Pet Connection: Excess thirst might signal health problems

Q: My cat seems to be drinking a lot more water than usual. She’s even started having accidents outside the litter box. I think she can’t get there in time. What could be causing this?

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A: In vet speak, what’s going on is called polydipsia and polyuria – excessive thirst and urination. The problem is that these signs can be symptomatic of any number of diseases. It can be really frustrating for veterinarians and owners to try to figure out the cause. Diseases that cause these signs include diabetes, kidney failure and hyperthyroidism, to name just a few.

The differential diagnosis – a term you may know from medical detective shows such as “House M.D.” – involves a good history first. The veterinarian will want to know how long your cat has been drinking lots of water and whether you’ve noticed if she’s urinating more frequently (pollakiuria) or going a normal number of times but producing greater amounts of urine (polyuria).

Other questions may include what you feed your cat, whether you’ve noticed any changes in eating habits or unusual weight loss and whether you’re giving her any medications or supplements. A physical exam and lab tests are also part of the search for answers. A complete blood count, urinalysis and thyroid test are among the lab work your veterinarian may order.

They can help to check such things as kidney and liver values, thyroid hormone levels, abnormal electrolyte levels and excess sugar in the urine. Again, there are many potential causes of these signs, so a veterinary visit is a must.

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Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with