Even though urinary tract infections (UTIs) aren't as common in cats as they are in dogs, older cats can still develop a range of other issues in their urinary tract with similar symptoms. Here, our Visalia vets discuss urinary tract infections and other diseases cats can develop as well as their causes, symptoms, and the treatments available.
Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Even though urinary tract issues are often seen in cats, our feline friends are more prone to urinary tract disease than infections.
When cats develop urinary tract infections they frequently may also suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, the majority of these cats are 10 years of age or older.
If you notice your cat exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and are diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.
Some of the most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats are 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 cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above it could be suffering from a UTI, however, these symptoms may also be a sign of a feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.
Feline Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD
Did you know that FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is actually an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms? FLUTD can cause problems in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often causing the urethra to become obstructed, or keeping your cat's bladder from properly emptying. These conditions could be serious or potentially life-threatening if they go untreated.
Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible for cats that have FLUTD. They might also urinate more often, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (occasionally on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a tile floor or bathtub).
Feline Urinary Tract Disease Causes
FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat because there are many 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
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Spinal cord issues
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Congenital abnormalitiesUrethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
Urinary tract disease in cats is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged cats that are overweight and have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry food diet, or do not get enough physical activity, however, cats of any age can develop this condition. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases because their urethras are narrower and are more likely to get blocked.
Using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, or sudden changes to their everyday routine could also put cats at a higher risk of urinary tract disease.
If your kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD it's imperative to learn the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms could be brought on by serious underlying health problems such as bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage.
If your vet can't determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your feline friend might be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis which is an inflammation of the bladder.
Signs & Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection you might see them displaying one or more of the symptoms listed below:
- Inability to urinate
- Urinating small amounts
- Loss of bladder control
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Hard or distended abdomen
It’s very important for any bladder or urinary issue to be treated as quickly as possible. Delaying treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which could prevent your kitty from urinating.
All of the symptoms above are a sign of serious medical problems that could quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can become fatal quickly if there is an obstruction that isn't eliminated immediately.
Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease
If you think your kitty is having problems with its lower urinary tract, call your veterinarian immediately, especially if your cat is crying out in pain or straining to urinate.
Your vet will conduct a comprehensive physical exam to evaluate your cat's symptoms and perform a urinalysis to obtain information about your feline friend's condition. Radiographs, blood work, and urine culture might also have to be done.
How Cats Recover From Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary conditions in cats can be serious and complex, this means the first thing you should do is call a veterinarian to schedule an immediate urgent care appointment. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will determine the treatment they prescribe, which could include:
- Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
- Increasing your kitty's water consumption
- Fluid therapy
- Modified diet
- Urinary acidifiers
- Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks
- Expelling of small stones through the urethra
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.