While urinary tract infections can occur in senior cats and those with underlying health concerns, infections are not the most common source of urinary tract issues for our feline friends. Today, our Vancouver vets discuss urinary tract problems in cats.
How common are urinary tract infections (UTI) in cats?
Urinary problems are often seen in cats, however, cats are more prone to urinary tract disease than infection. Cats that do develop urinary tract infections often suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, and are typically 10 years of age or older.
If your cat is having symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your vet may prescribe an antibacterial to fight the infection.
Symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, or passing urine 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) actually refers to numerous clinical symptoms that can cause issues in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often leading the urethra to become obstructed, or preventing your cat's bladder from emptying properly. These FLUTD conditions can prove fatal for cats if left untreated.
If your cat is suffering from FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful or impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in inappropriate areas outside 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 complex condition to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors that could be at play. Stones, crystals or debris can gradually build up in your kitty's urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body) or bladder.
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 typically diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry 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.
Other factors such as 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 cat is suffering from FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a number of serious conditions such as bladder stones or 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 some 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 genital area
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated straight away. If left untreated, urinary issues in cats can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent your feline friend from urinating.
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 their 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 a urine culture may also need be done.
Urinary issues in cats can be both complex and serious, so the first step should be to contact 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 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.