During seasonal and drastic weather changes, it is not uncommon to see an increase in urinary tract infections with cats and dogs. In an otherwise healthy individual with normal urinary tract anatomy and function, a bacterial infection is often the leading cause of urinary disease in dogs. In cats the initiating factor is often inflammation of the urinary bladder initiated by stressors.
The urinary tract is composed of the kidneys, ureters, the urinary bladder and urethra. The kidneys function to filter urine and moves urine through the ureter, a tube that carries urine to the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder holds urine and allows for excretion from the body through the urethra. When a pet is said to have a urinary tract infection it is often referring to an infection within the urinary bladder. With persistent infections of the bladder or left untreated these infections can progress to affect the kidneys.
Clinical signs suggestive of a urinary tract infection include the following:
- Urinating frequently in multiple place or inappropriate places (outside the litter box)
- Urinating small amounts at a time
- Inability to hold urine
- Urine that appears dark, discolored, blood tinged or foul smelling
- Excessive licking of the genitalia
Other diseases and illnesses such as diabetes or kidney abnormalities, bladder stones or incontinence can present with similar signs. For this reason, it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet examined.
With male cats, abnormal urinary signs can be much more concerning and lead to a potential emergency. Male cats can develop a condition in which their urethra for excreting urine from the bladder becomes obstructed or “blocked.” Mucus, urinary crystals and even tiny bladder stones can collect in the narrow male cat urethra preventing urine flow. Unable to urinate, pressure builds in the bladder leading to damage to the bladder and critical, life-threatening electrolyte imbalances.
A male cat that is straining to urinate, vocalizing while urinating, or unable to pass urine is considered an emergency.