Thyroid Disease and Anal Glands in Cats – What You Should Know About it


Hyperthyroidism, the overproduction of thyroid hormone, is not uncommon in feline seniors. It is, in fact, the most common endocrine problems in cats. Environmental, nutritional, and immunological factors are all thought to contribute to the development of tumors that stimulate the thyroid glands to secrete too much thyroid hormone.

Although the symptoms of hyperthyroidism vary from one cat to another, some are common. The majority of hyperthyroid cats lose weight despite increased appetites, and many exhibit heart murmurs or elevated heart rates.

Other common symptoms include vomiting, excessive thirst and urination which also may indicate diabetes, and increased activity. Initial diagnosis can be complicated, though, because some cats have less appetite and become less active as they age.

In some cases, an affected cat may experience diarrhea or respiratory problems. Blood tests that assess hormone levels are necessary to accurately diagnose hyperthyroidism. Once diagnosed, the disease usually can be controlled with drugs, radioiodine therapy, or surgery.

Like most predators, your cat has anal glands or anal sacs embedded in her anal sphincter muscle. When the animal defecates, or become alarmed or excited, the glands excrete a pungent fluid that identifies the individual animal.

It is, in fact, the presence of that fluid that makes an animal’s feces so interesting to other animals. Healthy anal glands are expressed, or emptied, every time your cat has a bowel movement. Anal glands can, however, retain fluid is they become impacted or blocked, infected, or injured, which can cause your cat discomfort, pain, and in some cases, more serious complications.

If you notice your cat licking or biting excessively at her anal area or scooting her fanny across the floor, or if she develops a foul odor, she needs veterinary attention. Treatment usually involves manually expressing the glands, a simple procedure. In chronic cases, the glands can be removed.

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