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Urinary Tract Infections & Diseases in Cats

Urinary Tract Infections & Diseases in Cats

While our vets in Mamaroneck diagnose far fewer urinary tract infections in cats than in dogs. However, several other urinary tract conditions frequently impact older cats. Here, we explain urinary tract infections and other urinary conditions in cats. 

Cat Urinary Tract Infection

While cats often experience urinary tract issues, your cat is more likely to suffer from a urinary tract disease versus an infection. 

Nonetheless, when urinary tract infections (UTIs) do develop in cats, this is often the result of an endocrine disease such as diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism. Cats who suffer from UTIs are also typically 10 years of age or older. 

If your four-legged family member is showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see signs below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis, an antibacterial will be prescribed by your vet to help fight the infection. 

Common symptoms a urinary tract infection include pain or discomfort while urinating, straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, urinating around the house outside of the litter box, and passing urine tinged with blood. 

If your kitty is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, they might be suffering from a UTI. However, these symptoms may also point to a feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD. 

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease - FLUTD

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term that covers numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause problems in your cat's bladder and urethra, frequently leading to obstructions in the urethra, or preventing proper emptying of the bladder. Left untreated, these conditions can turn serious or even life-threatening. 

Urinating may be difficult, painful or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. You may also find your cat urinating more frequently, or in inappropriate places outside the litter box (sometimes on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a bathtub or tile floor). 

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Since multiple causes and contributing factors lead to this disease, FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat. Stones, debris or crystals can gradually accumulate in your cat's urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of your cat's body) or bladder. 

Other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats include:

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

Urinary tract disease in cats is most often diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry food diet or do not get enough physical activity, although cats of any age can get the 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. 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:

  • 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 genital area
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

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 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 eliminated immediately.

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 clinic for emergency veterinary care 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 in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should be to make an appointment with 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 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

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 displaying signs of a urinary tract infection? Contact our Mamaroneck vets to schedule an exam for your cat, or contact your nearest veterinary emergency hospital for urgent care.

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