Although urinary tract infections are far less common in cats than in dogs, our Cordova vets often see a number of other feline urinary tract diseases in cats. Today we share more about UTIs and other urinary tract conditions in cats.
Does my cat have a urinary tract infection?
While urinary tract problems are often seen in cats, your cat is more likely to suffer from a urinary tract disease than an infection.
That said, when urinary tract infections (UTI) do affect cats it is typically in cats over 10 years of age who are suffering from an underlying endocrine disease such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus.
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 or outside of the litter box. Nonetheless, these very same symptoms can be an indication of a feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.
What is FLUTD in cats?
FLUTD, feline lower urinary tract disease actually refers to a number of clinical symptoms. FLUTD can affect your cat’s urethra and bladder, often leading the urethra to become obstructed, or preventing your kitty's bladder from emptying properly. FLUTD is a painful and serious issue that can be life-threatening for cats if left untreated.
What causes Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
FLUTD is a complex condition to diagnose and treat since there are multiple causes and contributing factors. 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
Are some cats more at risk of developing FLUTD than others?
Any cat can develop FLUTD however urinary tract disease is most often diagnosed in middle-aged indoor cats that are overweight, eat a dry food diet or do not get enough physical activity. 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 feline friend is diagnosed with FLUTD it is essential to determine the underlying cause. FLUTD symptoms can be caused by a number of serious underlying health issues such as bladder stones, infection, cancer or a blockage.
If your veterinarian is unable to determine the cause of your cat's FLUTD, your pet may be diagnosed with a urinary tract infection called cystitis which is inflammation of the bladder.
What are the symptoms of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease in cats?
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).
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
It is critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated as early as possible. Delays in treatment could lead to your cat's urethra becoming partially or completely obstructed, which can prevent 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.
How is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease diagnosed?
Urinary issues in cats can be complex and serious, so the first step should always be to make an appointment with your vet. If your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain contact your vet for an urgent appointment, or head to the nearest emergency vet - 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. Radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also need to be done.
How are UTIs and FLUTD in cats treated?
The underlying cause of your cat's urinary symptoms will dictate which treatment is prescribed and how long recovery will take. Some common treatments for FLUTD 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
- Infections such as cystitis will typically be treated with an antibacterial
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 you think that your cat may have a urinary tract infection or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, contact your Cordova vet right away to book an examination for your feline friend.
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