Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Is your cat straining to urinate, urinating outside of the litter box, licking at his private area constantly?  If so, your cat may have a condition referred to as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). In addition, cats with FLUTD may have blood in their urine or even lose the ability to urinate at all.  In the following article, we will discuss the syndrome of FLUTD as well as how to diagnose the underlying cause and treat.

It turns out that all problems with the bladder, urethra, and lower urinary tract manifest themselves with the same or similar clinical signs in cats.  These include urinating small amounts, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, licking, and urinating outside of the Litter Box. There are several known causes for these clinical signs which include urinary tract infection, bladder stones (Urolithiasis), injury or trauma, even cancer. In addition, some cats and especially males will have these symptoms and despite testing, a cause is not found. In medicine, we call this idiopathic or “unknown cause”.

It is extremely important to note, that some of the male cats who present with these symptoms will progress to being completely obstructed, in veterinary medicine we call this “blocked”. Blocked cats are a medical emergency! If the obstruction is not treated quickly toxins that build up in the body along with excess potassium will result in life-threatening disease and death. Blocked cats will have a bladder that is firm/hard and will not be able to eliminate any urine, despite constant straining. If you suspect your cat has a urinary obstruction, it is critical that you seek veterinary care immediately.

If your cat is straining to urinate but you notice at least some urine coming out, a visit to a Veterinarian will help.  During your appointment, a nurse will obtain a thorough history followed by a physical examination by your vet who may recommend testing to rule out bladder stones or an infection.  These tests can include a urinalysis, urine culture, and radiographs. Many bladder stones are easily viewable on an x-ray and can be fairly easily identified. If these tests result in a diagnosis, treatment with antibiotics or special diets may be recommended. If these tests come back negative, your veterinarian will most likely suspect the idiopathic form of this condition as described above.

Treatment for idiopathic feline lower urinary disease centers around 3 key principles: Dilate the urethra to make it easier to urinate, encourage the elimination of sediment in the bladder by increasing water consumption and resulting urination, and relieving pain.  Veterinarians have several key medications at their disposal to help achieve these goals. Urethral dilators and pain medications will likely be dispensed along with some form of fluid therapy to help increase urination. The addition of a water fountain to encourage drinking may also help.  Finally, prescription diets are available for urinary conditions. The goals of these medications are to P.H balance your pet’s urine which creates an unfavorable environment for stones or sediment to form. These diets can even dissolve stones in some cases!

If you notice your cat is straining to urinate, urinating blood, urinating in unusual places, or excessively licking at the urinary opening, it is strongly recommended to schedule an appointment with one of our World of Animals Veterinary Hospital doctors to help diagnose and treat your pet’s painful condition.  Fortunately, many cases of FLUTD are treatable or manageable and with a little bit of care and love, can keep your cat healthy for years to come.

Jeffrey Stupine VMD
Medical Director
World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals