Cat urinary tract infections are much rarer than urinary tract infections in dogs. Regardless, cats (senior cats in particular) do experience urinary tract issues with some frequency. Here, our Oakland vets share some of the symptoms, causes and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
Cat Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
While urinary tract issues and diseases are relatively common in cats, our feline companions are much more prone to disease than infections. Cats that do develop urinary tract infections will often suffer from endocrine diseases as well in addition to hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
If your kitty is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections found in cats include straining to urinate, not being able to urinate at all, blood being found in their urine, urinating less than normal and displaying pain or discomfort while urinating.
A urinary tract infection may indeed be the cause of your cat's symptoms however, there are also a number of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could be causing your cat to display the UTI symptoms listed above.
Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is actually a term for a range of clinical symptoms appearing your feline friend.FLUTD can cause issues in your cats bladder and urethra as well as causing their urethra to become obstructed and preventing their bladder from properly emptying.
If your kitty 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).
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 commonly seen causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:
- Spinal cord issues
- Congenital abnormalities
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Emotional or environmental stressors
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
Urinary tract diseases are most common in cats that have been diagnosed as overweight, middle-aged and senior cats, cats that eat dry food and cats that do not get enough physical activity. 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 feline friend has been diagnosed with FLUTD, it's critical that you bring them into your vet to determine the underlying cause of their condition. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage.
If your veterinarian 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 you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection, watch for the following symptoms:
- Inability to urinate
- Loss of bladder control
- Urinating small amounts
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Urinating more than usual
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of genital area
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.
The above symptoms generally indicate a serious medical condition that may very quickly lead your cat to kidney failure or even the rupture of their bladder. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.
Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If you suspect that your cat may be having issues with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet as soon as possible. This goes doubly if your cat is straining to urinate or is crying out in pain or discomfort.
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. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also need be done.
Treatment for Feline Urinary Tract Disease
Urinary diseases or infections in cats can be quite serious and complicated. The first step of their diagnosis and treatment should always be to bring your kitty into your veterinarian for immediate care.
The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:
- Modified diet
- Fluid therapy
- Urinary acidifiers
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Expelling of small stones through 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.