Urinary tract infections in cats is far less common than in dogs, but our feline companions (especially senior cats) do frequently encounter other urinary tract issues. Today, our Palmdale vets share the symptoms, causes and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Cats
Although cats often experience urinary tract issues, our feline friends are more prone to urinary tract disease than infections. Cats that do develop urinary tract infections often suffer from endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus and are usually at least 10 years old.
If your kitty is displaying the symptoms of a urinary tract infection that we discuss below and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.
Some common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, lack of urination, pain or discomfort associated with urination, passing urine tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine), and urinating outside the litter box.
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) refers to a number of clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often leading to obstruction of the urethra, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. These conditions can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.
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
Because there are multiple causes and contributing factors, FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat. Organic matter like crystals, stones, or debris can gradually build up in your cat's urethra or bladder.
Some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:
- Incontinence because of excessive water consumption or weakened bladder
- Spinal cord issues
- Urethral blockage 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 often seen in cats that are middle-aged and overweight with little to no access to the outdoors, that eat a dry food diet or do not get enough physical activity. Despite this, cats of any age can suffer from this condition. 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 kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. Symptoms of FLUTD 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 (inflammation of the bladder.)
Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease in Cats
If you're concerned that your cat might have FLUTD or a 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 areas
- 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
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue in your cat 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 are an indication 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 removed 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. This is especially true 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 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 issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should be to visit your veterinarian for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed, but may include:
- Increasing your cat'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.