Urinary Tract Infections in Cats – Treatment and Prognosis
Fortunately, urinary tract infections (UTIs) in healthy cats are not very common. However, when they do occur, UTIs tend to be painful and, if left untreated, can damage the kidneys and other structures of the urinary tract. Bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections can spread through the blood stream and lodge in remote locations, causing systemic illness.
Goals of Treating Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
The primary goals of treating feline UTIs are to eliminate the organisms that are causing the infection, relieve the cat’s symptoms and prevent associated medical complications. Especially in cats, an equally important therapeutic goal is to identify and address any predisposing medical or anatomical abnormalities.
Many cats diagnosed with what is presumed to be an uncomplicated urinary tract infection will be treated empirically with a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, after a urine sample has been evaluated through an in-house urinalysis. However, because bacterial UTIs in cats are fairly uncommon, the veterinarian may recommend culturing the urine before prescribing antibiotics. Obviously, any antibiotics prescribed for a presumed UTI should have good penetration and distribution into the urine. It is extremely important for owners to administer antibiotics exactly as instructed by the cat’s veterinarian, for the complete duration of the treatment course. If the infection persists, or if it resolves but later returns, another urine sample will be taken and sent to a laboratory to be cultured so that the most effective medication can be prescribed. Underlying medical and/or anatomic conditions that predispose cats to developing UTIs must also be identified and addressed to prevent persistent or recurrent infections.
Prognosis and Outlook
The prognosis for cats with uncomplicated urinary tract infections is excellent, assuming they are diagnosed and treated promptly and properly. Fungal urinary tract infections, on the other hand, are difficult to treat. The prognosis for cats that have bacterial urinary tract infections caused by some predisposing condition is quite variable and depends largely upon correct identification of the offending organism and resolution of the underlying disorder or disease.
In addition to the pain and discomfort caused by urinary tract infections, the contributing organisms can proliferate and infect other areas - particularly the kidneys and ureters. Even more dangerous is the potential for the infection to spread through the cat’s blood. This is called “sepsis” and is a life-threatening medical emergency. Chronic antibiotic use can contribute to allergic drug reactions and bacterial antibiotic resistance, which increasingly is a problem in both human and veterinary medicine. Certain antibiotics can cause kidney damage with prolonged use.