Feline lower urinary tract infections

Cats who have suffered in the past from lower urinary tract diseases are likely to become ill with them again

Doctor Hila Bareket, SPCA Israel veterinarian

At the clinic of the SPCA Israel, we admitted a male neutered cat of about four years old, whose owners complained about a strange phenomenon: the cat, who was litter box trained, had spent hours during the previous day in the kitty litter box, he scratched and he meowed and at the end of all this had not urinated. The owners thought that the cat had been constipated, but the next day they found a puddle of bloodied urine outside of the kitty litter box. The cat was suffering from a lack of appetite, dehydration, nervousness and pain in the area of his lower abdomen. All the clinical signs and his history pointed to a disease whose source was in the lower urogenital tract.

Lower urinary tract infections in cats are divided into two types:

Obstructive disease: in most male cats, the urethra is obstructed by a residue and so the urine does not succeed in passing from the bladder to the outside of the body. As a result, the urine accumulates within the bladder, which expands and enlarges and which becomes rigid, inflamed and painful. In extreme cases, a tear may develop in the bladder or an injury may develop in the kidneys that is likely to result in death. This is an emergency situation that requires immediate veterinary attention!!!
Factors that contribute to the creation of residue and inflammation can be: Infection, stress, allergy (to food or an environmental factor), nutrition (dry food!), gender of the cat (more incidents in neutered males) and the age of the cat (more in younger cats). The residue created is mostly Calcium-oxalate or Struvite, and both of them can be seen in an x-ray.

Non-obstructive disease: in most cases we are talking about a sterile inflammation of the bladder, whose cause is not common in either males or females. The symptoms are generally irregularity in passing urine. However, the cat does not show symptoms of straining or difficulty while passing urine, the urine is sterile and sometimes somewhat bloody.
The disease is diagnosed by a history of clinical symptoms and a urine test (test strips to negate the presence of crystals that create residue).
It is advisable to also have a blood test done (to check the state of the kidneys, the level of dehydration and the electrolytes) and an x-ray of the bladder (to negate the presence of kidney stones).
The treatment includes the opening of the obstruction by inserting a urinal catheter and rinsing the bladder. The urinal catheter remains attached to the cat for a few days. The cat is given liquids, antibiotics, medication and medicinal soft food that causes the urine to be acidified and therefore to the decrease the creation of residues.

We need to remember, that once the catheter is removed, even if everything is found to be normal, the cat is likely to be obstructed again – within the next 48 hours. Cats who have suffered in the past from lower urinary tract diseases are likely to become ill with them again, therefore it is recommended to provide them with cat food that is made specially for cats with urinary tract problems and to have a periodic urinary test to prevent repeated obstructions.