Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Urinary tract issues in cats can cause your feline friend severe discomfort, and in some cases can be life-threatening. Today, our South Wilton vets discuss the symptoms and causes of feline urinary tract disease and stress the importance of seeing a vet as soon as possible to have your cat treated. 

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats

Although cats can commonly experience urinary tract issues, they are typically caused by a chronic urinary disease rather than an infection. Those cats that do develop urinary tract infections often suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, and are typically 10 years of age or older.

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating (indicated by meowing or crying while in the litter box), passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine), and urinating around the house (outside of the litter box).

If your cat is displaying symptoms of a UTI and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help aid in your cat's urinary tract infection recovery.

As mentioned, in many cases what seem like symptoms of a urinary tract infection are actually caused by a disease known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) is an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder and can often lead to obstructions in the urethra which can prevent your cat from emptying their bladder properly. If left untreated, a bladder obstruction can be a life-threatening health issue. 

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 common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
  • Spinal cord issues
  • 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

FLUTD is more likely to affect cats that are older than middle age, overweight, do not get enough physical activity, and eat a dry food diet. Male cats are also more prone to urinary tract issues due to a narrower urethra than female cats. 

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 cat is diagnosed with FLUTD it is important to determine the underlying cause as FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a range of underlying health issues, from bladder stones to cancer.

In some cases, your veterinarian may not be able to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD and 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
  • 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
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

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 symptoms above indicate a serious medical issue that could quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.

Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you believe that your feline friend may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away, especially if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.

Your vet will perform a complete physical exam to help assess your cat's symptoms, including urinalysis and any other diagnostic testing required to help them gain insight into your cat's condition. 

Treatment for Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious. Once the underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms is discovered, your vet will recommend the appropriate treatment. Possible treatment options 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

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.

Is your cat suffering from symptoms that indicate a urinary tract condition? Contact our office right away to book an appointment for your feline friend.

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