Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is a denomination used to describe an array of medical conditions that affect the urethra and bladder of cats. While it can be seen in felines of all ages, it is more common in older and middle-aged cats, especially those that get little to no exercise, are a bit overweight, do not consume enough water, and mostly eat a dry diet.
In this article, we’ll discuss some common symptoms of FLUTD, its causes, the way it can be prevented, as well as what treatment options are available for each specific form.
It’s a possibility that your cat might be suffering from FLUTD if you notice frequent attempts to urinate, crying out while doing so, urinating outside the litter box, the presence of blood in the litter box, and urinating only small amounts. Many cats will start over-grooming in the genital area, which is not something common at all and should give you a clue that something is wrong.
Urethral obstruction has the same symptoms, but the major difference is that the cat expresses no urine at all or only a minimal amount. Cats that have a urethral obstruction are distressed and very vocal, especially when they use the litter box. Urethral obstructions are medical emergencies, so if you notice that your cat can’t urinate at all and has some of the symptoms we’ve highlighted above, you need to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
What causes Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
The least possible causes, although they have been documented, as well, are hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Congenital disabilities, injuries to the urinary tract or the spinal cord, as well as tumors present in the urinary tract, can also be at fault for the condition.
Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is commonly diagnosed in cats older than 10. Because the causes of this condition are not known, and on top of everything, there is no specific diagnostic test to tell whether the cat suffers from it or not, FIC is diagnosed when everything else is ruled out. It is typically treated with various types of medication and changes made in the diet of the animal.
Urolithiasis is the formation of stones in the animal’s urethra or bladder. Because there are several types of uroliths, the treatment varies from one to the next. While calcium oxalate stones have to be removed surgically as they can’t be dissolved with the help of medication and a special diet, struvite uroliths can be dissolved. The stones can also be flushed mechanically by the vet.
Urinary infections are another culprit, and a variety of germs from bacteria to viruses can cause signs of FLUTD. If your cat also has urolithiasis, the animal is predisposed to developing a urinary infection because the stone (or stones) irritate the bladder wall and urethra and create injuries that the bacteria can use to thrive and multiply. Younger cats have a higher acid concentration in their urine, which is why they are less predisposed to urolithiasis and infections. Because older cats might develop kidney pathologies or diabetes as they age, the acidity of their urine becomes less concentrated, which means that they are vulnerable to infections. Treating this medical condition is typically done through acidifiers, antibiotics, and fluid therapy.
Urinary infections have to be staged in terms of their localization. Needless to say, kidney infections are far more severe and harder to treat compared to bladder infections, and that’s because once the glomerulus (the filtration unit of the kidney) becomes damaged, the organ becomes incapable of doing its job. FLUTD can progress and lead to kidney failure if it is not treated in due time.
Urethral obstructions are another probable cause of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, and they occur when something blocks the cat’s urethra, and most of the times it’s a urolith. Just like any other mammals, cats have to eliminate urine in order to get rid of the toxins in their bodies. If this doesn’t happen, the pet’s life is at risk. Urethral obstructions are life-threatening, and they occur more often in male cats because they are anatomically predisposed to developing them. Male cats have a narrow and long urethra, and that makes it difficult for urinary stones to be eliminated with ease.
Dislodging the obstruction is the treatment for this condition, and a sterile solution is then used to flush the urethra via a tube placed into it. Because this procedure rarely goes without any complications such as the urethra wall being damaged by the obstruction, the cat then has to receive medication like antibiotics. Depending on the animal’s health state, he or she might also have to receive intravenous fluid therapy to ensure that electrolyte imbalances, as well as dehydration, are solved and prevented further on.
When everything else fails and especially if the cat is diagnosed with urethral obstructions time and again, there is a procedure named perineal urethrostomy that can be performed, but it has multiple side effects that range from urinary incontinence to bleeding, and they all increase the likelihood of a urinary infection being developed.
How is FLUTD diagnosed?
As you can see, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can have multiple causes, and so each of these calls for different diagnostic plans. Typically, the veterinarian will perform a urinalysis as well as a physical examination. Many times, urinary infections can be discovered with pH strips (not the specific type, though), but they are often associated with other complications.
If the cause of the medical condition cannot be diagnosed using these methods, the vet might recommend you further testing such as a urine culture, blood work, ultrasonography, or X-rays.
Can Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease be prevented?
Something of utmost importance that cat parents have to be aware of is that the recurrence of a FLUTD episode is very common once the pet has suffered from it in the past. Unfortunately, many cats experience issues like re-obstruction, bladder inflammation, or the formation of other uroliths after they were treated for any of these conditions.
If you have a middle-aged cat, you need to feed your pet small and frequent meals, make sure that the animal has fresh and clean water readily available, and always keep the litter box clean.
For cats that have a history of struvite formation, it would be a good idea to change their diets so that the food helps with dissolving any potential stones.
There are diets that are specially manufactured to prevent urinary medical conditions, and you can simply gradually integrate this type of food into your cat’s regular one especially if your pet is older and a little overweight. And as we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Finally, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior when he or she ‘is going to the bathroom.’ Try to feed your pet a mix of dry and wet food so that you prevent dehydration even if your cat isn’t a lover of water and drinks only a small amount per day.