Cat Urinary Tract Infections
As many pet parents know, cats suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) fairly often. In fact, it’s one of their most common ailments! What you may not know is that this illness can be quite serious and needs to be treated by a vet as soon as possible.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of your cat’s urethra, most commonly found in kitties between the ages of one and four. It is not as prevalent in cats less than one year old and cats greater than 10 years old.
What are the symptoms of UTIs in cats?
Your cat may exhibit the following:
- Abnormal, frequent passage of urine
- Inability to urinate or only passing a small amount of urine
- Urinating in inappropriate locations (like the bathtub or maybe the closet) and litter box avoidance
- Difficult or painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Loss of bladder control, dribbling urine
- Straining and/or crying out in pain when trying to pass urine
- Prolonged squatting in litter box
- Constant licking of genital area
- Strong odor of ammonia in urine
- Drinking a noticeably larger amount of water
Your vet will also look for:
- Hard, distended abdomen
- Blockage of urine flow through the urethra to outside the body
- Thickened, firm, contracted bladder wall, felt during physical examination
Is it a UTI or a UTB (Urinary Tract Blockage)?
Why do cats get UTIs and UTBs?
While sometimes cats simply contract bacteria in the area, there are diseases that can lead to a UTI, such as noninfectious diseases like interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) and certain viruses. Most commonly, however, cats will have urinary tract health issues from a variety of sources:
- Congenital abnormality
- Stones or accumulated debris in the bladder or urethra
- Kidney stones
- Bladder crystals
- Poor diet
- Incontinence or weak bladder
- Injured urinary tract or spinal cord
- Endocrine diseases (hyperthyroidism and diabetes specifically) can also increase the likelihood of UTIs
Diagnosis and treatment
To diagnose your cat’s UTI, the vet will complete a physical exam, a urinalysis and urine culture, and, if necessary, further blood work, x-rays (for blockages or stones), and an ultrasound. They will be looking for bacterial, fungal, or parasitic sources, as well as any physical complications, injuries, or more serious diseases behind the UTI have caused the infection.
Once the source of the UTI has been identified, your vet can prescribe antibiotics, request dietary changes or, if it’s very serious, schedule surgery.
UTBs can be detected with a thorough physical exam, including feeling the cat’s abdomen, and a full blood panel to monitor levels of increased waste products. If there is a blockage, usually the kidneys cannot filter waste adequately, and the blood will reflect increased levels of potassium. Next, your kitty may undergo x-rays and imaging to see if a blockage is present. If there is an obstruction, surgery is necessary as soon as possible, but is fairly routine and most kitties come out just fine. Your vet will then provide a lifelong treatment plan, as crystals and stones are usually repeat-offenders.
Want to know more information on common cat illnesses? We break down cat health, treatments and veterinary innovation in our Cost of Pet Care report, so you can be prepared to take care of your furry friend every step of the way (and yep, Healthy Paws covers UTI treatment).