Cats can suffer all sorts of health problems, both acute and chronic, and affecting different parts of their bodies. One part that can be overlooked is their anal sacs. These sacs, or glands, contain a smelly substance that helps them mark their territory in the wild. If you've ever wondered why your cat sometimes has unusually stinky poop, it's because he generally expresses these glands when he moves his bowels in the litter box.
However, these sacs can get blocked, and even infected. Several signs that your cat is having a problem with his anal sacs are:
- Excessively licking or grooming his butt
- Doing the "butt-scoot" across the carpets
- Blood on the outside of his stools
- Problems sitting down
Impacted or blocked anal sacs can develop abscesses. An abscessed anal sac is swollen and painful, may appear to be red or purple, and may rupture on its own. You'll know if the abscess breaks on the outside because you'll see thick, white fluid flowing out of it.
Sometimes the abscess will rupture internally, however, which can make your cat very sick. For this reason, it's important that you take him to the vet as soon as you notice a problem.
A vet can properly express the cat's anal sacs and determine if there's any infection. If the sac is abscessed, but hasn't yet broken open, don't try to lance it yourself. Let your vet do that.
If there is an abscess, your vet will drain it and flush out the sac, and might apply a bandage if there's too much bleeding. He will prescribe an antibiotic and possibly a painkiller, because abscessed anal sacs are very painful for your cat. He might also recommend that your cat wear a cone of shame to prevent him from licking the wound. He will need to wear the cone until he's mostly healed, which may take up to 10 days.
Be sure that you give your cat his entire course of medicine to ensure that all the infection is gone and that he heals properly. If he's in pain, you can use pill pockets to give him his pain meds so as not to stress him out or hurt him further. They'll also help if he has to wear a cone, because he'll be unhappy and stressed with the cone on. Petsmart carries pill pockets that many cats love.
If your cat allows it, you might also apply warm compresses to the abscess. This can also relieve some of his pain and might even be soothing to him.
If you catch it quickly, an impacted or abscessed anal sac won't pose a serious threat to your cat's health. As always, the key is vigilance, and timely phone calls to your vet if you notice your cat acting strange.