Anal Glands: What, Where, Why

Yesterday, my vet taught me how to express my cat’s anal glands. You see, Oslo is a special one. Every several weeks, he requires this servicing. Because of this, it’s easier and more convenient for me to do it rather than call my vet and have her do it. It was an enlightening experience. I was intimidated at first and afraid I might hurt Oslo.

The process is simple and quick, but I implore everyone not to do it without instruction from an expert. If you have a dog or cat with a recurring anal gland problem, ask your vet to school you in going knuckle deep. You’ll save money, time, and vet-visit stress.

Many pet groomers also provide butt-squeeze services.

So, what’s up with anal glands anyway? Until my cat had impaction, I knew zero facts about anal glands; I didn’t even know they existed.

Anal glands are just inside the anus, at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock. Anal glands once served a purpose (likely territorial marking). They now have no real function. When expressed, the glands release a foul, musky smelling secretion.

According to my vet, anal gland impaction is common in dogs, but not so much in cats. Normally, when dogs and cats poo, the anal glands are squeezed clean naturally. Sometimes they need a little help, though. Out of my two dogs and two cats, only the one cat has ever had a problem.

Without proper attention, impacted anal glands cause discomfort, infection, and rupture. I recognize immediately when Oslo is due for a butt squeeze. He starts spending unusual amounts of time and energy cleaning his rear. Sometimes he’ll stop and sit mid-run, kick his leg in the air, and start licking. You may also notice scooting. Thankfully, Oslo hasn’t tried that method of relief.

As far as prevention of anal gland impaction, there doesn’t seem to be any. My vet does not believe diet has anything to do with it and says some animals are simply more prone to problems than others. The best we can do is have the glands checked during regular vet and groomer visits and keep a keen eye out for signs of discomfort.