Cat having veterinary check up

Cat anal sac disorder: diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Okay, so it’s not the nicest of subjects, but with anal sac or anal gland disorder being seen as a clinical problem in cats, it’s important to be clued up. We will help you to recognise the signs and symptoms of anal sac disease in cats.

What are anal sacs?

Cats have two anal sacs in their bottom, which produce a dark, smelly, oily liquid when they poo – the liquid is expressed onto the poo to mark your cats territory. 

Sometimes called anal glands, the anal sacs are smaller than the size of a pea. They usually function normally, but problems can develop, and treatment may be necessary. 

So, what are the common anal sac problems, and how do you spot the signs?

Common anal sac problems in cats

Your cat’s anal glands can become infected, blocked up, or even develop an abscess. Here’s an outline of the most common issues:

Impacted anal sacs

The most common anal sac problem in cats is caused by clogging or blockage to the duct or tube that’s used to empty out the sac. This can lead to a build-up of pressure, and can cause pain, this can make it painful for your cat to poo and therefore could lead to constipation.

Anal sac infections

A build-up of bacteria in the anal sac can cause infection. Left untreated, this infection may cause an abscess, so it’s vital to get your cat to the vet as quickly as possible. 

Abscesses in the anal sac

The most painful of the three conditions, an abscess is a swollen mass of pus. Treatment involves making a small incision and draining the abscess before it ruptures or cleaning it out if it has already ruptured.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of anal gland problems in cats

Common signs of anal sac problems include:

  • Pain. Your cat may find it painful to poo, or to sit down.
  • Swelling. You may notice swelling on the sides of her bottom, or be able to feel hard masses in this area. The anal sacs sit at the 4 and 8 o’clock position on your cat’s bottom. 
  • Scooting. She may drag her bottom along the ground.
  • Tail chasing. She may reach for her tail more than usual.
  • Licking or biting. She may repeatedly lick or bite the area around her tail.

“A build-up of bacteria in the anal sac can cause infection. Left untreated, this infection may cause an abscess, so it’s vital to get your cat to the vet as quickly as possible.” 

If you spot any of these signs in your cat, make an appointment with your local vet.

Treating anal sac disorders in cats

There are a number of treatments for anal sac disorders in cats. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to clear up any infection. He or she may ‘express’ the anal sacs – which means squeezing out the contents by hand – unpleasant, but effective! The anal sacs are sometimes emptied and cleaned out under sedation or in extreme cases, your vet may recommend surgery to remove the anal sacs.

Need advice on anal gland problems in cats?

For expert advice on anal sac problems in cats, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.