Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) refers to conditions of bladder and urethra in cats. This condition is characterized by pain and difficulty in urinating. An increase in the frequency of urination is noted. Cats suffering from the condition often lick themselves in excess. They may even urinate out of the litter box. Also, you can spot them resting on smooth surfaces like a bathtub or a tile floor to cool themselves.
The condition results in
- Inflammation of the urethra or the bladder
- Total or partial obstruction of the urethra
- Formation of stones in the bladder
- Frequent urination and blood in the urine
- House soiling and urinating in inappropriate places
Feline lower urinary tract disease is a common condition that affects cats of both sexes. It distresses 0.5 to 1 percent of the population. Moreover, male cats are prone to issues such as plugs or crystals. These cause obstructions in their narrow and long urethra. Above all, this disorder has a high recurrence rate.
FLUTD can occur at any age. However, it is mostly seen in overweight and middle-aged cats. Cats that have no outdoor access that lives on a dry diet and get little exercise tend to develop FLUTD. Environment and emotional stress also result in this condition. Changes in their everyday schedule and multi-cat households can also increase the risk.
As there are multiple causes for this condition, it can be hard to diagnose it. The veterinarian would do a physical examination based on the symptoms of your cat. This will also include analysis of urine for determining infection, inflammation, and the presence of crystals. Moreover, additional tests will help confirm the situation.
Causes of FLUTD
Some of the most common causes of FLUTD include blockage of the urinary tract, urolithiasis, a painful bladder, and idiopathic cystitis.
The formation of stones in the urinary tract is one of the possible causes of FLUTD. Urinary stones result when minerals collect in the urinary tract. Ultrasound and X-ray tests can confirm the presence of urinary stones. Calcium oxalate and struvite stones are most common in felines. The vet may describe a special diet for dissolving struvite stones. Surgery helps in the removal of calcium oxalate stones. Also, the veterinarian may try to remove stones in female cats by flushing the bladder using sterile fluids. If the stones are tiny, then a cystoscope can be used for the removal of stones. The cat will be put under anesthesia for the procedure. Further, dietary changes and medications can prevent a recurrence.
FLUTD may also occur when there is an infection in the urinary tract due to parasites, fungi, or bacteria. If tests confirm infection, then the vet will look for the condition that is putting your cat at risk. For instance, diabetes and urinary stones further increase the possibility of tract infection.
In younger cats, the infections are due to the concentration of urine, and because of high acid content. In older cats, diabetes and kidney disease may contribute to FLUTD. Hence, older cats are at higher risk. The treatment is dependent on the severity of the condition. So, your vet will put your cat on fluid therapy, urinary acidifier, and antibiotics depending upon the condition.
The primary issue seen in cats with FLUTD is that a part of their urethra becomes partially or blocked. Hence, these cats have a difficult time urinating. Their body can produce no or little urine. You may notice that the cat appears to be constipated. Straining often is a sign of obstruction. Urethral plugs and stones are major causes of obstruction in cats. Hence, it can prove to be life-threatening.
Cats with obstruction require immediate care. Male cats are at a larger risk for developing urethral obstruction as their urethra is narrower and longer. Once the urethra is blocked, their kidneys would not be able to filter toxins from the blood. As a result, it would also not be possible to balance electrolytes and fluids in the body. These imbalances can result in heart failure.
The treatment of urethral obstruction can be performed by dislodging whatever is causing the obstruction. This is done by flushing a sterile solution with a narrow tube placed in the urethra. After removal of obstruction, the condition of the cat will decide further treatment to be given. Intravenous fluid therapy is used for the treatment of imbalance in electrolytes and dehydration. Antibiotics will be given for treating or preventing infection. Also, for restoring the bladder function, drugs are often prescribed.
If the urethral obstruction doesn’t get better with primary medical treatment, then a surgical procedure would be recommended. It is known as Perineal Urethrostomy. However, there are some side effects commonly noted during the surgery. They are urinary incontinence, narrowing of the surgical site, and bleeding. Hence, surgery is always the last resort.
Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)
This condition is also known as interstitial cystitis. The major cause of this disease is still not known. Also, there is no specific test available for diagnosis of this condition. Almost 40-50 percent of cats under the age of 10 encounters an episode of FIC. The condition can be chronic. Vets prioritize lowering the frequency of episode and severity of this condition. Although there are several medical treatments available, the degree of success is variable and not concrete. The vets hence focus on addressing behavioral issues initially. They also aim to eliminate the factors resulting in stress.
Disease such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes can result in feline lower urinary tract disease. FLUTD can also occur due to tumors, congenital disabilities, or an injury to the urinary tract. However, these causes are quite rare.
|Urinary stones||– Formation of urinary stones due to the collection of minerals in the urinary tract |
– Presence confirmed with X-rays or ultrasound
– Main causes are struvite and calcium oxalate stones
– Special disease diet for dissolving struvite stones
– Surgery for removal of struvite stones
– Flushing with sterile fluids for removing small stones
– Medications and dietary changes suggested after the surgery
|Urinary infection||– Infection in the urinary tract because of parasites, bacteria, and parasites |
– Urinary stones and diabetes increase the risk of infection in the tract
– Infection can also be due to the concentration of urine and because of high acid content
– Older cats at higher risk
– Treatment depends on the severity of infection
– Using fluid therapy, urinary acidifiers, and antibiotics for treatment
|Urethral obstruction||– Part of urethra gets totally or partially blocked |
– Cats have difficulty in urinating
– The body produces little or no urine
– Cat appears constipated
– Can be a life-threatening situation if no measures taken
– Plugs and stones are major causes of obstruction
– Cats require immediate care
– Kidneys cannot remove toxins if the urethra is completely blocked
– Can also result in heart failure
– Treatment of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration with intravenous fluid therapy
|Feline idiopathic cystitis||– Commonly seen in younger cats |
– No specific test available for prognosis
– Vets prefer lowering the severity of the condition
– Treatment is done with addressing behavioral issues
|Other causes||– Diabetes and hypothyroidism can also cause FLUTD |
– Tumors, injury and birth defect can also cause urinary tract infection
What can be done to prevent feline lower urinary tract disease?
Prevention of feline lower urinary tract disease is entirely dependent on addressing the symptoms. Also, you should focus on eliminating the factors that can give rise to the condition. Follow the below steps to prevent FLUTD:
- Feeding small meals frequently
- Choosing the best disease diet for your cat by consulting a veterinarian
- Provide fresh and clean water at all times
- Provide a sufficient number of litter boxes
- Keep litter boxes in a safe and quiet place in the house
- Scoop the waste from litter box twice a day
- Reduce factors that contribute to stress
Is FLUTD the reason for urinating outside the litter box?
Feline lower urinary tract disease often results in inappropriate urination. If you notice your cat urinating out of the litter box, then it may be due to feline lower urinary tract disease. Although urinating out of litter boxes is not a medical issue, many pet cats end up being relinquished at shelters for this reason.
Treatment of feline lower urinary tract disease
Treatment of feline lower urinary tract disease is entirely dependent on the causative factors. First, the vet would study the disease causes to prescribe the best treatment possible for your beloved pet. The treatment cost of feline lower urinary tract disease would be dependent on the condition that is causing FLUTD in your cat.
Vets prescribe medicines for treating Idiopathic Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Anti-anxiety and pain medications would also be prescribed depending upon the condition. Nutritional supplements may be given in certain cases.
You need to give canned foods to cats with FLUTD. You need to make sure to provide fresh food that is rich in nutrients.
It is essential to remove the factors resulting in stress in a cat diagnosed with FLUTD. If you want to help your cat, then you need to take some steps for the management of feline lower urinary tract disease at home. Provide your pet cat with clean litter boxes. You should provide mental stimulation and ample opportunities to play. Try your best to prevent conflicts with other housemates.
Other factors to consider
- Cats suffering from obstruction will have to undergo a tract disease surgery if the condition is severe. Constant monitoring of kidney function and electrolyte levels would be needed
- Using antibiotics for treatment of bladder infections
- Surgical removal of bladder stones
- Therapeutic diets as an alternative to surgery
- Make fresh water should be available at all times
- Feeding canned food as an alternative because of the increase in moisture in wet food
- Reduce stress for indoor cats with environmental enrichment such as placing perches, toys, providing hiding places and also scratching surfaces
- Keep litter boxes clean
- Place an adequate number of litter boxes in multi-cat households
- Make sure to follow the instructions mentioned in the vet prescription
What to expect at home?
It is essential to maintain a pleasant home environment and make suitable modifications to the diet of your cat suffering from FLUTD. Concentrated urine can result in irritation of the bladder wall. Hence, the goal should be to increase fluid intake. Feeding canned meals several times a day, and providing clean and fresh water at all times can help your ailing cat.
Identify the factors causing stress to your cat and try to eliminate them. The most common causes of stress are:
Cats need to play and exercise every day. Place scratching posts everywhere. Rotate the toys. Offer opportunities for their mental stimulation. You can place a chair near the window so that they can take a look outside.
Conflicts with other housemates
If there is a conflict with other housemates, then you should resolve it immediately. Make sure to provide hiding spaces to your cat diagnosed with FLUTD. Try to feed them separately. Also, place multiple litter boxes everywhere.
Dealing with unforeseen events
If you have house guests frequently, then your cat will be in because of the addition of a new member. Hence, maintain the environment as stable as possible and also stick to the schedule.
If you notice any strange behavior in your cat, then make sure to communicate this with the vet. Also, watch out for complications. If you suspect your cat is experiencing a relapse after the treatment, then you should visit the vet immediately. Remember that male cats are at higher risk. Blockages in the urinary tract can prove to be fatal. Hence, if your cat is showing signs of discomfort, then do your best to remove factors stressing them out. There is no specific medicine for feline lower urinary tract disease. But, you can always do your best to make your cat comfortable.