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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease


dealing_with_fleas_and_your_cat.jpgFeline lower urinary tract disease or feline urologic syndrome is the most common cause of trouble in the feline lower urinary tract and one of the top ten most common problems in cats. The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder, bladder sphincters and urethra and conditions affecting any of these can cause FLUTD. A related but different condition called cystitis affects only the urinary bladder.
FLUTD is a major health concern for pet owners predominantly because of the high recurrence rate. It is seen most commonly in cats over 1 year and occurs in both sexes but mostly in males. The anatomy of the male cat increases the likelihood of bladder obstruction and this is raised even more in obese cats.

Symptoms of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

FLUTD is accompanied by the following symptoms: prolonged squatting, straining, frequent entering and leaving the litter box often without urinating, frequent urination, bloody urine, urinating outside the litter box likely because the box becomes associated with pain, excessive licking of the genital area, and crying out during urination.
FLUTD covers dysuria, hematuria and anuria and though the symptoms may suggest a bladder or urethra infection most cases do not have a bacterial infection.


Causes of FLUTD

There are a number of things that can contribute to FLUTD. No one thing causes all cases but any of these or a combination of them have been known to cause problems.
The urethra can become plugged with struvite crystals made up of a pastelike, gritty material made of mucus and magnesium phosphate crystals. They are about the size of a grain of salt. Struvite crystals are the most common but some plugs are made of mucus, blood and white blood cells. Bacterial cystitis and inflammation of the urethra have been long considered basic causes of FLUTD. Though bacteria may not be an initial cause, it is a very important cause behind recurrent cases.
Stones found in the urinary tract can also cause FLUTD. These stones or crystals will vary in type based on the diet of your cat and the pH of their urine and quickly become urethral obstructions. The two most common types of crystals are those made of magnesium phosphate, as mentioned above, and those made of calcium oxalate. Urolith crystal formation can come with bacterial infections and can be caused by reduced physical activity, reduced water intake and a diet exclusively of dry food. Balancing the urine pH by introducing alkaline foods. Though acidic urine is important for its antibacterial properties, it can cause stones made of calcium oxalate that can make a life-threatening obstruction.


Prevention and Treatment

The first step in prevention is a change of diet. Your vet may suggest that you switch to a prescription diet for six to nine months, until your cat is free of symptoms and their urine is free of crystals. If your cat remains free of crystals and symptoms then you may switch, under veterinary care, to a diet of restricted magnesium or a combination of prescription diets to keep the pH of the urine balanced. You may want to consider using cranberry capsules to help encourage bladder health. A cat with a history of problems will need to have its urine checked every six months so that if they begin to develop symptoms it will be caught early and before the problem becomes a big struggle.
Keep your litter box extra clean. Empty it twice a day and change the litter whenever it begins to smell. If your cat finds using their litter box uncomfortable or smelly, they may refuse to use it and retain their urine. Encourage water consumption by providing clean water all the time and consider adding canned food.
Prevent obesity and encourage your cat to exercise. Lower stress in your household and consider adding glucosamine supplements. If your cat does not respond to these preventative measures, your vet may want to conduct a full evaluation to search for other causes.
In addition to these measures and in acute cases, your vet may be forced to use a urinary catheter to flush the crystals out or perform surgery to removed them. If a urinary tract infection is not treated is can prevent urination which will lead to kidney failure and possibly rupture of the bladder. These complications can be fatal.



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