Species: Cat Breed: Maine coon mix Age: 11-15 years
My 12 year old female cat started having anal gland issues over a year ago. After having them lanced and drained, one became infected and had to be removed. Because the surgery was extensive on that one side, the vet left the other one. Now we're constantly dealing with it.
We look for certain signs when it's bothering her. I took her to the vet 6 days ago because she was grooming excessively, but they said there wasn't much in the gland. Yesterday afternoon, she was clearly distressed, constantly licking her bottom, biting her feet and being very vocal. I had planned to take her in this morning (again), but she seemed perfectly fine this morning! I'm SO confused! I called our vet and he said to use my best judgement. I have no idea! I can't take her to the vet every week!
The area around her anus looks clean. No redness or swelling. There is a black dot or speck where the anal gland opening is. Is this a sign of something? Blockage? Or is that normal.
This cat is a puzzle to me! My vet wasn't extremely helpful this morning, so I'm not sure if I should be worried or not and I'm going out of town this weekend. Any suggestions would be appreciated!! Thanks!
Dr. Marie replied:
Oh, how frustrating for both you and Fluffy!
The black dot that you are seeing can be a normal part of a cat's anatomy. Sometimes that can be a little bit of the anal sac debris coming out but it's not usually something to worry about.
This is a tough question to answer for you as it's really hard to know what is going on.
If Fluffy is constantly licking at her bum then I really would be thinking this is connected to her anal glands. But, what you have described with her also biting at her feet doesn't seem to fit with an anal gland problem.
I'm almost wondering if what you are dealing with is an allergy issue. Cats (or dogs) with allergies will often have an itchy bum and itchy feet. It may be worthwhile to ask your vet about that possibility. If they think that could be the case, then they may try a course of steroids, or possibly even a steroid shot that lasts for 6 weeks or so. Cats tend to handle steroids well without side effects. If this is working well, then you can also talk to your vet about trying a hypoallergenic food. It takes time for the food to work though so steroids may be necessary.
Another possibility is something called lumbosacral syndrome. This is where a cat has pain at the very end of the spinal cord. It can cause pain down the legs and around the hind end as well. You can ask your vet about that too...if they think that is possible they may talk about putting her on an anti-inflammatory medicine to see if that helps.
Sorry that I dont' have an exact answer for you, but perhaps this info can help somewhat.
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We've been dealing with anal glands so long, I haven't even thought about something else causing her distress. Are cats allergic to things outside? I had her outside with me (she likes to sit on the patio when I weed flowerbeds). That's when I first noticed her licking and biting.
I haven't seen the black dot on her anus before and I tried to explain it to the vet tech over the phone this morning and they said it wasn't normal. Between her licking episodes and the appearance of the black dot, I didn't know what else to do. I don't want to stress her out taking her to the vet every week if it's not necessary.
I'll keep an eye on her this afternoon before I leave and will definitely discuss with our vet any other problems that could cause her to lick and bite. Thanks so much!
Dr. Marie replied:
Cats certainly can be allergic to things outside. However, *most* of the time if allergies are causing an itchy bum, I have found that food allergies are the culprit. Cats can develop an allergy to a certain food ingredient at any point in their life. It's often hard to know what the actual ingredient.
One final thought that may seem silly is the possibility of fleas. Some cats can be supremely affected by even just one flea bite. Does she lick at all at her back (i.e. just before her tail)?
Again, it's something to ask your vet about. If this problem started happening shortly after she went outside then getting her on a good prescription strength flea preventative is a good idea.
Hope things improve soon!
She is most definitely licking under her tail. She's on flea treatment so hopefully it's not that.
Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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