If you have had the unfortunate experience of having a urinary tract problem, you are familiar with the pain and discomfort they bring. These side effects are just as serious for cats, who can suffer from urinary tract infections and other urinary tract disorders for a variety of reasons.
Despite the multitude of potential causes of urinary tract disease, generally the signs are very similar. Cats will often urinate in small amounts more frequently, sometimes straining in the box for a prolonged period of time. Urine accidents outside the box may occur, and blood may be seen in the urine. Cats may lick their genital areas, as well as show signs of depression, decreased appetite and changed water consumption.
Problems with the urinary tract have been shown to affect as many as 30% of all domestic cats at some time in their life. These problems can include bladder stones, urinary blockage, urinary tract infections, and cystitis.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is often originated by the formation of struvite or calcium oxalate stones in the urine, which then cause blockage of the bladder. Surgical excision of the stones is generally required to cure the blockage and return the bladder to its original state. In less severe cases, your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet formulated to dissolve stones. Long term, foods that decrease the formation of stones may be indicated, to prevent further reoccurrence of bladder stones.
A urethral obstruction occurs when the cats urethra becomes blocked. More common in male cats, this serious disease can be life threatening, and immediate veterinary attention is required. Tiny stones or mineral crystals from the bladder may migrate into the urethra, getting stuck going through the long and narrow organ. Like cats with other urinary tract problems, cats with a partial or total obstruction will strain to urinate without producing much urine. However as the obstruction continues, the cats will rapidly become more distressed, unable to empty their distended bladder. In addition, the toxins removed from the blood by the kidneys will be unable to be voided through the urine, resulting in a progressive imbalance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. If left untreated, death can occur in less than 24-48 hours of a cat becoming totally obstructed.
Treatment of a urinary obstruction is aimed at relieving the blockage. The cat may be heavily sedated or anesthetized, and a urinary catheter be passed through the urethra. In many cases, this can dislodge the blockage, and restore the flow of urine. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to relieve the blockage and clear the urinary tract of other stones and crystals that might cause the problem to reoccur. Intravenous fluid therapy may be administered for several days to help treat dehydration and normalize electrolyte and kidney function, and antibiotics may be administered to treat any infection present.
Urinary tract infections in cats may be a primary problem, or they may occur secondary to other problems such as stones or crystals in the bladder. The presence of these foreign materials in the bladder irritates the bladder wall causing inflammation, and often causing an infection within the bladder. Left untreated, urinary tract infections in cats can spread to the kidneys and then systemically, into a life-threatening condition.
If you suspect a urinary tract disorder in your cat, the most important step you can take is to see your veterinarian. The first step in diagnosis is to get a sample of urine, called a urinalysis. If infection is suspected, your vet may perform a cystocentesis to obtain a sterile urine sample, by inserting a needle directly into the bladder of your cat. A urinalysis will test for the acidity of the urine, specific gravity (a test of how well the kidneys are functioning) as well as checking for the presence of blood, protein, glucose and several other functions. In addition, the urinalysis may reveal the presence of abnormal cells, bacteria and crystals.
If bacteria or blood is appreciated in the urine, a urinary tract infection may be present. Your vet may decide to perform a culture and sensitivity test on the urine. Performed in the laboratory, a urine culture determines what bacteria or yeast may be present in the sample, and tests to see which antibiotic will be most effective in eradicating those bacteria. A culture and sensitivity is the best way to diagnose and treat a urine infection, ensuring that the correct medication will be prescribed to treat your cats urinary tract infection quickly and effectively.
The array of problems that can affect the cats urinary tract are diverse and each must be treated carefully and individually. If you suspect a urinary tract infection, or other urinary tract problem in your cat, prompt veterinary attention will ensure that your cat receives the medical treatment he needs, for the problem he has, as quickly as possible.