Cat Health: Anal Gland Impaction
All predatory animals possess anal glands. While skunks use them as a defense tool, dogs and cats use them to scent their territory. The anal glands (anal sacs) rest just below, and on either side of, the anal opening. During a bowel movement, the anal muscles apply pressure to the glands, allowing a small amount of secretion to accompany the stool, scenting the feces with the cat's unique smell.
Though anal gland impaction is more prevalent in dogs, cats also suffer from this uncomfortable affliction. The anal gland's ducts can get clogged and cause them to become impacted, infected, or abscessed. Once bacteria start to travel down the anal ducts and infiltrate the glands, the condition can become quite painful and lead to infection or abscesses.
Normal anal gland functioning produces a clear or yellow-brown secretion. When the anal glands become impacted, the secretion becomes a thick, pasty-brown, nasty-smelling material and the glands become enlarged. If left untreated, impacted glands can become infected or develop abscesses. Get your cat to the vet at the first sign of any of the symptoms listed below.
Symptoms of Anal Gland Impaction
* The cat will sit on its hindquarters and drag itself (scoot) across the carpet or ground. This activity is often accompanied by an extremely offensive odor.
* The cat begins to engage in excessive licking of the anal area.
* The area around the tail becomes a "tender spot" when petting and results in the cat hissing, swatting or biting.
* The cat may have a problem with defecation. Recent bouts of diarrhea, chronically soft stools, or suffering from an over or under production of glandular secretions can be contributing factors.
Treatment for Anal Gland Impaction
* The anal glands need to be emptied out, commonly referred to as "expressing the glands", and should be done by your veterinarian. The procedure requires the palpation of the gland with the fingers to feel for a small, hard mass inside the sac. Pressure is applied to the gland by pushing upwards to unblock and empty the built-up material. After your initial visit, your vet can teach you how to do this "anal gland expression" at home, if you are up to it.
* Cats who frequently suffer from impacted glands are usually put on a high fiber diet to "firm up" their stools. This dietary change helps the cat's anal muscles to naturally apply more pressure to the anal glands during defecation. Supplements, like Metamucil, bran or prescribed medications can also aid in adding more bulk to the stool, but should only be used when recommended by your vet.
* Don't be surprised if your cat is required to wear an "Elizabethan Collar" to stop them from licking, biting or scratching at their anal area. Topical or oral medications may also be administered or prescribed.
* Your vet will only "express" the anal sacs if they are not infected, abscessed, or ruptured. If the sacs are swollen, red, or ruptured, the vet may need to lance them, take a culture, send it out for diagnosis, and inject or prescribe antibiotics. In the event your cat is presenting chronic anal gland impaction problems, the surgical removal of the anal glands will be recommended. Recurring anal impactions, infections and abscesses can lead to cancerous growths.
Your personal vet should be your first resource for any changes or abnormal behaviors in your cat's normal routine. While anal gland impaction in cats is relatively rare, it does occur, and requires prompt medical attention at the on-set of symptoms in order to keep your cat a happy, healthy member of your family.
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