Urinary conditions are commonly seen by vets. While they can affect cats of all ages, they are mainly diagnosed in older male cats. In this post, our veterinarians in Greeley discuss the causes and symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats and what can be done to treat this condition.
Cat Urinary Tract Infections
While we often see cats with urinary tract issues, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is more likely to be the underlying cause, rather than a true urinary tract infection.
However, when cats do develop a urinary tract infection (a UTI), it's often triggered by an endocrine disease, such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Another contributing factor is age; cats who suffer from UTIs are typically 10 or more years old.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include:
- Straining to urinate
- Reduced amounts of urine
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- Passing urine tinged with blood
- Urinating around the house, outside of the litter box
- Not urinating at all
If any of the symptoms listed above appear in your cat, it's important to see your veterinarian, as these could indicate they are suffering from a UTI or FLUTD.
What is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)?
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a blanket term that refers to many clinical symptoms. FLUTD can cause issues in your cat's bladder and urethra, often resulting in obstructions in the urethra. Your cat may also be unable to empty his or her bladder properly. Left untreated, these conditions can become serious or life-threatening.
Cats suffering from FLUTD may find it difficult, painful, or impossible to urinate. They may also urinate more frequently, or in areas outside of their litter box (occasionally on surfaces that are cool to the touch such as a bathtub or tile floor).
What are the common causes of FLUTD?
Because multiple factors contribute to FLUTD, it is a complex condition to diagnose and treat. Stones, crystals, or debris 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
- Spinal cord issues
- Environmental or emotional stressors
- Incontinence due to excessive water consumption or weak bladder
- Tumor or injury in the urinary tract
- Bladder inflammation, infection, or urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Urethral plug caused by the accumulation of debris from urine
Overweight, middle-aged cats who eat a dry food diet, have no access to the outdoors, or do not get enough physical activity are most often diagnosed with urinary tract disease.
That said, cats can suffer from FLUTD at any age. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since their urethra is more narrow, and therefore more likely to become blocked.
If your kitty is diagnosed with feline lower urinary tract disease, the next thing you'll want to do is determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms may be caused by several serious underlying health issues, from a bladder infection or stones to a blockage or cancer.
If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your feline companion may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). If this occurs, your vet will prescribe your cat an antibiotic to help treat the UTI.
What are the symptoms of cat urinary tract diseases and infections?
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 the genital area
Any bladder or urinary issue must be treated as early as possible. Allowing the condition to go untreated could lead to a completely blocked urethra. This is an emergency as your cat will not be able to pee at all and could experience kidney failure or a ruptured bladder. FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.
How are urinary tract diseases in cats diagnosed?
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 help assess your cat's symptoms and perform a urinalysis to get further insight into your kitty's condition. They may also do additional diagnostic testing, such as an X-ray or bloodwork to help them diagnose your cat's condition.
Cat Urinary Tract Infection Recovery
Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, and be caused by conditions that may need the care of a veterinary internal medicine specialist. If your cat is showing signs of a urinary tract infection, the first step to recovery 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.