Feline Urinary Tract Infections: Symptoms and Treatment

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Cats experience fear and anxiet just like us. Stress can occur in your cat for multiple reasons. Perhaps you’ve recently moved or brought a new pet or family member home. Whatever the case may be, if you have a stressed cat, there could be an underlying problem. One of the first ways to detect this problem is when your cat stops using their litter box. Look for places where they may be peeing in a new spot, spraying on a wall, or having trouble urinating.

Unfortunately, inappropriate urination is one of the most common reasons why cats are left at shelters or put outdoors. If your cat starts marking their territory away from their litter box, it’s not out of revenge or spite; it’s probably because something is wrong. While it could be a behavioral problem, or they doesn’t like their litter box for some reason, a medical condition should first be ruled out. One of the most frequent medical causes of a urination problem is feline lower urinary tract disease.

What is FLUTD?

Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is a term used to describe a group of disorders or diseases that affects a cat’s lower urinary tract (bladder or urethra). FLUTD is diagnosed after causes like urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney stones have been ruled out. Causes include crystals or stones in the bladder, bladder infections, urethral obstruction, inflammation in the urinary bladder (sometimes referred to as interstitial or idiopathic cystitis), and other abnormalities in the urinary tract. FLUTD is one of the most common reasons cats are taken to the vet.

Warning Signs of Feline Urinary Tract Infections

  • Straining to urinate: Feline idiopathic cystitis can lead to straining while urinating, and can eventually lead to more severe situations such as the formation of bladder stones or a urethral plug. Male cats are more at risk to develop a urethral plug; this is a life-threatening condition that causes a cat to lose the ability to urinate.

  • Frequent attempts to urinate: Cats with FLUTD have a frequent urge to urinate, but can only pass a small amount each time.

  • Painful urination: If your cat cries out while urinating, this is a tell-tale sign that she may be in pain.

  • Blood in urine

  • Licking the genital or abdominal areas: This is a way for cats to soothe the pain of a urinary tract disease.

  • Irritability

  • Urinating Outside the Litter Box: Take note if your cat is urinating in places other than litter box, especially on cool surfaces like tile or a bathtub.

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It’s also important to monitor your cat after being diagnosed with FLUTD during treatment to ensure that the problem doesn’t reoccur as cats are good at hiding their pain.

What to Do if You Suspect a FLUTD

If your cat is having trouble urinating and displaying other signs of FLUTD, take her to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will give her a physical exam and collect urine samples. Blood work, x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound may also be recommended for diagnosis.

Most cases of FLUTD improve without medical treatment, but the symptoms can recur. Though they may not be life-threatening to your cat, they can be uncomfortable, so treatment can improve her overall quality of life. While treatment of FLUTD depends on the underlying cause, it is always beneficial to increase your cat’s water intake. Maintaining a healthy weight, feeding her canned food and encouraging her to use her litter box can also help. However, certain conditions simply cannot be treated at home. Bacterial cystitis should be treated with antibiotics, while stones must be surgically removed.

It’s always best to be safe. A simple phone call to your vet when you first notice any of the above symptoms can help diagnose a problem much sooner and save your cat a longer period of discomfort. It’s also important to monitor your cat after being diagnosed with FLUTD during treatment to ensure that the problem doesn’t reoccur as cats are good at hiding their pain.

Preventing Future UTIs in Your Cat

Following your vet visit, you can make other changes to your cat’s life to decrease the likelihood for FLUTD to come back. Environmental recurrence has shown to reduce the recurrence rate by 80 percent, and can also help your cat use her litter box. This includes spending more time with your cat, giving her access to windows, and giving her more toys. You can also increase the number of litter boxes in your home and make sure they’re properly cleaned.


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Top 5 Important Questions to Ask About Pet Obesity

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Pet's with the diagnosis of obesity is not new, however, it is becoming more prevalent. This is an incredibly important issue because pets with obesity are at increased risk for developing serious weight-related disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and more.

To help you better care for your dog or cat, we'd like to provide the top five questions you need to ask your veterinarian to keep your pet healthy. They are simple, non-embarrassing questions, and just may save your pet’s life.


#1 - Is my pet overweight?

This is the most important question you must ask your veterinarian – and one your vet may not be eager to answer. Believe it or not, many veterinarians are hesitant to tell you if your pet is overweight or has obesity. This is primarily due to the fact your veterinarian doesn’t want to inadvertently offend you. Weight issues are tricky and loaded with perceived judgment, strong emotions, and social stigmas.

As a concerned pet owner, you need to understand your pet’s weight is one of the most influential factors of longevity, quality of life, and disease prevention. To answer this question, your veterinarian will likely conduct a couple of measurements, determine a Body Condition Score (see charts below) and determine your pet's current weight status.

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Ask the question. Demand a thorough assessment. Don’t be offended if the answer isn’t what you expected. This isn’t personal; it’s your pet’s wellbeing.

#2 How many calories should I feed my pet each day?

We’ve got to be specific when it comes to feeding our pets. Don’t fall into the trap of inquiring, “How much should I feed?” You’ll probably get a generic, inaccurate response. You need to know the precise numbers of calories and nutrients your pet needs. That way, regardless of the type, brand, or formulation of food you feed, you can determine how much to feed. This is a subtle, but incredibly significant difference. Healthy nutrition is about feeding your pet proper nutrients, not ingredients.

Your veterinarian should then ask you a few lifestyle questions, perform a couple of calculations, and give you a narrow range of daily calories you should feed. Memorize this number. Find out how many cups or cans of your pet food this equals. Feed that amount. Don't forget to include any treats in your daily caloric counts. Less is best, as it can swiftly add up and destroy even the best dietary plans.

#3 How much weight should my pet lose in a month?

If your pet is like the majority of dogs and cats, it’ll need to shed a few unhealthy pounds of excess fat. You need to ask how much weight your pet needs to shed and how long will it take to reach a healthy weight. I prefer to think in terms of pounds per month due to practicality and performance. Monthly weight checks are practical and reasonable for even the busiest pet owners. A weight loss plan’s performance is critical to track and monitoring monthly trends is an accurate indicator of success or stagnation.

In general terms, a dog can safely lose 1 to 3-percent of its body weight and cats 0.5 to 2-percent per month. Many dogs can lose 3 to 5-percent and most cats should aim for about a half-pound per month. Losing weight isn’t easy or fast for pets, especially cats.

If you put your pet on a “crash diet,” they can develop serious medical conditions, including a life-threatening form of liver failure that can occur in less than 72 hours. Patience is essential with pet weight loss.

Most of my canine patients will have a 3 to 6-month weight loss plan and cats 6 to 12-months. Your veterinarian will probably formulate a step-weight loss plan that will gradually decrease the amount you’re feeding over a 1 to 3-month period. This will help curtail cravings, begging, and late-night pestering. Note I said “help,” not “eliminate.” There will be some unhappy pets when you institute a diet. Your veterinarian should provide you with tips on preventing these behaviors and transitioning to a new weight-loss diet.

#4 What kind of exercise should my pet do?

Most veterinarians and pet owners focus on how long a pet should exercise daily. While that’s an excellent approach, it is advised you ask what types of activities are best based on your pet’s species, breed, age, gender, and current physical abilities. Walking, swimming, agility, chase, ball retrieving, and remote-controlled toys – the opportunities for physical activity with your pet are limitless but determined by physical ability and intellectual interest. The general recommendation is that dogs need at least 30-minutes of physical activity a day and cats should strive for three 5-minute intense play periods. How you spend those minutes will determine if you do it or don’t and if you adhere to those activities. Make your outings enjoyable, entertaining, and interactive. They will be not only beneficial but also strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Cat owners, please don’t forget to ask this question. Whether you play with a feather duster or laser pointer, move the food bowl, or use a hip, high-tech toy, engage your cat’s inner predator and encourage it to pounce, leap, and prowl every day.

If you want to get really technical, try out pet activity monitors. They’re a great tool to document how much your pet is walking or playing each day. Better yet, you can share these reports with your veterinarian to identify any deficiencies or ways to optimize your training.


#5 Is my pet at risk for a medical problem due to excess weight?

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This is a very serious question that you need to understand for your pet’s future. Dogs and cats with excess fat are at greater risk for developing diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and many forms of cancer. You need to have an honest conversation with your veterinarian to find out if your pet is potentially facing one of these weight-related disorders. If so, what can you do to reduce their odds of developing one of these conditions? Preventing disease is the primary focus of maintaining a healthy weight and proper nutrition. The most important decision you make each day about your pet’s health is what you choose to feed it. Choose wisely; your pet’s longevity and quality of life depend on it.

It’s never too late to reduce your pet’s chances of contracting one of these serious disorders. Early recognition and awareness is the best defense against many diseases. Begin by asking these questions.


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Why Walking Your Dog is Vital to Their Health

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Walking your dog is about much more than just potty breaks. Walking your dog provides them mental stimulation, physical exercise, socialization, and opportunities for behavioral training. Moreover, it gets both of you out and about all while helping to grow the bond you have with your dog.

Walking Provides Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Walking your dog regularly provides a basic foundation for physical and mental health. Like a child, your dog wants to know and explore the world. If they are confined to the house for too long, your dog will get bored, and boredom can lead to destructive behavior. Your dog is dependent on you to take them out to explore the sights, smells, and sounds of the world. This is why it’s also good to vary the places you take your dog as much as possible. You’ve probably noticed how busy (and excited) your dog gets when they are walking, so let them enjoy every opportunity to discover.

Walking is Good for Your Dog’s Health

A sedentary life for a dog can quickly lead to an overweight dog, which brings potential health problems with it. Even if your dog is active inside the home, they still need another outlet to expel their energy. You’ll benefit from having a well-exercised dog, as tired dogs tend to behave better. You will also help your pet avoid unnecessary weight gain, thus the health issues that come with it.

Walking Helps with Your Dog’s Socialization Skills

While you are out and about on your walks, your dog is likely to run into fellow canines. This is a great opportunity to help your dog learn acceptable ways of socially interacting with new animals. It will also help build your dog's confidence so your pet will be less afraid to make new friends. However, if your dog does show fear, try taking them to a training class to resolve that anxiety in a more controlled environment. Well-socialized dogs still like a bit of rough-and-tumble play with other dogs when out for a walk, but they’ll know when to stop and will come away without any battle scars. Walking your dog and exposing them to different dogs, people, and situations is a win for everyone.

Walking Your Dog is a Training Opportunity

When walking your dog, consider it a training opportunity. Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk on a leash, so you’ll have to teach your dog how to follow your lead. While they are on the move, dogs are more inclined to be more receptive to learning. On these walks, you can begin teaching commands like, “sit,” “stay,” and “heel,” especially if you take treats along to use during the process.

Walking Your Dog May Not be Enough

Exercise needs are based on your dog's age, breed, size, and overall health, but a good rule of thumb is you should spend at least 30 minutes every day on an activity with your dog. Younger dogs and dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more.

If your dog has a yard to play in, walking isn’t the only form of exercise available. However, don’t expect your dog to create their own exercise routine just because you’ve put them outside. Dogs don’t self-entertain, so if you want to tire your pet out, play catch or fetch!

If you’re at work all day, consider taking your dog to a doggie daycare, hiring a dog walker, or asking a friend to take your dog out during those hours. Your pet will enjoy the company, and you’ll come home to a happier dog waiting to greet you.

Ready to get out of the house with your pup? With this insight, you’ll never look at a walk with your dog the same way again! Don’t have a dog of your own to walk? Volunteer with your local humane society or shelter and help enrich the lives of shelter pups.


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Tips for Training a Deaf Dog

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Even though they aren't able to hear commands, deaf dogs can be trained to obey their owners and commands. The process comes with its own set of challenges, requiring a bit of extra patience, but isn't outside the capability of most dog owners.

Some dogs are more prone to deafness than others: Dalmatians, Whippets, English Setters, and Jack Russell Terriers seem to have the highest instances of congenital deafness. But as dogs age, just like people, their sense of hearing often worsens over time.

For puppies who don't (yet) have hearing problems, consider incorporating hand gestures with voice commands when you train them. That way, if your dog loses its hearing as it ages, it is already familiar with the signs for the various commands.

Getting the Attention of a Deaf Dog

Before you can ask a dog to do anything, you must first have its attention.

There are a few things you can do to get a deaf dog to look at you, such as stamping your foot on the floor. Sometimes the vibrations coming through the floor are enough to turn your dog's attention in your direction.

Use a Flashlight

Some owners of deaf dogs use a flashlight to signal to their dog. You can train a dog to look at you by turning a flashlight on and off. Continue to do so until your dog turns to see where the light is coming from. As soon as the dog looks at you, reward it with a treat. The dog will soon learn that a flash of light means that it needs to look at you.

Use a Vibrating Collar

These electronic collars are different from those that give shocks to aid in training (which you want to avoid because they provide negative reinforcement to the dog). These simply vibrate when you press a button on a remote.

You can train a dog to look at you by pressing the button to make the collar vibrate, and continue doing so until your dog looks at you. As soon as the dog turns its attention to you, stop the vibrations and offer a treat.

Try Hand Signals

Many people train dogs by using hand signals for basic obedience commands. There is a standard hand signal most dog trainers use to teach each command, but you can also create your own hand signals.

Instead of giving a solely spoken command, you start off by making sure your dog's attention is on you, and then give the hand signal. You then train the dog to perform the command just as you would any other dog.

Use Sign Language

Most people communicate with their dogs for more than the basic commands, learning from the repeated connection between the words and the actions. You can communicate in a similar way with a deaf dog, but rather than using spoken words, you can use sign language.

Many owners of deaf dogs find it useful to learn a few simple words in American Sign Language and use them when doing everyday tasks with their dogs. You can also create your own signs for different words. As long as you and your dog know what the sign means, you should be able to communicate easily.


Reward Good Behavior

While many dogs find it rewarding to get verbal praise from their owners, this won’t be ideal for deaf dogs. Keep some small treats on hand to give your deaf dog positive reinforcement when it obeys a command correctly.

Once your dog has a good understanding of each command, you can use treats less frequently. Be sure in the early days of training when you're using a lot of treats that you cut back on your dog's meals accordingly.

Common Problems and Avoiding Them

Initially, deaf dogs may be startled by a person unexpectedly touching them to gain their attention, especially if they are touched while sleeping. Startling a dog can lead to it snarling or snapping out of fear, much in the same way a person might yell out if someone sneaks up and startles them.

Practice touching your dog very gently on its shoulder and back. Give it treats immediately following the touch. Try to do this often throughout the day, and soon your dog will learn that having someone touch them from behind means good things are about to happen.

A common mistake many new owners of deaf dogs make is not talking while they give their non-verbal commands. Just because the dog can't hear you doesn't mean you should remain silent; often your body language can appear unnatural if you give a command silently.

To ensure the visual commands come naturally to you and translate easily to your dog, go ahead and speak the words of a command as you perform the action.


Meet our featured deaf dog, Tater

The sweetest face!

The sweetest face!

Tater loves his owner, Amanda (who also is our office manager and technician).

Tater loves his owner, Amanda (who also is our office manager and technician).


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How to Give Your Cat a Happy and Healthy Life

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Cats typically fail to receive the same veterinary attention as dogs. Fewer than half the population of felines receive appropriate veterinary care in a year. Could it be rising costs in every industry yet not in wages? Fear not, proper feline care doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are ten ways to keep your cat happy and healthy.

1. Keep cats indoors

Unfortunately, both family vets and emergency vets see all kinds of wounds and fractures in cats who are left outside, unattended. Cats come in who were hit by a car, shot at with an arrow, shot at with a BB gun, shot at with a real gun, and bitten by animals (dogs, possums, raccoons, other cats). In some areas, cats vanish after encounters with coyotes or other predators.

If you feel that keeping cats indoors is inhumane, then walk them on a leash around the yard. This will prevent them from getting out of the yard if left unsupervised. Sadly, we live in a world where the safest place for your cat is on the couch.

2. Couch Potato Chubbiness

Just because cats should live on the couch, doesn't mean that they shouldn't exercise. Sedentary cats are prone to obesity. One way to avoid this is provide toys for play. Initiate play with your cat. This is good not only to help your pet lose extra pounds, but to tap into your cat’s natural hunting instincts. Different cats like different toys, so explore various options. You can also offer a special “food toy” which releases food when it's moved in a particular way. Another idea is to hide pieces of their cat food around a room to increase your cat’s hunting instinct.

3. Litter

Cats are obsessed with cleanliness. A clean litter box is critical to avoid inappropriate urination and defecation in the house. A litter box should be cleaned once a day. If you have more than one cat, you should offer multiple litter boxes – all cleaned once a day.

4. Carrier

Get your cat used to the carrier. Teach them that it is a safe place and not a torture device. This can be done by just having the carrier out as a hiding spot. Food is a big incentive in getting your cat into the carrier. This will make it a lot less stressful when it is time to take your pet to the annual veterinary exam.

5. 3D world

Cats live in a 3D world. They don't live only on the ground like many dogs do. Cats like to jump and perch and observe and rest at various heights. To learn more about the 3D environment concept, take a look at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine's overview of perches as well as their Indoor Pet Initiative page for tips to keep cats (and dogs) happy.

6. Physical exam

A healthy cat is a happy cat. Cats should have a yearly physical exam, and older cats may benefit from an exam twice a year. It's not always easy: cats are very good at hiding signs and you often have to look hard to know if a cat is sick. Unfortunately, you still might not know until your cat's body cannot take it anymore. This means that by the time you realize that your cat is sick, it may be very late (or too late) to find a cure. Thankfully, a thorough physical and blood work can reveal problems like lumps and bumps under the skin, eye conditions, ear infections, as well as kidney or liver disease.

7. Preventive care

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – wise words attributed to Benjamin Franklin. After the yearly physical, you and your vet can decide what your particular cat needs: vaccines, deworming, heartworm prevention, blood work, flea and tick prevention and dental care.

8. Microchip

A microchip is a tiny device (the size of a grain of rice) that is placed under the skin and stays there for life. If your pet is ever lost and ends up in a shelter or a vet clinic, a microchip reader will reveal who your cat belongs to. This can help reunite you with your cat and is much more reliable than a collar and a name tag.

9. Food

How to best feed a cat is a highly controversial topic. Professionals like veterinarians know that there is a lot of “junk food” on the market. Some call it "kitty crack." Feeding these foods (which of course we cannot name here) would be similar to humans eating at a fast food restaurant every day at every meal.

It is probably fair to say that there is no ideal food for all cats. Finding the best solution for your particular cat should ideally come out of a heart-to-heart discussion with your family vet. The choice will vary depending on your cat’s age, size, and bill of health.

10. Socialization

Cats are social creatures. They (sometimes) enjoy each other’s company. Consider going to your local shelter and saving a life by adopting your next feline friend. Double the cats: double the fun!

Let’s finish our review of tips to keep cats happy and healthy with one more suggestion. If you’re concerned that you may not be able to afford proper veterinary care if your cat gets really sick, then consider getting pet insurance. This is a great way to know that no matter what happens, you will be able to provide the best care for your feline friend.

As you can see, none of the above suggestions costs a lot of money. With common sense and a little bit more attention, you can ensure your feline friend will remain in good health for a long time.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


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Related: We have more information under our cat health categories.