You hear that familiar scratching sound coming from the litter box, but suddenly you hear an alarming, unfamiliar sound: your cat cries out in distress. Urinary problems are common in felines, but can signify serious medical problems. Excess protein in her urine is an early indicator of many diseases.
Proteinuria (unsurprisingly) is the medical term for excess protein in the urine. While healthy cat urine contains low amounts of protein, excess amounts can indicate an underlying condition. Proteinuria comes in three types: preglomerular, postglomerular and glomerular. These scientific names simply indicate where your kitty’s problem manifests: before kidney filtration, after kidney filtration or during kidney filtration.
The causes for proteinuria range from strenuous exercise and dietary problems all the way through cancer and renal failure. It’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior for any signs of distress. A kitty suffering from a kidney infection may cry while urinating or urinate often around the house, while a kitty with early kidney disease may not present symptoms. Some of the less dangerous causes of proteinuria include hypertension, infection, kidney inflammation and scar tissue on the kidneys. These causes of excess protein can be managed through medication or dietary changes. Sometimes more serious medical conditions cause proteinuria. These include immune system diseases such as lupus, Lyme disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver damage, heartworms and cancer. Your vet will determine the underlying cause of your kitty’s excess protein through urinalysis, X-rays and ultrasound.
Excess protein is a result of an underlying problem, not the cause of the problem itself. The cause of your kitty’s excess protein will determine if and what symptoms she presents. Excess protein in the urine is often accompanied by blood in the urine. This is associated with inflammation or hemorrhage as a result of excess protein and her kidney’s failure to properly filter blood. Because proteinuria is largely asymptomatic, your veterinarian will most likely recommend a yearly urinalysis to monitor protein levels for all kitties age 7 and older.
Proteinuria is usually treated on an outpatient basis unless your kitty is in shock, severely dehydrated or presenting other signs of kidney failure. The cause of her proteinuria will determine her treatment. Common treatment options include special low-protein prescription diets, antibiotics if infection is present and hypertension medication for high blood pressure.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.