Our Yucaipa veterinarians don't see urinary tract infections in cats very often; when they do, it's usually in senior cats or cats with another urinary tract issue or disease. The symptoms, causes, and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats are discussed today.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTI) in cats?
Urinary problems are common in cats; however, urinary tract disease is more common in cats than infection. Cats with urinary tract infections are usually older than 10 years old and have endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
If your cat is having symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your vet may prescribe an antibacterial to fight the infection.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, or 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) is a term that refers to a group of symptoms that affect 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.
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).
What causes feline urinary tract disease?
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 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
Urinary tract disease in cats is most commonly diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no outdoor access, eat a dry diet, or do not get enough physical activity, though it can affect cats of any age. Male cats are also more susceptible to urinary tract infections 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 sudden changes to their everyday routine can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.
If your cat is suffering from FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by several serious conditions such as bladder stones or 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 can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, preventing your feline friend from urinating if left untreated.
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 believe that your kitty may be having problems with its 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 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 complicated and dangerous, so the first step should be to see your veterinarian right away. The treatment for your cat's urinary symptoms will depend on the underlying cause, but it could 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
A cat should recover from a urinary tract infection within a few days or so, providing there are no other underlying issues.
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.