Our vets at Raintree Veterinary Hospital don't see cats with urinary tract infections often, but when we do they are usually in senior cats or kitties that are experiencing another urinary tract problem or disease. In this blog, our Hoquiam vets discuss the symptoms, causes, and recovery process of cat urinary tract infections and diseases.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats
Urinary problems are common in cats, but, cats are more susceptible to urinary tract disease than infections. Cats that do experience urinary tract infections usually suffer from endocrine diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism, and are generally 10 years of age or older.
If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian might prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection.
If your cat has a urinary tract infection they might display symptoms such as discomfort or pain when urinating, straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, or passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine).
However, there are a handful of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could make your cat develop the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) noted above.
What is Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is the name for various clinical symptoms that can lead to symptoms in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often making the urethra obstructed, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. If these FLUTD conditions are left untreated they can be fatal for cats.
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).
How Feline Urinary Tract Disease is Caused
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 possible causes of lower urinary tract problems in cats include:
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Emotional or environmental stressors
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
- Spinal cord problems
- Congenital abnormalities
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
Usually, urinary tract disease is diagnosed in cats that are overweight, middle-aged cats that have little to no access to outdoors, don't get enough physical activity, or eat a dry diet- however, cats of any age can get the condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases because they have narrower urethras that are more likely to get blocked.
Other components such as emotional or environmental stress, using an indoor litter box, sudden changes to their everyday routine, or multi-cat households can also put cats at a higher risk for urinary tract disease.
If your kitty is suffering from FLUTD it's important to have the underlying cause determined. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a variety of serious conditions including, blockage, bladder stones, cancer, or an infection.
If your vet can't determine the cause, your feline friend might be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection known as cystitis which is an inflammation of the bladder.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If you think your cat might have FLUTD or a urinary tract infection, monitor them for the following symptoms:
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Urinating small amounts
- Loss of bladder control
- Inability to urinate
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Drinking more water than usual
It’s essential for any bladder or urinary issue to be treated immediately. If left untreated, urinary problems in cats can make the urethra partially or completely obstructed, which can keep 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.
Diagnosing & Treating Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If you believe 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 conduct a comprehensive physical examination to help evaluate your cat's symptoms and implement a urinalysis to obtain additional information about your cat's condition. Other diagnostic tests such as radiographs, blood work, ultrasounds, or a urine culture might also have to be completed.
Urinary problems in cats could be both serious and complex, so the first step should be to call your veterinarian as quickly as possible for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will determine which treatments are prescribed, but could consist of:
- Modified diet
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Fluid therapy
- Urinary acidifiers
- 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.