anal Glands in Cats – Diseases and Treatment

Your cat has two glands or anal sacs on its back, which expel a liquid when it does its business that serves the cat to mark its territory.

In some cases, these clogged anal glands cause pain, irritation and discomfort to your cat, which will require a visit to the vet. These anal sacs generally go unnoticed until we smell their secretions or there is a problem with them.

Knowing the function of these glands or sacs, as well as the possible complications that can occur, will be what I will tell you in this article.

Cat anal gland anatomy

Both male and female cats have two pea-sized anal glands located around their rectal openings . From the outside, two very small holes can be seen on the left and right sides of the anal opening.

The walls of the glands are lined by a large number of sebaceous (sweat) glands that produce a foul-smelling fluid . The fluid is stored in the anal sacs and is released through a small tube or canal that opens just inside the anus. The fluid in the glands can also thicken and become gritty, or even bulky, if stored for a long time or if there are problems with the glands.


What do cats have anal sacks for?

The anal glands help your cat mark his territory . In nature, cats mark their territory in different ways and the secretion of fluid from the anal gland is one of the ways to communicate their presence to other animals. 

The fluid from the anal gland can be sprayed or simply drip creating a bad smell . The secretions are similar to those produced by a skunk, which are used to repel enemies and alert other animals to their presence. Although cats can use their anal sacs for the same purpose, most house cats have no need to repel predators in this way.

Typically, a small amount of anal fluid is expelled by muscle contractions when the cat defecates, which provides a distinctive odor to the feces.

Problems with the cat’s anal glands

Sometimes the anal sacs or their ducts can become inflamed or infected due to a variety of causes. If the anal sac ducts become swollen, fluid cannot be adequately emptied from the sacs during defecation. In this situation, the sacs can become plugged and the liquid becomes thicker and darker in color.

Among the several reasons why the anal glands can become clogged :

  • Inflammation –When tissue in the anal gland and its duct becomes inflamed, it can make it difficult or impossible for secretions to leave the body.
  • Tumors:If there is a tumor, it may be blocking the duct of the anal gland, causing the fluid to be unable to escape.
  • Cat Anal Gland Infection:The fluid in the anal sacs can harbor bacteria if they are not emptied regularly. The bacteria will reproduce and cause an infection, consequently causing the secretions from the anal gland to become thicker, bloody, and often unable to exit the gland through the small duct.
  • Low Fiber Diet –There are cats that may need a higher fiber diet to help press on the glands during defecation.
  • Obesity: Some cats are so overweight that the anal glands cannot function naturally because of it. Weight loss is the solution.


Symptoms of anal sac disease

The signs of anal sac disease depend on the nature and severity of the problem. The first signs are seen when the cat slides or drags the “butt” along the ground and licks or bites the rectum or tail.

Anal gland disease is very painful. Plugged anal glands become swollen, itchy, and painful for your cat. You can also see him endlessly licking and biting the area because of this.

Check his back for signs of redness or swelling. Your cat may become constipated and show signs of tension or crying while in the litter box. Gland pain can cause you to flush out of your litter box. It can also cause a bad odor from the anal area .

What you can do when the anal gland or sac is affected

The treatment will basically consist of emptying the anal sacs and removing the solidified material. For this you can do the following:

  1. Emptying of the anal sac or gland

The vet will push to empty  your cat’s clogged anal glands , by hand.

If the content is hard or dry, you can try to soften it. You can also give your cat extra fiber, which increases his poop, making the job easier.

The vet can give you medication to relieve pain. You can also use a tranquilizer or sedative to keep you calm.

  1. Use of antibiotics for infection

If your cat has an infection , the vet will empty her anal sacs and then give her an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

  1. Perianal abscess in cats

Anal sac disease that has led to an abscess will require puncture and redness of the affected area . This procedure will likely require sedation and will be carried out by the vet.

  1. Surgical intervention of the anal sacs

If these treatments don’t work and the problems continue, your vet can surgically remove your cat’s anal sacs . However, this is considered a last resort as it can lead to complications such as fecal incontinence in the cat.


Prevention of cat anal gland problems

The best thing you can do for your cat to help prevent anal gland problems is to feed him  quality  high-fiber food and keep him in good physical condition .

If you are concerned about anal gland problems developing, keep your cat from being overweight and notify your vet if he is dragging his butt on the floor or has any swelling around the rectum area. Monitor your cat’s feces for diarrhea and do not try to manipulate the anal glands without the need for it can cause irritation, so it is best to leave them alone.



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