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Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

While they are much rarer than urinary tract infections in dogs, cats (senior cats in particular) do frequently experience other issues with their urinary tract. Today, our Fort Worth vets list symptoms, causes, and treatments for urinary tract infections and diseases in cats. 

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Cats

While veterinarians frequently see urinary tract problems in dogs, our feline friends are more susceptible to urinary tract disease than infections. Cats with urinary tract infections are typically 10 years of age or older and have endocrine diseases, such as diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism.

If your four-legged best friend is showing signs of a urinary tract infection (see list below) and is diagnosed with a co-occurring infection, such as cystitis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibacterial to help fight your cat's UTI. 

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all or straining to urinate, passing blood-tinged (pinkish color) urine, urinating around the house outside of the litter box, and pain or discomfort when urinating. 

A urinary tract infection might be causing your cat's symptoms. That said, Several feline lower urinary tract diseases (FLUTD) may be causing your cat to display the UTI symptoms listed above.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) is a catch-all term for a variety of clinical symptoms. The disease can cause problems in your cat's bladder and urethra, frequently causing urethral obstructions or preventing your cat's bladder from properly emptying. If left untreated, these conditions can become serious, even fatal.

Your cat will find it challenging, painful, or impossible to urinate if he or she is suffering from FLUTD. They might also urinate more frequently or in inappropriate areas outside the litter box (sometimes on surfaces that are cool to the touch, perhaps a bathtub or tile floor, as they may feel more soothing). 

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD can prove to be a complex condition to diagnose and treat. This is because multiple causes and factors can contribute to the disease. Debris, stones, or crystals can accumulate in your cat's bladder or urethra (the tube that takes urine from the bladder to outside your cat's body) over time. 

Here are some other common causes of lower urinary tract issues in cats:

  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Emotional or environmental stressors 
  • Spinal cord issues
  • Incontinence due to weak bladder or excessive water consumption 
  • Tumor or injury in the urinary tract 
  • Bladder infection, inflammation, urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Urethral obstruction is caused by a buildup of debris from urine

Urinary tract disease in cats is most commonly diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged to older cats who have little to no access to the outdoors, eat a dry food diet, or do not get enough physical activity. But be aware that the condition can affect cats of any age or lifestyle. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases because 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 you suspect your cat has FLUTD or a cat urinary tract infection, watch for 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 issues must be treated as soon as possible. Urinary issues in cats, if left untreated, can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, preventing 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.

Diagnosing Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you believe that your feline friend may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, contact your vet right away. This is especially true  if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.

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 cat's condition. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work, and urine cultures may also need to be done.

Treatment for Feline Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary problems in cats can be complicated and serious, so the first step should be to see your veterinarian for immediate treatment, or an emergency vet. The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will determine the treatment, 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

After treatment, a cat's recovery from a urinary tract infection is usually around seven to ten days. Your vet might request another urine culture to make sure all the bacteria has been taken care of.

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.

Both urinary tract infections and feline lower urinary tract disease are conditions that will need immediate veterinary care. We are experienced in diagnosing and treating these illnesses in cats. Contact our Fort Worth vets today.

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