Tag Archives: anal glands

Cat with green eyes

Everything pet owners need to know about anal glands

As a veterinarian, I have seen – and smelled – way more than my share of anal gland discharge. So who better to explain the subject to a reader who asked about it?

Q: After my cat got off my lap recently, I noticed a couple of wet spots on my pants. When I gave them a sniff, the smell just about knocked me over. What was that?

A: You have just been introduced to the secretions of the feline anal glands. These pea-size glands, also called anal sacs, produce a malodorous substance that enables cats to identify and communicate with each other as well as mark territory. When the cat defecates, the contents of the anal sacs are squeezed out, coating the cat’s stool and allowing him to leave a stinky warning — “Tom’s Club: No other cats allowed” — to other cats who pass by.

Usually, anal gland secretions aren’t an issue in cats, but sometimes anal glands become overactive, resulting in a noticeable odor. Anal glands that malfunction and don’t empty normally can become inflamed, infected or impacted.

Inflamed or infected anal glands may become swollen and tender, inhibiting normal passage of the secretions. If you notice your cat frequently scooting on the ground or biting at his rear, this may be the problem. Left untreated, the anal glands can abscess or rupture, which isn’t pleasant for your cat or for you when you have to medicate the area. Luckily, this condition is rare in cats; they are more likely to develop impacted anal glands.

Impaction occurs when stools don’t exert enough pressure on the glands as the cat defecates. This may occur in cats with chronic soft stools because the anal musculature has nothing to push the sac against to release the fluid.

Your veterinarian can relieve the situation by emptying the glands manually. If your cat has soft stools related to food allergies, a change in diet may help. Adding plain canned pumpkin to the cat’s food can boost his fiber intake and improve stool consistency as well.

Read more, including about treating pets with fecal transplants, in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

The dirtiest pet owner task of all: Don’t just ‘doo’ it!

Angry ChihuahuaI once had a high-income  producer at a major television network call me up and say she’d just watched a YouTube video on how to clean her Chihuahua’s anal glands on her own, and what did I think?

I almost laughed, but restrained myself and told her, “If you stick your finger up your dog’s anus and squeeze a sore, swollen anal gland, your dog might or might not bite you, but he certainly is never going to look at you the same way again.”

I’m all in favor of helping pet owners learn how to do a few simple care items that will save unnecessary trips to the veterinarian or the groomer, whether to reduce stress on the pet or on the owner’s pocketbook.  Those include routine ear care, nail trimming, and bathing.

But when it comes to cleaning out an impacted or painful anal gland, that should be left to the veterinarians. That’s for the pet’s comfort as well as the owner’s safety, and also because chronic anal gland problems usually have an underlying cause that needs an expert evaluation from the dog’s vet.

In other words, my advice is: Don’t “just doo it”!