Q. My cat Vera has problems with her anal glands. The vet says it’s because she’s overweight, but doesn’t have remedies to offer. I’ve scoured the Internet, and everything written about this problem is for dogs. Can you help?
Dogs do get all the attention when it comes to these nasty glands, and that’s because they account for more than 90 percent of the patients who present with this disease. Luckily, the physiology and pathology are similar in both species.
Located just under the skin on either side of the anus, these glands (also called anal sacs) can cause significant discomfort when they become inflamed. When that happens, the condition is called anal sacculitis.
Symptoms include a foul-smelling discharge. The animal may also “scoot” along the ground and/or lick or bite its backside. Other pets show no symptoms save a painful swelling in the area. If unnoticed and untreated, the condition may progress to an oozing wound or abscess that requires surgical intervention.
Anal sacculitis has been linked to allergic skin disease and gastrointestinal problems, but we don’t really know what causes it. Genetics and conformation are likely factors, as it’s a disorder that’s overrepresented among small breeds of dogs. In cats, it’s most often observed in large and overweight animals.
Treatment for both species is similar: Expressing the glands on a regular basis (usually by a veterinarian or groomer). Controlling any underlying allergies or digestive issues is also recommended. Surgery to remove the glands is a last resort.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.