Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a disease that results in inflammation of the bladder — cystitis — and/or the urethra (urethritis). The condition may result in partial or complete obstruction of the urinary tract. The condition is usually due to the presence of small crystals in the urine.
Urinary obstructions are life threatening and require immediate treatment.
The exact cause of FLUTD is unknown and there may be more than one cause. It is a complex condition where a number of factors contribute to the development of the disease, including age, sex, obesity, diet and urine pH. Viruses may also play a role, as the condition often occurs following a stressful period, when the immune response to various infectious agents is lowered. Stress itself may be partially to blame.
Most signs result from urinary tract irritation. Your cat may be doing one or more of the following things:
- Spend prolonged periods squatting and/or straining during urination
- Continuously dig holes in the garden or get into the litter tray and strain to urinate
- Pass only very small amounts of urine
- Attempt to urinate more frequently
- Cry while attempting to urinate
- Have blood-tinged (pink or red) urine
- Urinate in unusual places, such as the bathroom sink or bath.
- If the urinary tract is completely obstructed (blocked), your cat may show any of the above signs, and/or:
- Be lethargic, vomit and have no appetite
- Have pain when the abdomen is touched
- Have a swollen lower abdomen.
How is FLUTD diagnosed?
The initial diagnosis of FLUTD is based on the identification of signs of lower urinary tract inflammation. The clinical signs displayed by the cat are often characteristic of FLUTD, but where there is doubt analysis of a urine sample in our pathology lab will confirm the presence of inflammation or blood. In some cases, x-rays may be required to assess if your cat is in a critical or life-threatening situation.
If the bladder is blocked, a general anaesthetic is required to relieve the obstruction, flush out the urethra and place a tube (catheter) into the bladder to allow drainage. Intravenous fluids are usually required. This is usually followed by a period of hospitalisation in intensive care for several days.
When your pet returns home, it should be confined indoors for 3-4 days. Occasionally a reblockage occurs, so we need to ensure that your cat is able to pass urine daily by using a litter tray.
At home, the condition is managed by altering the diet. Only prescription veterinary diets are suitable to dissolve the crystals. There are no products available from supermarkets or pet shops that can do this. The prescription diet will also not be effective if any other food is given. Your pet should eat only the dissolving diet for 6 weeks, at which point the urine is again checked for crystals. If it is normal, the diet will be altered to a maintenance diet.
It is impossible to completely prevent diseases of the lower urinary tract. However, FLUTD is more common in cats that have a lower water consumption, and in cats that are inactive and obese. Keeping your cat lean and encouraging exercise may help in preventing FLUTD. As cats tend to drink very little, a higher water intake can be maintained by feeding at least some moist food rather than exclusively a dry cat food product.