What is cat anal gland disease?

Cats have a gland on either side of their anus, which produces a horrible smelling, dark liquid. In the wild they are used for marking territory or even for scaring off predators by spraying them with the nasty smell. Domesticated cats, however, don't need to do this, and they generally can't empty the liquid out of their anal glands voluntarily. Cats need to get rid of the liquid in their anal sacs, and most of them do it when they use the litter box.


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Sometimes cats will get problems with them. They aren't really a disease, but people often call it anal sac disease. Basically, when the fluid in the anal glands of the cat gets stuck and is not evacuated regularly, it causes some pretty bad problems. It can put the cat at risk of bacterial infection, for one. The fluid can become impacted (it turns solid and causes pain for the cat). Finally, there is a risk of an abscess, where pus and other fluids swell in the anal gland.

The symptoms are pretty much the same. For cats, they usually lick the fur obsessively around their anus, causing hair loss. It will be painful and sensitive, and you may see pus or other discharge. The area on either side of the cat's anus may be swollen. Finally, like dogs, sometimes cats will start scooting on their butts on the ground.

Your vet can treat any of the problems with the cat's anal glands pretty easily. It's a matter of emptying the anal sacs, removing pus if there is an abscess (which may have to be done surgically) and you may have to have the cat come back to have them emptied if the problem recurs. It is also possible to surgically remove the anal sacs. They don't really do anything for the cat - they're sort of like an appendix in people, they used to serve a purpose and now they're just a pain in the rear.

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