Our Brighton veterinarians rarely see urinary tract infections in cats; when we do, it is typically in senior cats or cats with another urinary tract issue or disease. Today, we'll discuss the signs, causes, and treatments of urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTI) in cats?
Cats frequently experience urinary problems; however, cats are more prone to urinary tract disease than infection. Cats that do develop urinary tract infections are typically older than 10 years and have endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus.
If your cat exhibits symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibacterial medication to combat the infection.
Urinary tract infections in cats can manifest as straining to urinate, decreased urine output, inability to urinate at all, pain or discomfort during urination, or passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine)
Having said that, there are a variety of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTDs) that can mimic the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
What is feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD)?
FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is a broad term that refers to a variety of clinical symptoms that can affect your cat's urethra and bladder, frequently obstructing the urethra or preventing the bladder from emptying properly. If left untreated, these FLUTD conditions can be fatal to cats.
Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible if your cat has FLUTD. Additionally, they may urinate more frequently or in areas other than 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 difficult condition to diagnose and treat because it can have a variety of causes and contributing factors. Stones, crystals, and debris can accumulate over time in your cat's urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the 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 is most frequently diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have limited or no access to the outdoors, eat a dry diet, or do not get enough physical activity. Although cats of any age can develop the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary tract infections due to their narrower urethras.
Other factors, such as using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, or abrupt changes in their daily routine, can also increase a cat's susceptibility to urinary tract disease.
If your cat has FLUTD, it is critical to ascertain the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a variety of serious conditions, ranging from bladder stones or infection to cancer or a clogged urethra.
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 issue must be treated immediately. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can result in a partially or completely blocked urethra, preventing your feline companion 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 your cat may be experiencing issues with its lower urinary tract, this can be a medical emergency. Consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat 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. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work, and urine culture may also need to be done.
Due to the complexity and seriousness of urinary issues in cats, the first step should be to contact your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate the course of treatment, but it may include the following:
- 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
The good news is that, if caught and treated early enough, the recovery for a cat with a urinary tract infection is only about a week!
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.