Urinary tract infections can happen in cats of any age, but they become much more likely as your cat grows older. Thus, as an owner of an older cat, it is important for you to know the basics about UTIs so you can detect one early and treat it properly.
What are urinary tract infections?
A urinary tract infection is an infection or any part of the urinary tract, but usually, the infection originates in the urethra – the tube that leads from the bladder to the outside. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the bladder and kidneys. A number of different bacterial species can cause UTIs in cats, but the most common are E. coli and various species of Staphylococcus.
What are the signs of a UTI?
The earliest sign of a UTI is generally frequent urination. Your cat will likely visit the litter box often, but he or she may pass only a small amount of urine each time. Many cats also experience urinary incontinence—they might dribble urine when outside of the litter box, or end up urinating outside the box because they don't make it there on time.
If the UTI moves into the bladder or kidneys, symptoms will become more severe. The cat may yelp or meow when trying to urinate. He or she may become lethargic or very irritable. A fever will likely develop, which may cause your cat to breathe rapidly.
How are UTIs diagnosed?
If you suspect your cat might have a UTI, you should make an appointment with a vet at a clinic like Lamb's Gap Animal Hospital promptly. He or she will collect a sample of urine and analyze it for bacterial content to determine the species of bacteria that are causing the infection. If your vet suspects the infection has spread into the bladder or kidneys, he or she may take x-rays to confirm.
How are UTIs treated?
The primary treatment will be with antibiotics. Which antibiotic your vet recommends will depend on the species of bacteria causing the infection. Usually, these can be administered orally, but if the infection is severe, your vet may administer antibiotics through an IV.
Measures will also need to be taken to prevent your cat from contracting another UTI. Older cats often don't drink enough, and this makes them susceptible to UTIs. Moistening your cat's food or feeding chicken broth can increase their fluid intake. Some cats will need to be switched to a food made specifically for older cats in order to avoid UTIs and keep them drinking adequately.