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Urinary Tract Infections In Cats

Urinary tract infections aren't common in cats. But, when they do arise, urinary tract infections are most often seen in senior cats or those with another urinary tract problem or disease. Here, our Fort Collins vets talk about the symptoms of urinary tract infections and diseases in cats and the treatments available.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats

Urinary problems are often seen in cats, however, cats are more prone to urinary tract disease than infection. 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.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic for treatment.

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)

Although, there are a number of feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) that could make your cat display the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) detailed above.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) actually refers to various clinical symptoms that can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often making the urethra obstructed, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. If these FLUTD conditions go untreated they can be fatal for 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).

The Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat because 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:

  • Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
  • Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
  • Emotional or environmental stressors
  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Spinal cord problems

Urinary tract disease is most often diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, eat a dry diet, or do not get enough physical activity - although, cats of any age can develop this 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 sudden changes to their everyday routine can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.

If your cat is suffering from FLUTD it's essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a number of serious conditions such as bladder stones or infection, 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.

The Signs & Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a urinary tract infection, watch for common symptoms, such as:

  • Strong ammonia odor in urine
  • Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Avoidance or fear of litter box
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Inability to urinate
  • Lethargy
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Hard or distended abdomen

It’s imperative for any bladder or urinary issues to be treated straight away. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can result in the urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent 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.

Diagnosing & Treating Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you think your kitty may be having problems with their 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 might have to be conducted.

Urinary issues in cats can be both complex and serious, so the first step should be to contact your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:

  • Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
  • Modified diet
  • Increasing your kitty's water consumption
  • Fluid therapy
  • 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.

Contact our Fort Collins vets immediately if your cat is showing signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection or feline lower urinary tract disease.

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