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Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

Our Bellevue vets see far fewer urinary tract infections in cats than in dogs. Nonetheless, many other urinary tract conditions frequently affect older cats. Below, we explain more about urinary tract infections and other urinary conditions in cats.

Cats & Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections in cats are more likely to be caused by a disease than by an infection.

When cats develop urinary tract infections (UTIs), it is usually due to an endocrine disease like hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus. Cats who develop UTIs are usually 10 years old or older.

If your veterinarian determines that your cat has an infection such as cystitis in addition to the urinary tract infection symptoms listed below, he or she will prescribe an antibacterial to help treat the UTI.

Cats with urinary tract infections frequently experience pain or discomfort while urinating, produce less urine, stop urinating entirely, pass blood-contaminated urine, and urinate outside of the litter box or around the house.

If your cat exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, they may be suffering from a UTI, but this could also be a sign of feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD

Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is a catch-all term for a wide range of clinical symptoms. FLUTD can affect your cat's urethra and bladder, frequently causing obstructions or impairing bladder emptying. If not treated, these conditions can become dangerous, even fatal.

For cats with FLUTD, urinating can be painful, difficult, or impossible. Furthermore, they may urinate more frequently or inappropriately outside of the litter box (sometimes on cool-to-the-touch surfaces such as a tile floor or bathtub).

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat since it has multiple potential causes and contributing factors. Crystals, stones, or debris can gradually build up in your cat's urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body, or bladder.

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

  • Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
  • Spinal cord issues
  • 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

Although cats of any age can develop urinary tract disease, the condition is most commonly diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats with little to no outdoor access, dry food diets, or insufficient exercise. Male cats have narrower urethras, which makes them more susceptible to urethral blockages and urinary diseases.

Indoor litter box use, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households, and abrupt changes in a cat's daily routine can all increase their susceptibility to urinary tract disease.

If your cat is diagnosed with FLUTD, it is critical to identify the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a variety of serious underlying health issues, including bladder stones, infections, cancer, and blockages.

If your veterinarian cannot determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your cat may be diagnosed with cystitis, a urinary tract infection characterized by bladder inflammation.

Symptoms of Feline Urinary Tract Disease in Cats

If your cat has FLUTD or a urinary tract infection, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • 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. Delays in treatment may cause your cat's urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, preventing them from urinating.

The symptoms listed above indicate a serious medical problem that could quickly lead to kidney failure or bladder rupture. FLUTD can quickly become fatal if an obstruction is not removed immediately.

Diagnosis of Feline Urinary Tract Infections

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 cat may be experiencing a veterinary emergency.

Your vet will perform a complete physical exam to 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. 

How to Help Your Cat Recover From a Urinary Tract Infection 

Urinary problems in cats can be complicated and serious, so the first step should be to make an appointment with your veterinarian for immediate treatment. The treatment recommended for your cat's urinary symptoms will depend on 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

Can I give my cat anything for their urinary tract infection?

It is important to consult with your veterinarian before giving your cat any medication, as some human remedies can be harmful to cats.

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 signs of a urinary tract infection? Contact our Bellevue vets at Sawtooth Animal Center to book an examination for your cat, or contact your nearest veterinary emergency hospital for urgent care.

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