Cats can experience a number of urinary tract issues. Some of which are more common than others. Here, our East Setauket vets talk about the causes of urinary tract infections and feline lower urinary tract disease in cats, the symptoms to watch for and what to expect with recovery.
Cat Urinary Tract Infections
While it can be easy to refer to all cat urinary issues as urinary tract infections or UTIs, it is actually more common for cats to experience feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD. Either way, these urinary tract conditions more commonly affect older male cats.
Cat urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also be caused by an endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include straining to urinate, reduced amounts of urine, not urinating at all, pain or discomfort when urinating, passing urine tinged with blood, and urinating around the house, outside of the litter box.
If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above it could indicate that they are suffering from UTI or FLUTD. Either way, you must seek veterinary care for your feline friend.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) in Cats
FLUTD, Feline lower urinary tract disease is an umbrella term that refers to numerous clinical symptoms. FLUTD 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 conditions can be serious or even life-threatening if left untreated.
Urinating can be difficult, painful, or impossible for cats suffering from FLUTD. 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 are the causes of urinary tract infections in cats?
Urinary tract disease in cats and FLUTD are difficult to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors to this disease. 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
When it comes to urinary tract disease, the risk of developing this condition increases in overweight, senior cats, especially if they eat dry kibble. However, cats of any age can suffer from FLUTD. Male cats are also more prone to urinary diseases since they have a narrower urethra that is more likely to become blocked.
If your kitty is diagnosed with FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a range of serious underlying health issues from 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. If your cat has a urinary tract infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics to treat it before your cat suffers from complications.
What are the signs of cat urinary tract infections?
Some of the most common symptoms that your cat may experience with urinary tract infections include:
- 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
You will need to bring your cat in for veterinary care at the first signs of a urinary-related issue. 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 will the vet diagnose my cat's urinary tract infection?
If you notice the signs of urinary tract issues in your cat, you should reach out to your vet to schedule an examination right away. 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.
How will my cat's urinary tract infection be treated?
Urinary tract issues can lead to other more serious complications and should be addressed sooner rather than later in order to avoid further issues. While the specific treatment that your cat receives will depend on their condition, some of the common treatment options 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
What is the cat urinary tract infection recovery timeline?
With the help of antibiotics, you can expect your cat to begin to feel better in about three to five days while full recovery can take around a week. The key is to follow your vet's instructions and to give medications as prescribed.
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.