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Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Our San Gabriel 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 suffer from endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.

If your cat has symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with cystitis, your veterinarian may prescribe an antibacterial to treat the infection.

Urinary tract infections in cats can cause straining to urinate, decreased urine output, no urination, pain or discomfort when urinating, and urine that is tinged with blood (pink-ish color urine)

That said, there are a number of 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.

Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible for your cat if he or she has FLUTD. They might also urinate more frequently or in places other than 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 difficult condition to diagnose and treat because it can have a variety of causes and contributing factors. Stones, crystals, and debris can accumulate in your cat's urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body) or bladder over time.

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 the condition 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 that make cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease include using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, or abrupt changes in their daily routine.

If your cat has FLUTD, it's critical to figure out what's causing the problem. Symptoms of FLUTD can be caused by a variety of serious conditions ranging from bladder stones to 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
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

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 seek immediate medical attention from your veterinarian. The treatment for your cat's urinary symptoms will be determined by the underlying cause, but it may 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

Typically, recovery for cats from a urinary tract infection is about two days to return to normal and five to seven days for a full recovery.

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.

Urinary tract infections or feline lower urinary tract disease are conditions that require immediate care! Contact Temple City Animal Hospital right away to book an urgent examination for your feline friend!

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