Feline anal glands is a rather gross subject, but it is necessary to beware of the signs of a potential problem before it becomes a trip to the vet.
Anal gland problems are more often associated with dogs, but cats can have problems too. All predators have oil sacs located at 4 and 8 o'clock around the anus. Skunks use them in chemical warfare, while dogs and cats use them to identify one another. Each time a stool passes a small amount of the oil is deposited on the stool leaving an individual signature unique to that animal. This is why cats and dogs will smell each other's rear ends in greeting.
Sometimes these glands get clogged up creating an impaction. This can happen because a lack sufficient fiber in the diet, dehydration, poor fitness, or genetic predisposition. The symptoms of a problem can be "scooting" which is rubbing the bottom along the ground to try and release the pressure. This is accompanied by a smear with a super smelly deposit on carpeting. Other symptoms include a pungent "fishy" smell, biting or licking at the anus, and frequent trips to the litterbox with no apparent relief.
If bacteria gets into the gland, the area can become swollen, red and sore. Cats will often start avoiding the litterbox because of the association of straining with the pain of the infection. Often cats that are suspected of having a urinary problem because of not using the litterbox, turn out to have an anal gland problem.
If the infection continues undiagnosed it can become a very painful abscess. At this point the gland has swollen to the maximum with pus and has bust through the posterior wall surrounding the anus. You can only imagine how unhappy any creature with an infection or abscess around the anus could be.
An accredited cat groomer will check the anal glands from the exterior during the bath to ensure everything is functioning as it should. Should there be signs of swelling or the glands do not drain easily, the cat will be referred to a veterinary for an interior expression of the glands. Excessive force by an amateur can damage or increase the potential for infection. Cats that are diagnosed with an infection or abscess will have their glands drained by a veterinary and then given a course of antibiotics. Cats with a chronic problem may have their glands removed through surgery.
Thanks for wadding through a pungent but important topic about your cat's health, and be thankful I didn't include pictures. :-)
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