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Feline urinary tract disease is more than just a pain: it may recur without a clear medical explanation and can even be fatal if left untreated. Severe bouts of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) can land your cat in the inpatient ward of your local vet's for several days, resulting in stress for your cat and high bills for you. This article will teach you more about FLUTD, including the different risk factors, how to recognise symptoms, and some of the preventative options and treatments that may be available to you if your cat is diagnosed with FLUTD.
The term FLUTD is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like cystitis ("inflammation of the bladder"), urolithiasis ("urinary stones"), or urethral obstruction. In fact, FLUTD encompasses all of these terms. The symptoms of these conditions are all very similar and uncomfortable - and can result in serious pain. Early signs your cat may be experiencing bladder pain include:
The most urgent complication associated with FLUTD is what's known as an obstruction, meaning your cat's urethra - a tube which carries urine from the bladder out of the body - is fully or partially blocked by naturally-occurring uroliths or stones. If fully blocked, your cat's kidneys will quickly cease to function properly, causing a build up of toxins in the bloodstream and loss of consciousness. The hallmark of obstruction is an absence of urine despite obvious signs that your cat is attempting to pass it.
All of them! Both male and female cats can develop any of the bladder diseases described in this article. However male cats are especially predisposed to urinary tract disease and obstruction due to the size of their urethra. Most commonly, FLUTD patients are:
Cat stress may contribute to the occurrence of urinary tract disease, especially in cases where the disease has been deemed "idiopathic" or of unknown cause - this applies to up to 65% of all urinary tract diseases in cats.
If your cat is showing signs of infection but is not blocked, your veterinarian may first obtain a urine sample, either by using a special kind of litter designed not to absorb urine in the tray or via cystocentisis, a procedure in which the vet extracts urine from the bladder using a needle and syringe. Urinalysis will reveal any signs of infection or abnormalities, which can then be treated medically with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain relief. Non-obstructive urinary tract diseases do not usually require extended hospitalisation, however other diagnostic tests may be necessary depending on the individual cat. If your cat has an obstruction, the vet may first use the cystocentisis method described above to empty or partially relieve the bladder. Your cat may also require:
Removal of the obstruction is a physical process, whereby the vet will attempt to dislodge any build-up and fit a urinary catheter. Depending on the severity of the disease, the catheter may be left in place over an extended period of time while your cat remains under veterinary supervision. Urinary output is constantly monitored, and your pet will usually be sent home only when the vet is satisfied that the obstruction has been cleared. Be aware that an enlarged, overly full bladder can compromise the kidneys, and so your vet may run diagnostic tests to assess your cat's overall condition while it is in your care.
If your cat already has a history of FLUTD, your vet may recommend a special diet designed to help dissolve crystals as they develop in the bladder. You can also help your cat maintain good bladder health by always making sure that there is plenty of fresh water available - cat fountains or multiple water bowls encourage drinking. Switching to wet food may also increase urination, thereby reducing the risk of inflammation in the bladder and calculi in the urethra. Cats that receive too much calcium or salt in their diet may also be more susceptible to FLUTD; avoid this by feeding your cat only species appropriate foods. In the long-term, aim to help your cat lose any excess pounds and try reducing stress through the use of pheromones. A great way to check your cat's urinary and overall health is to periodically bring a urine sample to your vet. If your cat has frequent FLUTD-related problems and uses a tray at home, try to keep some non-absorbable litter on hand. If you suspect your cat is showing early signs of FLUTD or has other unusual symptoms, urinalysis is a quick, easy way to reveal many major abnormalities. It may also save your cat the stress of seeing the vet unnecessarily. Speak to your vet to find out if this could work for you.
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