Urinary tract infections are just one of the common components of feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. FLUTD comprises a number of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats and can cause some health problems, some mild and some extremely severe and urgent. It’s important that you know how to recognize the symptoms of these conditions in your cat, so you are able to provide treatment as quickly as possible.
Lower Urinary Tract Disease in Cats
The main conditions included in the FLUTD classification are urinary tract infections, urinary stones, urethral plugs, and cancer. Feline idiopathic cystitis is the general diagnosis term used for FLUTD if no clear conditions like urinary stones or urethral obstruction are found. If no obstruction exists, symptoms of the FIC are often resolved on their own without treatment, but knowing how to prevent the same problem in the future can help ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Stress is a major factor attributed to feline idiopathic cystitis and FLUTD in general. Usual causes of stress for cats include changes in the environment, a change in the animals in the household, changes in the cat’s schedule, or changes regarding the cat’s food. Any of these instances can cause stress in a cat that may lead to FIC, so keeping a consistent and reliable schedule and home environment for your cat can help reduce the risk of this issue.
Other causes of lower urinary tract disease are bladder inflammation or infection, injury or tumor in the urinary tract, incontinence, urethral obstruction, or urinary stones.
Causes of Disease
Urinary stones are another condition associated with feline lower urinary tract disease. Similar to kidney stones in humans, urinary stones in cats are made up of a buildup of minerals that form in the urinary tract of cats. These can often be diagnosed using an x-ray or an ultrasound and surgery may be required to treat them. Sometimes the urinary stones can be dissolved by a specific diet, but that treatment doesn’t work all of the time.
A urethral obstruction is another part of FLUTD and it is just what it sounds like: an obstruction of the urethra in a cat. It is often caused by urinary stones or urethral plugs and it is most common in neutered male cats, who have the longest urethras. Because the kidney is unable to detoxify the body when a urethral obstruction occurs, cats with an obstruction can go downhill very quickly. Once the kidney is unable to remove toxins, the electrolytes within the cat’s body become imbalanced and can rapidly lead to unconsciousness and heart failure.
If you recognize any of the following symptoms associated with FLUTD, especially a urethral obstruction, in your cat, it’s crucial to bring him or her to a vet immediately to discover the problem.
The main symptoms found with FLUTD are painful or difficult urination, frequent or prolonged attempts to urinate, crying while urinating, urinating outside of the litter box or places not permitted, lethargy, excessive licking of genitals, hard abdomen, and blood in the urine. If you witness any of these symptoms in your cat, your best course of action is to bring him to the vet as quickly as possible.
Some cats may experience repeated signs of lower urinary tract disease. If this is the case, follow these tips to help prevent any urinary problems with your cat in the future:
1) Feed your cat small meals regularly throughout the day
2) Feed specific diet if advised by veterinarian
3) If you are feeding dry food, consider switching to wet food for higher water content
4) Provide clean, fresh water that is accessible at all times
5) Provide enough litter boxes (rule of thumb is number of cats +1)
6) Keep litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of house where cat feels secure
7) Regularly clean litter boxes (at least once daily) and change litter every few weeks
8) Avoid big changes in routine or stressful events that might bother cat
Feline lower urinary tract disease isn’t fun for any one, the cat or the owner. By following these tips, paying attention to any changes in your cat’s environment, and alerting the vet whenever any symptoms occur, you can help your cat prevent urinary problems in the future.