BOW BOTTOM VETERINARY HOSPITAL

Anal Sacs in Cats

Dr Julie Schell  BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, CVCHM, CVD

 

If you have ever owned or baby-sat a dog, you may have noticed that sometimes they will perform an almost comical behaviour commonly called ‘scooting’.  They will sit on the floor, even if it is concrete, and use their front legs to drag their anal area along the floor.  Although this may indicate that the dog has intestinal parasites, anal skin infection, an itchy skin growth or tumor, or debris trapped in their fur, it almost always indicates that the dog has pain and discomfort in their anal sacs.   It often indicates that the anal sacs are infected, impacted, or even ruptured and require immediate treatment by your veterinarian.

Although often much more dignified in their way of showing it, cats can also suffer from anal sac disease.  Anal sacs are present in dogs and cats at the 8 o’clock and 4’oclock positions beside their anus.    They are lined with cells that produce brown or grey-brown glandular secretions that have a very intense odor unique to each individual.   Dogs and cats can differentiate between these odors thus helping them identify each other.  The anal sacs empty beside the anus through narrow ducts.  They often  are partially or fully emptied as the pet defecates, or can be expressed during stressful situations if the muscles around the sac are suddenly flexed.   If the anal sac ducts become obstructed through inflammation, infection,  cancer growth or fur or fecal plugs, then the sac attached to them continues to get more and more full.  Eventually painful abscessation and rupture can occur.   This can then lead to secondary infection and even more severe pain.

It is very important to help prevent your cat from developing anal sac impactions and infections.  Recognizing the signs is vital so that you can bring your cat to your veterinarian immediately if you notice infection.  Signs can include scooting, but more often include mild flinching when your cat is petted near the tail base, straining to defecate, crying while defecating, increased grooming and licking around the anal area.  Cats with matted fur or fecal material attached near their anus can also have concurrent anal sac impaction.

Keeping your cat’s coat free of mats, feces and debris, especially around the anal area is important.  Some long haired cats may require grooming and professional shaving of the fur away from their anal area to help keep the anal ducts emptying properly.  Your veterinarian or a qualified, experienced cat groomer can help your cat this way.  Also, keeping your cat at an optimal body weight is important.  Overweight cats have a higher ratio of fat to muscle, and often the excess fat surrounding the anal sacs prevents the sacs from contracting normally to allow emptying.  Also, preventing your cat from developing diarrhea through veterinary-recommended optimal nutrition and parasite prevention is important.  If the cat’s feces are a healthy level of firmness, it aids in natural expression of anal sacs during defecation.  Did you know that many cats enjoy eating 1 teaspoon of plain canned pumpkin (no sugars) twice daily?  It adds antioxidants to their diet and also helps optimize their fecal firmness.

Normal anal sacs in cats should be about the size of a lentil or grain of rice, and pliant and soft on palpation.  To further prevent anal sac impaction, adult cats should also be examined by your veterinarian at least once yearly, and senior cats at least twice yearly.  Your veterinarian should examine and feel the anal sac area.  If the sacs are too full, firm or painful, your veterinarian should gently express them manually, and discuss helpful ways of prevention with you.  For more information, please email us at welcome@bowbottomvet.com or call us at 403-278-1984.  Also, search our website for more information:   www.bowbottomvet.com

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