How to spot and treat Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases
By Rachel Mulheron, Director helpucover
Guarding your cat against illness is not easy, but being aware of potential problems and what you can do to help is essential. Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) affects nearly 3% of cats in the UK. The variety of causes means it can be difficult to diagnose, but if left untreated it can be fatal.
Here are some tips to help you spot the warning signs in time:
What are the causes?
FLUTD is the term used to describe conditions that can affect the urinary bladder and/or urethra (the lower urinary tract) of cats. It can be complex in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
Bladder stones and infections are the most common cases, along with idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and urethral obstruction, caused by stones, organic debris or tumours.
Idiopathic cystitis account for around two thirds of all FLUTD cases. There is no specific diagnosis for this case, so it must be done through an elimination process. This includes analysis of urine samples, bladder X-rays and ultrasounds.
Which cats are most at risk?
Due to the assortment of causes, any age, breed and gender can be affected. However, those most susceptible are; middle-aged cats, neutered cats, overweight cats and cats on a dry diet. Male cats are almost exclusively those affected by urethral obstruction, due to having a much narrower urethra.
What are the warning signs?
The main warning signs include dysuria (difficulty urinating) and frequent attempts to urinate. In some cases, blood can be present in the urine.
FLUTD can cause irritability in cats. As the disease progresses they can start to vomit and become depressed and lethargic.
If your cat is displaying any of these tell-tale signs take them to a vet. In the case of males unable to urinate, you must make an immediate emergency appointment. Urethral obstruction is the most serious and dangerous form of FLUTD and can be fatal.
How do you treat the illness?
Treatments are varied and based on case-by-case veterinary diagnosis. Some can be invasive and uncomfortable for your cat, depending on the severity. Treatment for serious cases such as urethral obstruction involves passing a catheter through the tract and into the bladder, which should resolve the issue.
Tumour treatment tends to be chemotherapy to reduce the size. There are also anti-inflammatory drugs available, although they are not always successful and recurrence often happens.
For less serious issues, such as bladder infections, antibiotics are used and lots of fresh drinking water can help. Bladder stones occasionally require surgical removal, but can be treated successfully through diet. It’s crucial to consult your vet for specific diet advice and follow for as long as needed.
How to manage FLUTD?
Unfortunately, prevention is not always possible, though ensuring your cat leads a healthy and active life can reduce the risk. The future of a cat diagnosed with FLUTD depends on the cause and severity of the condition. However, the majority diagnosed, aside from a few lifestyle changes lead relatively normal lives, as long as they are carefully monitored by their owners.