cat in a hat

Not your Typical Two Step

Question:
I have a male ginger cat, 9 years old, named Will. For the last 2-3 years he has had to have his anal glands expressed due to constant boot scooting and licking of the area. In the last year I have had his anal glands infused with antibiotics twice. After this last infusion one month ago he did receive relief but unfortunately it seems to be for a very short time as he is already starting to boot scoot. Should Will have his glands removed?

Dr. Nichol:
A long, long time ago, as a much younger veterinarian, I took country and western dancing lessons. I don’t know what got into me. The instructor demonstrated a move called the boot scoot. Call me crazy but if your cat’s fashion choices have been trending toward big hats and belt buckles you may have your answer.

On the other hand, if Will is actually scooting on his rear end I would agree that his anal glands may be the problem. It’s unusual for cats to have trouble with these nasty little vestigial scent glands. The failure of Will’s symptoms to improve with antibiotic infusions indicates that he still needs a diagnosis.

I have known many anal glands during my career, having treated and removed a veritable carload of them. They are useless, annoying, and unnecessary bits of anatomy but I can assure you that Will would prefer to avoid surgery on his keister. I advise ruling out all other possible causes of his boot scooting first. Rectal pain or itchy/allergic skin may be at fault. Your veterinarian can refer you and Will to specialists who would investigate and provide answers. In the end, anal gland removal may be best.

It will be important to rule out a tumor as the cause of Will’s discomfort. If his derriere does end up on the operating table be sure that both of his anal glands are submitted to a veterinary pathology lab. At his age, not a feline fossil but no longer a spring chicken, his risk of malignant anal gland cancer should be addressed.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.