Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats are caused by microorganisms that enter the urinary tract, travel through the urethra and typically settle in the bladder. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside world. Infection of the bladder caused by bacteria is called “bacterial cystitis.” Occasionally, other organisms are the culprit, including mycoplasma, viruses, algae and fungi. Sometimes, the infective organisms migrate from the bladder through the ureters, lodging in the kidneys. Bacterial infection of the kidneys is called “pyelonephritis”. The primary bacteria involved in feline UTIs are E. coli, Staphylococcus, Proteus, Chlamydia, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Streptococcus, Enterobacter and Pseudomonas.
How Cat’s Get Urinary Tract Infection
Most feline UTIs are associated with some underlying medical problem or anatomical defect, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), polyps, bladder or kidney stones, etc. Simple bacterial ascension without any predisposing condition is uncommon in cats, although it can happen. Elevated urine pH from any cause creates a bladder environment that is primed for bacterial overgrowth. Cats with diabetes mellitus often have persistent or recurrent UTIs, because elevated levels of glucose in their blood and urine also creates a ripe environment for bacterial proliferation. Some cats have “idiopathic” UTIs, which means that the cause of their infection is unknown. Certain allergies (also called immune-mediated hypersensitivities) can contribute to bladder irritation, inflammation and infection. An emerging and unfortunate cause of recurrent UTIs is bacteria resistance to antibiotic drugs.
Preventing Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
The best way to prevent cats from getting UTIs is to prevent or correct the things that predispose them to developing this disorder. When underlying medical or anatomical conditions cannot be controlled or eliminated, many urinary tract infections can be prevented with long-term, low dose prophylactic antibiotic treatment, which carries its own risks. Another preventive measure is to avoid the indiscriminate use of urinary catheters, which can inject bacteria directly into the bladder. Free access to fresh water is also important; 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. Because many of these infections are asymptomatic, it is important for cats to have regular veterinary check-ups, including annual blood tests and urinalyses. Even asymptomatic UTIs, if untreated, can lead to much more seriousproblems, including escalating damage to the tissues of the urinary tract and elsewhere. Because urinary tract infections are less common in males, any UTI in a male cat is considered serious.