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Stories from the surgery: spotting Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease in cats

Ginger cat in litter tray looking anxious

Petplan vet Brian Faulkner has once again taken time out of his busy schedule to tell us all about some of the strange, funny and sometimes difficult cases he encounters in his surgery…

One issue that crops up regularly in the surgery is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, otherwise known as FLUTD. It’s not a specific condition, but is a term used to describe conditions that may affect the urinary tract and bladders of cats.

It’s a common problem area in cats and something that owners need to be aware of.

Let’s look at it in more detail…

WHAT IS FLUTD?

FLUTD symptoms can include difficulty or pain in passing urine, passing urine more often, urinating outside the litter-box, blood in the urine or over-grooming especially around their back-end.

WHAT CAUSES FLUTD?

FLUTD always has an underlying cause, and sometimes can be hard to pinpoint. Common causes include:

  • Bladder crystals and uroliths – around 15-20% of FLUTD cases are caused by uroliths, also known as bladder stones. The majority are found in the bladder but can form in the urethra, ureters and kidneys.
  • Infections – whilst most people associate the word ‘cystitis’ with a bladder infection, bacterial infections are actually a relatively rare cause of FLUTD, accounting for only 1-5% of cats younger than 10 years old.
  • Feline Idiopathic Cystitis – Idiopathic means the actual primary cause hasn’t been identified but there is a inflammation of the lining of the bladder. A very common cause of this is ‘stress’ in cats, often associated with tension and stress between cats within the household or the neighbourhood.
  • Others – tumours of the urinary tract, prolonged retention of urine as well as congenital abnormalities and neurological problems can also contribute to the disease.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

The first step is usually to look at a urine sample under the microscope to check for blood, crystals and bacteria.  If bacteria are present, then the urine may be further tested to confirm the type of bacteria, so suitable antibiotics can be used. Further diagnostic tests include ultrasonography of the bladder.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

If you notice any of the above symptoms, take your cat to your vet for a check-up straightaway. If your cat is diagnosed with FLUTD they will likely require some form of treatment which may include the following depending on the severity and cause:

  • Cats suffering from crystals in their urine will need to have a urinary catheter placed to remove the obstruction. Your vet may decide to leave this in place for 2-3 days which will require your cat to be hospitalised. FLUTD is very painful and painkillers will be administered.
  • If your cat has bladder stones, surgical removal may be required and/or a change of diet. The exact diet required depends on the type of stones or crystals identified and your vet will recommend accordingly. A change in diet may also be required even if the stones are removed surgically to stop additional stones from forming.
  • Sometimes your vet will prescribe medication use agents that will help repair or maintain the bladder lining.

TIPS FOR OWNERS

FLUTD can be a recurring condition for many cats, and there are measures you can take to help prevent episodes in some circumstances:

  • Encourage your cat to drink more and pass more urine by ensuring fresh water is available in several locations. Ceramic bowls are preferable to plastic or metal as these can leave an unpleasant odour or taste. Use wide, shallow bowls so your cat can see what is going on around them whilst drinking, ensuring the sides of the bowl don’t touch their whiskers – this can be irritating for cats. Water fountains are also an option.
  • Ensure there is at least one litter box for every cat in the household – ideally provide more. Ensure they are placed in quiet, non-busy areas in a variety of locations and try different types of litter to understand what type your cat prefers.
  • Stress can be a key contributing factor to cystitis. It’s important to try to avoid specific triggers such as overcrowding or conflict with other cats in the household or neighbourhood, abrupt changes in diet, owner stress, changes in the household such as moving furniture or DIY. Cats that spend a large amount of time indoors can also be more susceptible to stress as their environment may lack enrichment. Regular play-time and introducing new toys frequently can help.
  • Consider using synthetic feline pheromones which can make cats feel more comfortable and reduce stress – either as a spray that can be sprayed on bedding/furniture or a plug-in diffuser.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as cystitis, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.

While FLUTD can certainly be an uncomfortable and painful experience for your cat, if you are aware of the symptoms and spot them early, then there is no reason your pet shouldn’t make a full and quick recovery.

Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below… 

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5 Responses to Stories from the surgery: spotting Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease in cats

  1. Sarah says:

    Sadly our cat suffered with urinary problems for several months and ended up blocked having to have a catheter fitted. It was a long difficult recovery process. If we learnt 1 thing from this it us to never feed you cat dry food of any description it is not what they are meant to eat and their bodies cannot process it ending in urinary problems. We now feed out cat wet food only with added water we also feed him a veterinary urinary wet food with treats consisting of fresh slow cooked meat including turkey.

  2. Mary says:

    This isn’t very helpful, your article says “If you notice any of the above symptoms”, however no symptoms as mentioned ‘above’ at the time of writing this comment. You’ve only mentioned causes and how it is treated.

  3. Susan Gordon says:

    The symptoms are up there Mary, in “What is FLUTD”……….. Passing urine more often, urinating outside the litter box, blood in the urine, over grooming especially around their back end.

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks, they must have updated the article. When I posted, no symptoms were mentioned! I read it in full and rechecked several times before posting in case I’d missed something.

    • Petplan says:

      Hi Mary, thank you for your comment. We have updated the article to include symptoms. Hope you find this helpful. Steph – The Petplan Team

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