Anal Glands Conditions


Anal sacs or anal glands, whatever term you wish to use no one can mistake that pungent smell of an emptied anal sac when they are expressed in the consulting room!  But like most things on our pets – they have their function.   There are a number of conditions that affect the cat's anal glands. 

Cats, like dogs, have a pair of sacs near the anus, lined with sebaceous glands.   Secretions produced by these glands form a fluid which is excreted onto the animal’s faeces when they defecate. The secretions, which have a strong smell, enable the animals to mark their territory and help cats to identify each other.

As the faeces pass out of the anus a small amount of anal gland fluid is naturally expressed.   This material acts as a scent marker and is one of the reasons why your cat will take an interest in areas soiled by other cats.

Food can play a large part in the malfunction of anal sac emptying.  It is important that your cat is given a good quality complete diet – this will contain the right amount of fibre needed to form normal faeces and therefore the normal action of anal sac emptying.   

Some breeds can be more prone to anal gland emptying problems.   Your cat can also develop problems if they are overweight, elderly or have a history of constipation.   

Though not as common in cats, as it is in dogs, if the glands do not empty naturally they can fill up, which causes discomfort.   Small faeces or soft faeces may not be fibrous enough to help activate natural emptying so the sacs fill even more.  In these cases the anal sacs are not fully emptied when a cat defecates naturally, this results in a build-up of secretions and full sacs.   

Symptoms of full anal sacs include:

  • Licking or biting at their bottom
  • Sitting or standing uncomfortably
  • Tail chasing or has stopped moving / wagging her tail.
  • Turning sharply and chewing their flanks.
  • Seems depressed
  • Object to tail being handled or lifted
  • A strong fishy smell on your pet or your furnishings

Your vet can empty your cat's anal sacs if they are full, by anal sac expressions. 

The glands should not be expressed simply as a routine, but ONLY if there is a problem. Cat anal glands are very small and therefore delicate and need to be examined before expression is carried out.

It is worth noting that it is advised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that if any person wants to express anal glands and they are not a vet, they should have external anal sac expression demonstrated and explained to them by a vet.   Anal sacs can be damaged if not expressed in the right way and internal expression should not be attempted by anyone, unless you are a vet, for this very reason.

If you are concerned about your pet, please ring us: 01376 325511

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