In contrast to dogs, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are uncommon in cats, although urinary tract disease is very common. The vast, vast majority of cats with signs of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) (e.g. straining to urinate, frequent urination, bloody urine) do not have an infection. However, many cats with urinary tract disease are treated – unnecessarily – with antibiotics. That’s a problem, for several reasons:
- Antibiotics are not effective if there is no infection, and treating with antibiotics delays addressing the animal’s real problem.
- Use of antibiotics in these cases unnecessarily increases the risk of antibiotic resistance emerging. Even if there is no infection in the bladder, resistant bacteria may emerge elsewhere in the body. Antibiotics don’t just go where we think the infection might be – they also go to areas where there are always bacteria, like the intestinal tract, and resistance can emerge there.
- Adverse reactions to antibiotics can occur. Vomiting and diarrhea are most common.
- Proper diagnostic testing should be performed in every cat with urinary tract disease. This includes evaluation of a urine sample under a microscope to look for signs of infection (such as white blood cells) and a urine culture.