Monday, June 5, 2017

Urinary Tract Infections in cats

Mandy Cooper

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)

Feelings of fear or anxiety can affect our cats much like they affect us. Stress can occur in your cat for multiple reasons. Perhaps you've recently moved or brought a new pet or family member home. Whatever the case may be, if you have a stressed cat, there could be an underlying problem. 

One of the first ways to detect this problem is when your cat stops using the litter box. He/she may be peeing in a new spot, spraying on a wall or having trouble urinating. If your cat starts marking his/her territory away from the litter box, it's not out of revenge or spite. It's probably because something is wrong. While it could be a behavioural problem or he/she doesn't like his/her litter box for some reason, a medical condition should first be ruled out. One of the frequent medical causes of a urination problem is feline lower urinary tract disease (UTI).

The wider term known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a term used to describe a group of disorders or diseases that affects a cat's lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra). FLUTD is diagnosed after causes like urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney stones have been ruled out. Causes include crystals or stones in the bladder, bladder infections, urethral obstruction, inflammation in the urinary bladder (sometimes referred to as interstitial or idiopathic cystitis) and other abnormalities in the urinary tract. FLUTD is one of the most common reasons that cats are taken to the vet.

Warning signs of Feline Urinary Tract Infections

       Straining to urinate: Feline idiopathic cystitis can lead to straining while urinating and can eventually lead to more severe situations such as the formation of bladder stones or a urethral plug. Male cats are more at risk of developing a urethral plug. This is a life threatening condition that causes the cat to lose the ability to urinate.
       Frequent attempts to urinate: Cats with FLUTD have a frequent urge to urinate but can only pass a small amount each time.
       Painful urination: If your cat cries out while urinating, this is a tell tale sign that they may be in pain.
       Blood in urine
       Licking the genital or abdominal areas: This is a way for cats to soothe the pain of a urinary tract disease
       Urinating outside the litter box: Take note if your cat is urinating in places other than the litter box especially on cool surfaces like tiles or a bathtub.

What to do if you suspect a FLUTD

If your cat is having trouble urinating and displaying other signs of FLUTD, take him/her to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will give him/her a physical exam and collect urine samples. Blood work, x-rays and abdominal ultrasound may also be recommended for diagnosis.
Most cases of FLUTD improve without medical treatment but the symptoms can recur. Though they may not be life threatening to your cat, they can be uncomfortable so treatment can improve his/her overall quality of life. While treatment of FLUTD depends on the underlying cause, it is always beneficial to increase your cat's water intake. Maintaining a healthy weight, feeding him/her canned food a few times a day  and encouraging him/her to use the litter box can also help.
Also ask you vet about foods for cats prone to Urinary Tract Infections.  

However, certain conditions simply cannot be treated at home. Bacterial cystitis should be treated with antibiotics while stones must be surgically removed. It's always best to be safe. A simple phone call to your vet when you first notice any of the above symptoms can help diagnose a problem much sooner and save your cat a longer period of discomfort. It's also important to monitor your cat after being diagnosed during treatment to ensure that the problem doesn't reoccur as cats are very good at hiding their pain.

Do not leave anything to chance. Always call your vet or take your cat in if you suspect there is something wrong. 

Preventing future UTIs in your cat

Following your vet visit, you can make other changes to your cat's life to decrease the likelihood of the infection coming back. This includes spending more time with your cat, giving him/her access to windows and giving him/her more toys. You can also increase the number of litter boxes in your home and make sure they are properly cleaned every day. You can prevent or correct the things that expose them to developing the disorder.  

Free, fresh access to water is important.
Consider getting a water fountain so they have fresh cool water and make sure you clean it at least once a week if not daily, depending on how many cats you have. Also change the filter appropriately.
It promotes hydration and helps flush infectious organisms out of the urinary tract.

Hard to prevent, difficult to detect and dangerous if not treated, urinary tract infections affect cats of all ages and breeds. It's important for cats to have regular vet check ups including annual blood tests and urinalysis. 

Because urinary tract infections are less common in males, any UTI in a male cat is considered serious. Untreated urinary problems can cause partial or complete obstruction of the urethra preventing a cat from urinating. This is a medical emergency that can quickly lead to kidney failure and/or rupture of the bladder and can prove fatal if the obstruction is not relieved right away.

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