Veterinary medicine is full of acronyms from GDV, FLUTD, CHF, ARD, GSD….. The list goes on!. In this article we thought we would focus on FLUTD. This is a condition we commonly see in the pet population and sadly in this current COVID-19 climate it is likely to be seen more than normal.
FLUTD stands for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This is a broad term for generalised inflammation within the bladder and urethra of the cat. There are certain predisposing factors for cats to suffer from FLUTD:
- Middle aged cats
- Male cats who are neutered
- Indoor cats who use litter trays
- Obese cats
- Multi cat households
- Often the cats are on a dry diet
- Stress or change to routine.
The clinical signs seen include cats going to try to pass urine more frequently than normal (pollkauria), often straining to pass urine (stranguria) and only passing small amounts. Some cats may also produce blood in their urine (haematuria) and can pass urine outside their litter tray, in the house where they normally wouldn’t. Often owners describe their cats clinical signs as “cystitis” which means inflammation of the bladder. We often relate what they are doing to the human condition of cystitis as there are similarities in the clinical signs. FLUTD affects both the bladder and the urethra in cats.
What must be remembered is that male cats can suffer from a blocked urethra (blocked bladder). They often show similar signs to those described above but will not pass any urine when they strain and they will become more distressed. This is an emergency and you must phone your local Swayne & Partners branch immediately, day or night.
How do we diagnose FLUTD? It is often hard to pinpoint the exact cause of FLUTD but based on the clinical signs and on a physical examination we can tell if your cat has FLUTD or a blocked bladder. We often try to recommend collecting a urine sample for analysis to check the pH of the urine, presence of blood and examine the urine under the microscope. Looking at the urine under the microscope we can identify the presence of any crystals, bacteria and inflammation.
Crystals in the urine can suggest the presence of bladder stones which can cause a lot of inflammation and irritation to the bladder. If there are bacteria seen under the microscope the urine can be sent off to culture for a bacterial infection. Often times cats which present with FLUTD don’t have bacterial infections.
A large proportion of the cats who are less than 10 years old often suffer from FIC – Feline idiopathic cystitis . It is a diagnosis of exclusion, so we ensure all the other causes listed above are ruled out. Stress and diet change can often contribute to FIC, some cats will have recurrent episodes of FIC and therefore we often suggest a few lifestyle changes as listed below.
Treatment for FLUTD is based on treating the underlying cause i.e. bladder stones require often a change to a prescription diet, urinary infections will need antibiotics.
The treatment for those cats diagnosed with FIC include, but these are good ideas to consider for any cat which has suffered from FLUTD whatever the cause:
- Anti-inflammatory medication for a period of time.
- Bladder supplements such as Cystaid
- Increasing the cats water intake by changing to a wet diet
- Consider introducing a water fountain which allows your cat to drink using their normal behaviour enjoying running water
- Ensure there are multiple litter trays if your cat is an indoor cat i.e. number of cats + 1 for the total number of litter trays in the household.
- Consider allowing your cat time outside to fulfil their natural behaviours.
- Your vet may suggest feeding a prescription urinary food which often has added supplements for the bladder.
- Reduce stress and any change to routine should be done gradually.
We hope this is helpful for those owners who have cats which suffer from this condition – remember you are not alone we are here for you when ever you need us!