It's not often that our Knightdale vets see urinary tract infections in cats, when we do it is typically in senior cats or cats that are suffering from another urinary tract issue or disease. Today, we look at the symptoms, causes, and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats?
Cats frequently have urinary problems; however, cats are more prone to urinary tract disease than infections. Cats with urinary tract infections are typically 10 years of age or older and have endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
If your cat is having symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your vet may prescribe an antibacterial to fight the infection.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, or passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine)
That said, there are a number of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could cause your cat to display the urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms listed above.
What is feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD)?
FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) actually refers to numerous clinical symptoms that can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often leading the urethra to become obstructed, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. These FLUTD conditions can prove fatal for cats if left untreated.
If your cat is suffering from FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (occasionally on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a tile floor or bathtub).
What causes feline urinary tract disease?
FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors that could be at play. Stones, crystals, or debris can gradually build up in your kitty's urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body) or bladder.
Other potential causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Spinal cord problems
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Congenital abnormalities
- Emotional or environmental stressors
Urinary tract disease in cats is most commonly diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, eat a dry diet, or do not get enough physical activity – though cats of any age can be affected. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases because their urethras are narrower and more likely to become blocked.
Other factors such as using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, or sudden changes to their everyday routine can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.
If your cat is suffering from FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a number of serious conditions such as bladder stones or infection cancer or blockage.
If the vet is unable to determine the cause, your cat may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis which is inflammation of the bladder.
What are the common symptoms of feline urinary tract disease?
If you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a urinary tract infection, watch for common symptoms, such as:
- Inability to urinate
- Loss of bladder control
- Urinating small amounts
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of the genital area
Any bladder or urinary issues must be addressed immediately. Urinary issues in cats, if left untreated, can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, preventing your feline friend from urinating.
This is a medical emergency that can quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. It may also be fatal if the obstruction is not eliminated immediately.
How is feline urinary tract disease diagnosed and treated?
If you believe that your kitty may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, this can be a medical emergency. See your vet for immediate attention, especially if your kitty is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam to help assess your cat's symptoms and perform a urinalysis to get further insight into your cat's condition. Radiographs, blood work, and urine cultures may also need to be done.
Urinary problems in cats can be complicated and serious, so the first step should be to contact your veterinarian for immediate attention. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will determine the treatment, but it may include:
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Modified diet
- Expelling of small stones through the urethra
- Urinary acidifiers
- Fluid therapy
- Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks
Most cats' recovery is within 7-10 days of getting a urinary tract infection. After treatment, your veterinarian may examine a urine sample to see if all of the bacteria have been eliminated.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.