Our Edgewater vets don't see urinary tract infections in cats very often; when we do, it's usually in senior cats or cats who have another urinary tract issue or disease. We'll look at the symptoms, causes, and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats today.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTI) in cats?
Cats frequently have urinary problems; however, cats are more prone to urinary tract disease than infection. 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 has urinary tract infection symptoms (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibacterial to fight the infection.
Urinary tract infections in cats can cause straining to urinate, decreased urine output, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, and passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine)
That said, there are several 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) refers to a group of clinical symptoms that can cause problems in your cat's urethra and bladder, causing the urethra to become obstructed or preventing the bladder from emptying properly. If left untreated, these FLUTD conditions can be fatal to cats.
When your cat has FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible. They may also urinate more frequently or in places 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, or debris can gradually accumulate in your cat's urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of his 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
Cats with urinary tract disease are typically overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, eat a dry diet, or do not get enough physical activity – through cats of any age can develop the condition. 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 abrupt changes in their daily routine, can make cats more susceptible to urinary tract disease.
If your cat has FLUTD, it is critical to identify the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a variety of serious conditions, ranging from bladder stones to infection to cancer or a 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 issue must be treated as soon as possible. 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 suspect your cat is having problems with its lower urinary tract, this is a medical emergency. See your veterinarian right away 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.
Urinary problems in cats can be complex 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
The good news is that recovery for a cat with a urinary tract infection should take only about a week, so your cat should be back to its playful self quite soon.
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.