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Anal Sac Disease in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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The anal sacs are located at the 4:00 and 8:00 positions around the anus, embedded in the muscle of the anal sphincter (the muscle that closes the anus). Related glands produce a pungent yellowish secretion during defecation.

Anal sac disease includes

Anal sac impaction

  • This disease is the result of large amounts of thick anal sac secretions that cannot be expressed by the cat during defecation. The secretions build up and cause discomfort as the sac becomes distended or even infected.

    The only symptoms you may notice are "scooting" or rubbing the anus on the carpet or ground, and excessive licking of the anus or tail base.

    Anal sacculitis

  • This is inflammation of the anal sac, which can be caused by impacted anal sac secretions or bacterial infections of the anal sacs. Anal sacculitis is more painful than anal sac impaction. In addition to "scooting" and excessive licking, you may notice your cat straining to defecate, being reluctant to sit or sitting asymmetrically.

    Anal sac abscess

  • This pus-filled anal sac results from a bacterial infection. Anal sac abscesses are more painful than anal sac impaction. In addition to "scooting," excessive licking, and straining to defecate, you may also notice a red swelling near the anus, or pus dripping from an open wound near the anus if the abscess has already ruptured.

    Anal sac tumor

  • Anal sac tumors ("apocrine gland adenocarcinomas") are not often painful and do not usually have redness on the overlying skin or any open wounds. They can cause an increase in blood calcium levels, which can cause clinical signs such as increased drinking and urination. They most often spread to the sublumbar lymph nodes, which are located in the abdomen right below the lumbar vertebrae. If the lymph nodes become enlarged due to spread of the cancer, they can obstruct flow of feces by putting pressure on the colon. This may show itself as difficulty defecating or producing ribbon-like stools. Cats with anal sac tumors can also have symptoms associated with other types of anal sac disease ("scooting," excessive licking, straining to defecate, reluctance to sit, or sitting asymmetrically).

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