Does your cat spend a little too much time licking around their anus or even dragging their behind across the floor as if they were a dog? This is usually a sure sign of an anal sac disorder. Located on either side of a cat's anus are anal glands. These glands produce fluid that cats will use to mark territory with their scent. However, when inflammation or impaction occurs on these fluid filled sacs, a cat can experience discomfort. As cases worsen, abscesses can form on the sacs or around their anus. If left untreated these sacs can rupture, causing immense pain and infection. Rupture anal sacs can quickly turn sceptic in the system and will result in death. Treating an anal sac disorder can be an awkward affair from owners, but because of the area of infection they often do not get better on their own without treatment from a veterinarian.
Symptoms of Anal Sac Disorders
The most obvious symptom of an anal sac disorder is when your cat begins scooting their bottom across the floor. This is sort of iconic behavior that one would expect from a dog. However when a dog does it, it often is the sign of the same thing--an anal sac disorder. This bottom scooting is done when the sacs reach an uncomfortable amount of pressure. The cat is trying to drain the gland by rubbing it along the ground, to stimulate drainage with physical contact. In some cases, this may actually work for them. However, if it doesn't drain from the stimulation, the area will become raw and likely infected from their efforts.
As well as scooting their bottom along the floor, the cat will begin to pay much more attention to the area than normal. Symptoms of an anal sac disorder may start with excess licking to the area. However, as time and frustration go on, it may escalate to scratching or even biting the area in order to relieve the discomfort. Once the cat starts the more damaging acts of scratching or biting, intervention must be made. An open wound in the anus area is an easy target for bacteria and infection.
When an anal sac becomes too full or too inflamed, it will affect the functionality of a cat's anus so owners may notice some straining when they go to the bathroom. Straining at the litter box can be a symptom for a number of different things, including something as trivial as too much human food in a cat's diet. So owners should try to pair this symptom with the some of the more serious symptoms to be sure.
The final symptom of an anal sac disorder is discharge from the anal glands. Once this starts to happen, owners may not notice it right away as a cat will likely try to lick it away. However, an easy way to tell if there is anal sac discharge is to watch where a cat sits down. If they leave a small wet spot where they were sitting, then there is some discharge in that area. If a cat has a very pungent smell or if the owner happens to spot yellow or brown liquid on their behind, these are also signs of discharge from the glands
Causes of Anal Sac Disorders in Cats
Unlike other disorders, there is no particular cause for anal sac disorders. Veterinarians have said that inflammation and impaction can be caused by other predisposed factors. Cats that have had a recent bout of diarrhea or have had chronically soft feces are prone to anal sac disorders. Because of the viscosity of their feces, it can often get into their anal glands where the bacteria can cause infection.
Any cats that always have excess glandular secretions are also prone to anal sac disorders. Due to the overproduction of fluid, even minor infections can cause the sacs to become too full, causing discomfort. Due to swelling, the cat will not be able to excrete the excess fluid.
Some cats suffer from anal gland inflammation because they have what is called a fistulation. Fistulations are abnormal openings in the gland which makes them either too wide or too small; impair the function of the anal sac.
In extreme circumstances, anal sac disorders can because by a dirty living environment. This is usually the case when too many cats share one litter box without frequent cleaning. Be sure that cats have at least one litter box per two cats which gets changed every few days.
Diagnosing Anal Sac Disorders
If owner's suggests the symptoms of an anal sac disorder, the first test a veterinarian will run is a physical test. If the sacs are easily palpable to the veterinarian, then they are considered enlarged. If the gland does produce secretions when pressed, a healthy gland will produce clear or pale yellow secretions, but unhealthy glands will excrete thick, brown secretions.
When diagnosing an anal sac disorder, a veterinarian will ask for a little background history on the cat to look for factors that could cause gland inflammation. To assist the veterinarian, cat owners should mention if their cat had had diarrhea or soft stools prior to infection. The veterinarian will then conduct a chemical profile which includes blood count, electrolyte panel and urinalysis to help rule out certain causes and pinpoint what exact is causing the inflammation.
Anal Sac Disorder Treatment
For cat's who have swollen--but not ruptured--anal sacs, the glands will be drained with a syringe or manually opened for drainage. The glands will then be cleaned and have antibiotics injected in them to help cure up the infection. For first time infection cats, this should clear up the disorder. However, for cats that have chronic swelling in the anal glands, they may require surgery to remove the glands completely. For cats that have abnormal openings in the anal sacs, or fistulations, the veterinarian may recommend an oral cyclosporine therapy. Cyclosporine is a medicine given by mouth to help prevent infection from bacteria. However, because it lowers the immune system, some veterinarians may just recommend removal of the sacs instead of prolonged use of the drug.
If a cat has a ruptured anal gland, they will immediately be sent to emergency surgery, where the remnants of the gland will be removed and the area will be cleaned to prevent further infection.