What is Bacterial Kidney Infection?
Infections of the urinary system in cats are most often the result of bacteria entering the body. Bacteria usually enter the cat’s body through the urethra and then travel to the bladder. In some cases, the bacteria causes infection in the bladder, known as Bacterial Cystitis. The infection can move on to the kidneys and cause infection there, known as pyelonephritis. Factors that increase the risk of a urinary infection include problems with urine flow, sugar in the urine, advanced age, overly dilute urine, a compromised immune system, or comorbidity of other diseases. As cats age, kidney concerns become more common.
Symptoms of Bacterial Kidney Infection in Cats
In many cases, a cat does not exhibit symptoms until the infection is advanced. The greatest risk factor for kidney infection in your cat is that your cat will experience kidney failure. A change in your cat’s urination habits may be a red flag for some type of kidney problem. If your cat seems to be spending too much time in the litter box or has urine accidents outside of the litter box, a urinary tract infection may be to blame. Symptoms to be aware of include:
- Decreased appetite
- Excessive urination or difficulty urinating
- Blood in urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Discolored Urine
- Abdominal or lower back pain
Causes of Bacterial Kidney Infection in Cats
Your veterinarian may not be able to pinpoint a specific cause of your cat’s kidney bacterial infection. In general, elderly cats and very young kittens are the most susceptible due to weakened or compromised immune systems. Other causes of pyelonephritis may include:
- Stones in the kidney or ureter that prevent urine from flowing normally
- Birth defects in young kittens, such as ectopic ureter (ureter bypasses the bladder and enters the urethra from outside the bladder wall)
- Ureteral movement
- A restriction in the blood supply to the kidneys or flap valves between the kidneys and ureter
- An infection in the blood that spreads into the urinary tract/kidneys
- Blockages in the urinary tract can cause sepsis (bacterial infection of the blood) or urosepsis (infection of blood from decomposed urine being forced into blood stream)
Diagnosis of Bacterial Kidney Infection in Cats
Pyelonephritis is hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination and run a series of blood tests to diagnose the bacterial infection. The blood work will include a chemical profile and blood count as well as testing levels of potassium and phosphorus. Urine tests will also be run and will include urinalysis, bacterial culture testing and an electrolyte panel. In severe cases, contrast x-rays or ultrasound may be required. Other procedures in severe cases may include urine cultures obtained from the renal pelvis of your cat or a renal biopsy as a last resort. If your cat has kidney stones, an incision into the kidney may be needed to acquire some of the mineral content of the stone for analysis.
Be prepared to share with your veterinarian the symptoms you have observed and approximately how long that you have noticed the symptoms. Do not delay contacting your veterinarian as the bacterial infection can lead to kidney failure if not promptly treated. A bacterial kidney infection can cause permanent damage or can be fatal without proper treatment.
Treatment of Bacterial Kidney Infection in Cats
Bacterial infections of the urinary tract need to be properly treated. Your cat can develop a resistance to antibiotics which can lead to infection that cannot be cleared up. Untreated bacterial infections in the bladder can lead to the more serious condition of kidney infection.
Treatment of kidney bacterial infection in your cat usually requires a long term antibiotic regime for four to six weeks. If you cat has become dehydrated, IV fluids may be required. Surgery may be required is there is an obstruction in the urinary tract. If your cat has kidney stones, they may need to be surgically removed or dissolved through shockwave treatments. Kidney stones can sometimes be alleviated through diet.
Recovery of Bacterial Kidney Infection in Cats
Full recovery of kidney function is possible, depending on the amount of damage to the kidneys. Your veterinarian will perform follow-up urinalysis and cultures after treatment has begun and at the end of the antibiotic regimen. A special diet that is low in protein and low in phosphorus may be recommended. Due to the frequent occurrence of kidney problems in older cats, regular blood and urine screenings are recommended after your cat reaches 7 years of age.
Be sure to administer medications as prescribed by your veterinarian and keep all follow-up appointments. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns. Call your veterinarian’s office if your cat does not appear to be responding to the treatment, continues to be lethargic or is not eating or drinking.
For home management, provide multiple litter boxes in your home. A rule of thumb is one more litter box than the number of cats you have in your home. Encourage your cat to drink water and provide water sources throughout your home. Giving your cat canned food can increase his water intake. Prescription diet food may contain essential fatty acids and antioxidants to help maintain a healthy urinary tract.
Bacterial Kidney Infection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
After 2 1/2 weeks of antibiotic treatment (0.5 ml of Veraflox orally) for a UTI, our cat's urine was taken via cystocentesis with these applicable results:
White Blood Cells: "0-2" (before antibiotics "10-15")
Bacteria: "Moderate (9-40/HPF)" (before antibiotics "Marked >40/HPF")
Red Blood Cells: ">100" (before antibiotics "30-50")
Is it possible the red blood cells could be from a bad sample?
Does it mean our cat needs to have urine taken from her kidneys or should we just use a different antibiotic? Is there another treatment that does not use antibiotics? Our cat has a sensitive stomach.
By the way, our cat has a good appetite. She just urinates and defecates outside of the litter box often.
We are frustrated about whether we are doing the right treatment. Looks like the antibiotic did not work. Please help.
It looks like the antibiotics helped against the infection, but didn’t eliminate it. The breakdown of urinalysis results are white blood cells now 0-2 (down from 10-15), the normally less than 5; bacteria 9-40 (before more than 40), should be sterile if taken by cystocentesis; red blood cells more than 100 (30-50 before), should be less than 5; the reduction in white blood cells and possible reduction in bacteria shows that the antibiotics did something, just didn’t completely cure the infection, the high presence of red blood cells was probably due to the cystocentesis which can be difficult to do. You would still need an antibiotic to treat the infection, speak with your Veterinarian about using a different antibiotic and possible sensitivity testing. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Is it possible for a cat to recover from kidney infection with a creatinine of 10.2 and BUN 230?
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