Urinary tract infections in cats
Although urinary tract issues are common in cats, our feline friends are prone to urinary tract disease rather than infections.
When cats do develop urinary tract infections, it is often the case that they also suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus, and most of these cats are 10 years of age or older.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, passing urine tinged with blood and urinating around the house, outside of the litter box.
If your kitty is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract infection and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.
If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above, it may be a sign of a UTI, but these symptoms could also be an indication of a feline lower urinary tract disease.
Feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD)
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is actually an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD 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 conditions can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.
Urinating can be difficult, painful or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. 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).
Causes of feline urinary tract disease
FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors to this disease. Crystals, stones or debris can gradually build up in your cat's urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body) or bladder.
Some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:
- Emotional or environmental stressors
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
- Spinal cord issues
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Congenital abnormalities
Urinary tract disease in cats is most often diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry food diet or do not get enough physical activity, although cats of any age can get the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since their narrower urethras are more likely to become blocked.
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 kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD, it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by serious underlying health issues, such as bladder stones, infection, blockage or even cancer.
If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your kitty may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis, which is inflammation of the bladder.
Symptoms of feline urinary tract disease in cats
If your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Inability to urinate
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Loss of bladder control
- Urinating small amounts
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Drinking more water than usual
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. Delays in treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.
The symptoms above indicate a serious medical issue that could quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can rapidly become fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated straight away.
Diagnosis of feline urinary tract disease
If you believe that your feline friend may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away, especially if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.
Your vet 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 culture may also need to be done.
Cat urinary tract infection recovery
Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should be to make an appointment with your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate the exact treatment that is prescribed, but treatment may include some or all of the following:
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Urinary acidifiers
- Modified diet
- Fluid therapy
- Expelling of small stones through the urethra
- Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks
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.