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Bladder Infections in Cats | Diagnosis and Treatment

Picture of an orange kitten

The bladder is a hollow organ located inside the abdominal cavity that has the purpose of collecting and storing urine. The inflammation of the bladder is called cystitis and it can be caused by a variety of factors from infections, bladder stones, or others. In most cases, bladder inflammations are caused by infections.

While the causes of cystitis are typically unknown, the truth is that cat and dog urine (much like the urine of other animals, and that of humans, too) contains a great amount of bacteria. If there is a lesion in the bladder wall, the bacteria can penetrate it and grow into a bacterial colony, therefore causing an infection.

Most of the bacteria in the urine has the potential of causing disease, but it will do so only under certain circumstances – such as the lesion example that we mentioned, the cat being generally sick and having a depressed immune system, changes in the pH of the urine, and other factors.

Why do cats get bladder infections?

While it is true that cats suffer from fewer bladder infections on the whole compared to dogs, they can still affect them. In most cases, cats get a urinary tract infection due to poor hygiene, a poor immune system, bladder stones, and even old age (which is associated with a lower performance of the immune system).

Signs of bladder infections in cats

Cats are extremely good at hiding when they are sick, which is unfortunate for their owners as they can’t exactly tell when it’s time to take them to the vet. If you start noticing any of the following symptoms, it is highly recommended that you go in for a check-up.

  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Urinating outside the litter box (right next to it)
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Pain while urinating
  • Cloudy-looking urine
  • Excessive genital licking

These are the typical cat bladder infection symptoms that can be noticed by cat parents even if they do not pay a lot of attention. For instance, the presence of blood in the urine is an alarming sign and it calls for a course of action.

What’s really important is for you to take your cat to the vet before the infection progresses and reaches the kidneys. That can happen in many cases, and once the structural and functional unit of the kidney is affected, your cat’s kidneys will be compromised.

Diagnosis

No matter what has caused your cat’s bladder infection, a diagnosis is necessary so that the vet knows what sort of treatment your pet should receive. A physical examination will be performed at the clinic, and you will be asked about the signs that you have noticed, as well as some basic things about your cat’s history.

It is recommended that you keep your cat’s records as organized as possible so as to report any important information such as your cat’s sensitivity to medication and her history of illnesses.

There are several types of tests that can be used to detect the type of infection the cat is suffering from. The first is a simple urinalysis, where the vet either uses a machine or a test strip to determine whether the urine contains any red or white blood cells, as well as bacteria.

A bacterial culture might be necessary for determining the exact type of germ that has caused the infection. Even though E. coli is one of the most common culprits, one cannot assume that all bladder infections are caused by this bacterium as it can also be caused by Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp., and Proteus.

The safest way of making sure that the urine was not contaminated with another germ (such as one that lives on the cat’s fur, for example) is to perform a cystocentesis – where the vet uses a fine needle and inserts it through the abdomen into the bladder to extract the sample right from the source. The collected urine is then used to determine the antibiotic sensitivity of the identified bacteria.

This is one of the most specific types of tests and diagnoses, and all vets agree that it is the best because, in this way, you can finally give your cat the right antibiotic and make sure that the bladder infection is cured with the correct medication. Doing this will prevent mishaps such as antibiotic resistance, which you most definitely do not want your cat to develop.

Treatment

While most bladder infections in cats can be treated with antibiotics, especially if the cause is bacterial, there are cases where this course of action might not be enough. The vast majority of acute bladder infections respond well to treatment with antibiotics.

However, in cases where the infection is caused by a stone, the cat might also have to receive special medication and might even have to go through surgery so that the calculus is removed. Otherwise, if you treat your cat’s infection but the stone remains there, you do not have any means of preventing the issue from recurring. Tiny stones can also block the urethra, and that’s another health issue that must be avoided at all cost.

Prevention and home care

Although it might be difficult, you should try to encourage your cat to drink as much water as possible. It can be hard, especially because cats don’t like to drink as much water as dogs, for example. You can, however, get your pet a cat watering fountain, in which case he or she will enjoy the freshness of the water and will want to drink more than the usual.

If your cat has a bladder infection right now, it is essential that he or she drinks plenty of water because frequent urination helps eliminate the bacteria. It also changes the pH of the urine in that it is no longer as alkaline, therefore turning into a medium where bacteria can’t thrive any longer.

Another thing you can do is to switch to a urinary specific diet – there are many developed exactly for the purpose. Try to feed your cat wet food more than dry food, especially if you know that she has a history of UTIs. At least in this way, your pet will get a little more hydrated.

Last, but not least, cats will refrain from urinating if they do not have access to a clean litter box. The least you could do is to provide your feline companion with several litter trays in different areas of the house. Clean them all every day.

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