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Urinary Tract Infection and Disease in Cats

Urinary Tract Infection and Disease in Cats

Our vets don't see nearly as many urinary tract infections in cats as we do in dogs. However, there are a number of conditions affecting the urinary tract that frequently appear in older cats. Below, our Plains vets explain urinary tract infections as well as other urinary conditions which may arise in your cat.

Cat Urinary Tract Infection

While health issues affecting your cat's urinary tracts are quite common in our feline friends, they are much more likely to suffer from a urinary tract disease rather than from an infection.

That being said, cats do develop urinary tract infections that often result in a disease like diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism. Generally, cats that suffer from UTIs do so at or above 10 years of age. 

If your cat is showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection and is diagnosed with one (such as cystitis), your veterinarian will prescribe them with an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI.

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, 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 they may be suffering from a UTI but these symptoms could also be an indication of a feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD. 

Feline Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD

Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is actually an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat's bladder and urethera, often leading to their urethera becoming obstructed or preventing their bladder from emptying properly. These conditions can become serious, or even life-threatening if not promptly treated.

Urinating can be difficult, painful or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. 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 complicated condition to both diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors to the disease. Crystals, stones and other debris can gradually build up in your cat's urethra (the tube connecting their bladder to the outside of their body) or bladder.

Some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

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

Urinary tract disease in cats is generally diagnosed in middle-aged and overweight cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, who eat a dry food diet, or who do not get enough physical activity. However, cats of any age can get the condition. Male cats are more prone than females to urinary tract disease since their urethras are narrower and 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. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage.

If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, 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 your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

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

It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. Delays in treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.

The symptoms above signify a quite serious medical issue that may quickly lead to kidney failure or a rupture in the bladder. FLUTD can often be fatal if there is an obstruction that isn't immediately eliminated. 

Diagnosis of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary tract infections in cats require veterinary care, as do cats suffering from FLUTD. If your cat is showing any of the symptoms above it's time to visit the vet. If your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain, contact your vet or the nearest emergency vet as soon as possible.

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 kitty's condition. Radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also need to be done. 

Cat Urinary Tract Infection Recovery

Urinary issues affecting your cat can be quite serious and complex. The first step should be to make an appointment for immediate care. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatments are prescribed. These may include:

  • Modified diet
  • Fluid therapy
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Increasing your kitty's water consumption
  • Antibiotics or medication to relieve symptoms
  • Expelling of small stones through the urethra
  • 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 showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection or disease? Contact the emergency vets at Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital or ask your primary care veterinarians about a referral.

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