Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a general term used to describe conditions affecting the bladder and urethra in cats. These conditions share a common set of symptoms including1,3:
- blood in the urine
- difficulty urinating (straining, going more often but smaller amounts, urinating outside of the litter box – most often in the bathtub or sink)
- excessive licking at the genitalia
The underlying condition causing these symptoms can be different depending on the age of the cat2. In cats over 10 years old the most common cause is a urinary tract infection, whereas in cats under 10 years old a cause cannot be determined about 50% of the time and the cats are given the diagnosis of Idiopathic Cystitis (IC, idiopathic meaning ‘unknown cause’)2. IC is a chronic condition and cats that suffer from it tend to be more affected by stress1,3. Flare-ups of IC can be triggered by anything from a change in the weather to a move to a new home1,3. The second most common cause of FLUTD symptoms in this younger age group is the formation of bladder crystals/stones2. Crystals/stones are most commonly composed of struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) or calcium oxalate4. They are formed when these constituent minerals accumulate in the bladder at high concentrations for a long period of time in the presence of a favourable pH4. If left untreated, these crystals/stones can cause an obstruction in the urinary tract leading to an EMERGENCY SITUATION requiring IMMEDIATE veterinary care4. This is more common in male cats due to their longer, narrower urethra which is more easily blocked by the crystals or stones4. Symptoms of a urethral obstruction include4:
- inability to pass urine
- vocalizing while attempting to urinate
- decreased social behaviour or hiding (e.g. behind the couch or under the bed)
- weakness, decrease in appetite, painful belly or vomiting
Making changes to your cat’s environment or diet can go a long way in preventing FLUTD. Providing choices for your cat in terms of how/where they can sleep, play, eat, and use the litter box can help drastically to reduce stress3. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that each cat in a household should3:
- be free to move around the house, with access to areas of varying temperature and their own private rest area where they will not be disturbed by loud noises or other animals
- have the opportunity for social interaction with the owner(s), or with another cat if desired
- have access to toys, scratching posts, climbing structures and/or viewing or resting perches
- have their own food and water dishes which are washed daily, and access to a clean, private litter box that is kept in a well-ventilated area. The general rule is one litter box per cat in the household plus one extra.
Hydration is very important in the prevention and management of FLUTD1. Providing your cat with extra water bowls or fountains, adding water to dry food or feeding a wet canned food can help to increase water consumption1. Having a constant flow of water through the urinary tract can prevent the build-up of infection-causing bacteria, help to dilute the concentration of crystal-forming minerals, and flush out any irritants that may increase inflammation in the bladder wall1,4. As well, feeding your cat a diet that is balanced in terms of minerals and pH and high in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids can help maintain a healthy urinary tract environment4.
Here at St. David’s Veterinary Clinic, we recommend feeding your cat a diet made up of 50% dry food and 50% wet, canned food. The Royal Canin brand offers several options for a well balanced diet and we are more than happy to help you select one that is perfect for your cat’s age, health condition, and lifestyle. Royal Canin can be purchased through the clinic, but is also conveniently available in pet stores. If you have any questions about your cat’s urinary health, or about selecting an appropriate food please don’t hesitate to ask us!
Information compiled by Julia Michitsch, B.Sc., M.Sc. (Zoology)
1.) Rothrock, K. (2015, August 8). Cystitis, Feline Idiopathic. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from Associate Database – Veterinary Information Network: http://www.vin.com/Members/Associate/Associate.plx?from=GetDzInfo&DiseaseId=1101
2.) Brooks, W. C. (2017, May 16). The Pet Health Library – Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from VeterinaryPartner.com: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=611
3.)Brooks, W. C. (2017, May 04). The Pet Health Care Library – Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from VeterinaryPartner.com: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?&A=612
4.)Nelson, R. W., & Couto, C. G. (2009). Chapter 47: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. In R. W. Nelson, & C. G. Couto, Small Animal Internal Medicine 4th Ed. (pp. 677-683). St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.