Jeff Kahler: Changing urinary habits a red flag for problems

Erin from Turlock takes care of Bondo, a 10-year-old cat that lives entirely inside his house. Recently, Erin has noticed Bondo making many more trips to the litter box to urinate and there have been times when blood was noted in the urine. Erin, thank you for your very detailed letter. The more details the better when it comes to figuring out a possible cause for what is disturbing our companions

Changing urinary habits in a companion is a sign of a potential problem. These signs can range from urinating more often with no change in the amount of urine to going more often with an increase in amount. As caretakers, we need to note these changes.

The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, which are paired and are responsible for filtering the blood and producing urine. From the kidneys, the urine is secreted into tubes called ureters that lead to the urine-holding tank called the bladder. The bladder stores the urine until such time as it is filled to capacity, at which point the urine is expelled through a tube called the urethra. It all sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Actually it is quite the marvel of creation this urinary system.

Our companions can develop many of the same problems with their urinary tracts as humans – however they use different methods of communication when trying to let us know there is indeed a problem. In Bondo’s case, he’s urinating more often. Other times we might notice our cat urinating outside the litter box or even spraying the walls. Owners should try to avoid getting mad when these accidents occur – remember there is an underlying problem causing this behavior.

In Bondo’s case, I recommend a trip to his veterinarian and done so with a full bladder, allowing a urinalysis to be obtained. Urine itself is a wealth of information. The veterinarian can process the urine to see if the kidneys are doing their job and also check for evidence of diabetes, crystals in the urine, a possible infection with bacteria, blood in the urine, excess protein – and the list goes on.

A blood sample is also in order, paying special attention to two kidney parameters called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, both of which can be elevated with a kidney problem. There are also times when radiographs are important, especially if the vet suspects Bondo might have stones in the bladder. You can imagine your urinary habits might change if you had stones rolling around, grinding up the wall of your bladder.

When working with feline urinary problems, veterinarians have two terms: the original is my favorite, Feline Urological Syndrome. It’s my favorite because of the word “syndrome,” which means we really don’t know the underlying cause of the problem in its entirety.

More recently we have renamed these problems Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Both of these terms refer to a condition that involves one or more of the findings we have discussed earlier; infection in the urinary tract with bacteria, crystals in the urine and blood in the urine. Any of these problems can lead to changes in urinary habits.

There are also cases in cats when behavioral changes bring about changes in urinary habits. Maybe you have recently added a new member to the family – be they four legged or two. Perhaps there is a new cat in the neighborhood that is prowling in your cat’s yard.

These are sometimes difficult to figure out but certainly worth exploring. If one of these situations has occurred there may be a way to make things more acceptable for your cat, likely bringing about resolution to the inappropriate urination.

In Bondo’s case, I would be more suspicious of a physical problem rather than behavioral because he is going to the litter box more often and not going outside his box or elsewhere in his house. More frequent visits and not a lot of urine with each trip makes me think of bladder irritation, which makes Bondo feel like he has to go all the time.

It’s important to diagnose Bondo with appropriate testing in order to pinpoint his specific problem and bring about a resolution.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.