Pet owners often express concern that their dog or cat is licking its rear or scooting its rear on the floor. While a small amount of this behavior may be normal day to day grooming, when it becomes more frequent there may be an underlying problem….ANAL SAC DISEASE.
All dogs and cats have anal sacs (also known as anal glands). These glands are typically about the size of a small marble and sit just inside the anus to the right and left sides. The purpose of these glands is to produce a smelly, pungent, sometimes fishy smelling fluid that can help a dog or a cat add a unique scent to its area, not unlike marking with urine. These are the same glands that skunks use to spray when scared or threatened.
Normally the material produced in the glands is the consistency of water. During a bowel movement, the pressure from the stool expresses the glands. Sometimes the material is thicker in consistency and full expression of the glands is difficult. This leads to discomfort and is often the cause of licking under the tail or scooting the rear on the ground.
Manual expression by a veterinarian, groomer or by the pet owner can often relieve the discomfort associated with full anal sacs. If the glands are impacted (unable to be expressed by the pet) and the glands are not manually expressed, infection can develop and eventually an abscess will occur. In rare cases, the discomfort causing the scooting or licking may be due to an anal sac tumor.
Anal gland impactions tend to be more common in dogs than in cats, or perhaps dogs are more obvious with the symptoms. Often the first sign seen in cats is when an abscess has already formed. Because anal sac disease is one of discomfort in dogs and cats, and because more serious cases of infection and tumors can occur, making an appointment to have the anal sacs checked is advised when excessive licking or scooting are present.