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Anal Sac Disease in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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The anal sacs are glands located near the anus (rectum) that produce secretions that are normally expressed during defecation. The secretions from these glands are normally pungent (in fact, very smelly) and straw-colored with brown flecks. Anal sac contents may also be expressed in times of fright (producing a terrible odor in the area). Anal sac disease is uncommon in cats.

Types of anal sac disease include

  • Impaction, which can lead to inflammation or infection of the anal sacs
  • Inflammation
  • Infection or abscess formation
  • Tumors of the sac or related glandular tissues

    Watch to Watch For

  • "Scooting" or dragging the anus on the ground or carpet
  • Frequent licking of the anus or tail base
  • Reluctance to sit or sitting asymmetrically to avoid pressure on the painful anal sac
  • Straining to defecate, difficulty defecating, production of ribbon-like stools
  • Painful swelling at the 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock locations around the anus

    Diagnosis

    Diagnostic tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis and exclude other diseases causing similar signs. Tests may include:

  • A complete history and physical exam

  • Rectal examination, including an attempt to manually express (empty) the anal sacs – this could require sedation

  • Blood tests (anal sac tumors can cause an increase in blood calcium levels)

  • If a tumor is found, chest and abdominal X-rays to check for tumor spread to other organs (lungs, lymph nodes) and an abdominal ultrasound to check lymph nodes for tumor spread

    Treatment

    For simple impactions and cases of inflammation, expressing the anal sacs may be all that is necessary. If the anal sacs cannot be expressed while your pet is awake, then anesthesia may be necessary to express and flush the anal sacs. Other treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be given orally or infused into the sacs if necessary.

  • Chronic cases of impaction or inflammation may require surgical removal of the anal sacs.

  • Abscesses of the anal sacs are lanced and flushed, and then treated with oral antibiotics.

  • Tumors of the anal sacs are treated by complete removal of the affected sac. Affected lymph nodes can also be removed, although this is more difficult.

    Home Care

    Be aware of your cat's normal defecation habits and stool appearance so that you can notice any changes, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of anal sac disease. See your veterinarian for follow-up appointments to ensure the problem is adequately treated.

    Some veterinarians suggest increasing fiber (thus bulk) to the diet to prevent anal sac impaction. This may produce a bulkier stool and the sacs may be more likely to be expressed naturally.

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