Anal Gland Impaction and Abscessation in Ferrets

Summary Information

Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names --
Disease Agents
  • Impaction of the anal glands occurs occasionally. (B602.10.w10)
  • Anal gland abscessation is due to bacterial infection. (B232.7.w7) 
Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description
Clinical signs
In Ferrets
  • The ferret may show signs of discomfort or pain when defaecating. (B232.7.w7)
  • Ribbon shaped faeces. (B232.7.w7)
  • Enlarged anal glands. (B232.7.w7)
  • Pain when expression of the glands is attempted. (J213.2.w6)
Further Information
  • In some countries removal of the anal glands is carried out routinely when ferrets are young, at the same time as castration or ovariohysterectomy. (B631.23.w23, B652.6.w6, B652.w11)
    • This is considered to be unethical in the UK, but is routine in the USA. (B232.7.w7, B652.w11) 
    • Anal glands in a ferret may be used for scent marking during the mating season. (B652.6.w6)
    • They may also use the scent to warn off predators. (B652.6.w6)
    • The scent of the male's urine contributes to the ferret odour and removal of the anal glands will not stop this smell. (B651.1.w1)
In Ferrets
  • Palpation of the rectal area for uni- or bilateral swellings. (B232.7.w7) 
  • Impacted glands (not infected) can be expressed, as in cats. (B602.10.w10)
  • Flush the anal glands under general anaesthetic. (B232.7.w7)
  • Treat with antibiotics. (B232.7.w7)
  • If the anal glands continue to be swollen, they will need to be surgically removed. (B232.7.w7)
    • [The following descriptions are for surgery of the non-diseased anal sacs]
      • Place the anaesthetised ferret in dorsal or ventral recumbency with the pelvis slightly elevated. (B631.23.w23)
      • Consider using magnification. (B602.12.w12)
      • Extraductal technique: make the initial incision 1 cm lateral to the anal sac opening and bluntly dissect the anal sac free from the surrounding tissue and the sphincter muscles. Suture at the mucocutaneous junction using 1.5 metric (4/0 USP) absorbable sutures in a U-shaped suture pattern. (B631.23.w23) 
      • Ductal technique: Identify the duct openings at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions in the anocutaneous junction. (B602.12.w12) Grasp the opening of the anal sac duct with haemostat forceps, incise the mucosa around the duct using a No. 15 or No. 11 scalpel blade, about 1-2 mm from the duct. Exteriorise the duct by traction while scraping with the scalpel blade to reflect the mucosa from the anal sac. Once the whole anal sac is exteriorised, dissect the caudal end of the anal sac free from its retractor muscle. (B631.23.w23, B602.12.w12) Close with a single subcuticular suture of 5-0 synthetic absorbable suture material, or leave to heal by secondary intention. (B602.12.w12)
    • Note: Potential complications of surgery include incontinence (B232.7.w7) or rectal prolapse due to damage to the anal sphincter, particularly with the ductal technique. (B631.23.w23, B652.w11)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Author Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143); Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

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