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Cat Urinary Tract Infections: Causes & Recovery

Cat Urinary Tract Infections: Causes & Recovery

There are a number of other urinary tract conditions that can affect cats, particularly cats that are older or male. Here, our Santa Cruz County vets explain more about urinary tract infections and other urinary conditions in cats.

Cat Urinary Tract Infection

Although urinary tract issues are often seen in cats, the culprit is more likely to be feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) than a true urinary tract infection.

That said, when cats do develop urinary tract infections (a UTI) it is often the result of an endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes. It is also the case that cats who suffer from UTIs are typically 10 years of age or older.

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, it is important that you seek veterinary care for your feline friend. 

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 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

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. However, cats of any age can get 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 this is the case, your vet will prescribe your cat an antibiotic to help fight off the UTI. 

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 the genital area
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. Allowing the condition to go untreated could lead to a completely blocked urethra. This is an emergency situation 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.

Diagnosis of Feline Urinary Tract Disease

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, 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.

Is your cat showing signs of a urinary tract infection? Contact our Santa Cruz County vets to book an examination for your cat, or bring your cat in for urgent care during our regular clinic hours.

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