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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Cats

Although cat urinary tract infections are rare compared to the occurrence of UTIs in dogs, older cats can experience a host of other urinary tract issues that cause similar symptoms. Today our Newtown vets discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment for urinary disorders in cats. 

Urinary Tract Infections in Cats

When cats develop urinary tract issues, they are often caused by feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) rather than a urinary tract infection (UTI).

When cats do develop urinary tract infections it is often the case that they also suffer from endocrine diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus, and are typically over 10 years old.

If your kitty is displaying symptoms of a urinary tract infection (see below) and is diagnosed with an infection such as cystitis your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic to help fight your cat's UTI.

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections in cats include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Reduced amounts of urine or not urinating at all
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating (you might hear crying from the litter box)
  • Passing urine tinged with blood
  • Urinating around the house, outside of the litter box.

The above symptoms could indicate a UTI but are similar to the symptoms in cats who present with feline lower urinary tract disease. Your vet will be to complete further diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your cat's urinary tract issues. 

Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD, Feline lower urinary tract disease is actually 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).

Causes of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is a complex condition 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 that connects the bladder to the outside of the 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

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.

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. A delay in treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming completely obstructed and preventing your cat from urinating completely. If this happens it could cause your cat's bladder to rupture. 

FLUTD can quickly be fatal if there is an obstruction that is not eliminated immediately.

Diagnosis of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

If you believe that your feline friend may be having issues urinating, or is displaying any of the symptoms above, contact your vet right away. Your vet will perform a complete physical exam and urinalysis as part of their investigation into your cat's condition. They may also take X-rays and bloodwork. 

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.

If your cat is unable to urinate it is an emergency situation. Contact our Newtown vets or bring your cat in right away to Newtown Veterinary Specialists for emergency vet care. 

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Newtown Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Newtown companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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