Many of us take going to the washroom without discomfort for granted. Unfortunately, for many of our feline pets, using the litter box can become uncomfortable. The process may even become severely painful and eventually impossible.
Feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD describes a collection of conditions that can affect the bladder and urethra of cats. This syndrome can have many possible causes, but cats generally exhibit similar, recognizable signs. The signs associated with FLUTD include bloody urine, straining to urinate, urinating in inappropriate places, urinary blockage and licking under the tail excessively. A cat with lower urinary tract disease may have some or even all of these signs.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can be seen in cats of any age. However, it is most frequently seen in middle-aged, over-weight cats that get little exercise, use an indoor litter box, have restricted access outside, and eat a dry diet. Environmental factors, such as change in household tenants, multi-cat households, and changes in routine may also increase the risk that a cat will develop FLUTD. There are many other possible causes of FLUTD. 50% will not have a cause that can be determined despite extensive testing (meaning they have what is called idiopathic cystitis). 20% will have bladder stones (females have a slightly higher incidence) and 20% will have a urethral blockage. In older cats, urinary tract infections are the number one cause.
FLUTD can have many causes, and therefore, it can be difficult to diagnose. Based on your cat’s signs, your veterinarian will likely perform an initial physical examination and perform a urine analysis. This test will help the veterinary staff evaluate what is in the urine, looking specifically for bacteria and crystals. The urine analysis will also look for sugar, protein, and blood in the urine. If the cause of the cat’s signs has cannot be identified with a urine analysis, other testing may be recommended, including blood work, x-rays, and a urine culture. Treatment of FLUTD will depend on the identified cause and severity of the problem.
Male cats can suffer additional problems from FLUTD. There is the possibility of the debris in the bladder lodging in the urethra, which is the tube from the bladder to the penis. When this occurs, the cat is unable to urinate. This is an emergency situation! These cats need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible! Male cats with a urethral obstruction will exhibit similar signs to other cats with FLUTD.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is major concern. At Twin Valley VHS, we believe prevention is the most important factor in helping cats avoid FLUTD. We recommend that all cats be on a high quality cat food that makes the urine more acidic. The more cats drink and therefore the more they urinate, the healthier their bladders will be. We recommend that all cats have large bowls of water that are changed at minimum, twice daily. Cats should be encouraged to exercise by playing with toys, owners or other cats. It is very important to maintain a clean and safe litter box. The box should be kept in a quiet area where the cat does not feel threatened. At Twin Valley VHS we recommend that there is one more litter box in the house than the number of cats.
If you have any questions regarding the above information or any questions/concerns in general, please contact Twin Valley VHS at 745-6642.
Dr. Justin Noble DVM
Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services