How to Express Anal Glands in a Cat
All cats have anal glands, a pair of scent glands located on each side of the rectum that produce an oily substance. Occasionally they can become engorged and require assistance to remove the blockage, commonly referred to as anal gland expression.
How to Tell if Your Cat May Need His or Her Anal Glands Expressed
Normally, anal glands are naturally expressed when your pet has a bowel movement, However, this may not always happen due to many factors, creating a very uncomfortable feeling as pressure due to fluid buildup develops in the anal sacs. The most common symptom of anal gland problems in cats is licking at the anal area. In dogs, they will often “scoot,” seen when a pet drags his anus across the floor in an effort to scratch the glands and naturally express the fluids but this is less common in cats. Another very common sign is a cat chewing at his back end just below the anus, causing hair loss and red inflamed skin. You might also notice the foul odor of the glands secretions when they become too full and notice a read inflamed area that looks like a big boil if it is abscessed.
Many pet owners choose to have their groomer or veterinary staff express their cats’ anal glands. However, this is a procedure that may be safely done at home with some care. The instructions below are for pet owners that want to learn to do it themselves.
The Right Supplies to Express Cat Anal Glands
Before taking on this task, it is crucial to gather all of your supplies beforehand. You will need:
- Disposable rubber gloves
- Lubricant (such as KY Jelly)
- Paper towels
- Access to a tub or water-less shampoo
How To Express Cat Anal Glands at Home
Expressing your cats anal glands at home can be challenging and will most likely take two people, one person to hold the cat and one to express the glands. You should perform the procedure outside or on a hard surface that is easily cleaned as fluids inside the glands can have a very strong odor.
1. The person holding the cat should support the cat in a standing position or laying position on the side by scruffing the cat lightly to provide restraint. A towel can be used to cover the face and legs to minimize scratching. Take very special care not to be injured by your cat as he or she tries to get away.
2. The second person should put on the gloves and apply a generous amount of lube to their index or “pointer” finger; this is the finger that will be used to express the glands.
3. Wrap a paper towel around the index finger to catch the liquid from the glands and avoid getting any on you or your working surface. The anal glands are located inside the anus at the bottom left and right (approximately the “5-o’clock” and “7-o’ clock” positions on an analog clock; see photo).
4. Next, the second person will insert his or her pointer finger into the anus and press gently to locate one of the glands. This is usually about an inch inside the anus and will feel like a big spongy grape.
5. Gently but firmly pinch the gland between the finger on the inside of the anus and your thumb on the outside of the anus. Squeeze gently to express the fluid; you should start to feel the anal gland empty into your paper towel. Once it is completely expressed, move on to the other one and repeat. If you cannot express the gland, try moving your pointer finger around as you may be blocking the opening.
6. After you have successfully expressed the glands, throw away your paper towel and clean up with either water-less shampoo or a quick wash and rinse of the cat’s rectal area.
7. The frequency with which you should express your cat’s anal glands depends entirely on your cat. For best results, the glands should be moderately full each time they are expressed (usually every 6 to 8 weeks). Anal gland expression is considered part of routine care and should be monitored regularly.
Possible Complications of Expressing Feline Anal Glands
Although typically very safe, there are some possible complications of expressing feline anal glands:
- If the gland is not easy expressed, do not force it –the gland may be blocked and trying to express it can make it rupture. Damaged anal glands require surgical repair and are very painful.
- It is normal for the fluid to have a very bad odor but fluid that comes with pus or blood could be a sign of infection. If you see any abnormalities in the fluid you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.
- Don’t get bit. Please be really careful; some cats don’t like to be restrained and will try to bite or scratch if you are doing something they don’t like. This is why most pets have their anal glands expressed at their veterinarian’s office.
For more information about anal gland diseases, visit our article on the subject. Tired of dealing with constant blockages and infections? One solution might be anal gland removal.
I hope this article gives you more information about how to express your cat’s anal glands at home.