The Pet Corner: Reducing the risk of a common feline ailment

By Dr. Jeff Castle

One of the most common medical conditions affecting cats is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

FLUTD causes countless cats to experience uncomfortable urinary problems.

Lower urinary tract diseases are conditions affecting the bladder, the urethra or both. It can be difficult to determine which anatomical structure is being affected.

Cystitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the urinary bladder. The term cystitis does not imply a specific underlying cause.

The symptoms of FLUTD, because of inflammation and irritation of the lower urinary tract, are increased frequency of urination, difficult urination and presence of bloody urine.

Cats will usually make very frequent trips to the litter box or sit and strain to urinate for long periods of time.

Male cats are at greater risk for complete urinary tract obstruction. These cats strain persistently without producing any urine. With complete urinary tract obstruction, it is important to seek immediate veterinary care because blockage to the flow of urine can be a life-threatening complication if untreated.

There are a vast number of potential causes of FLUTD, but many cats experience severe inflammation of the bladder or urethra without an identifiable cause. This is known as idiopathic or unknown FLUTD.

These idiopathic cases must be differentiated from other potential causes so appropriate treatment can be given.

Some of the causes of FLUTD are bladder stones, bacterial infections, urinary crystals or small stones, tumors and anatomical abnormalities.

Diagnosis of FLUTD is initially based on the signs of lower urinary tract inflammation. Then a urinalysis will confirm the presence of inflammation or infection.

A cat with uncomplicated FLUTD may be treated symptomatically with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines. However, if the signs do not respond to this treatment or if there is recurrence of the clinical signs, additional diagnostic tests may be required to identify the underlying cause.

A number of other diagnostic tests may be required to differentiate idiopathic FLUTD from other known causes of urinary tract inflammation. These tests include a laboratory analysis of a urine sample, bacterial culture, blood samples to look for systemic disease and x-rays or ultrasound of the bladder and urethra.

The results from these tests should help identify a specific treatable cause.

Treatment for FLUTD depends on the underlying cause. Sometimes it can be difficult and frustrating to get desirable results from symptomatic treatment. It is crucial pet owners use only medications specifically prescribed by your veterinarian, because many human products are extremely dangerous to cats.

Bacterial infections of the lower urinary tract usually respond well to antibiotics. Urethral obstruction occurs almost exclusively in male cats.

If a cat has a blocked urethra, emergency treatment is necessary to remove the blockage with the cat under anesthesia.

If bladder stones are present, surgery to remove the stones is normally required to resolve the FLUTD.

There is no universal treatment for FLUTD. Each individual must be diagnosed and treated specifically for the underlying cause.

It is impossible to completely prevent diseases of the lower urinary tract. However, FLUTD is much more common in cats that have less water consumption and in cats that are inactive and obese.

Weight control and encouraging exercise may be of some help in preventing FLUTD.

If a cat has urinary stones or crystals, special prescription diets usually help prevent this disease.

If your cat is showing any signs of FLUTD, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your cat lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.