What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is the term to describe episodes of inflammation of the lower urinary tract (primarily the bladder and urethra). While many contributing factors have been identified, the exact cause of this disease is not known. Contributing factors that have been identified include stress, being overweight, the use of litter trays, wet weather, and the formation of excessive numbers of crystals in urine. Cats that are affected by FLUTD show discomfort while urinating, and an increased urge to urinate. Anybody who has had a urinary tract infection would be able to sympathise with this! Cats will often show this by constantly squatting in their litter tray, outside, or another area in the house, but will produce very little or no urine. Sometimes the urine is tinged with blood. Affected cats are often off colour and painful around their abdomen. While an episode of FLUTD will usually resolve by itself, your vet can prescribe drugs to help make affected cats more comfortable until it does. Male cats that have increased numbers of crystals in their urine are at risk of developing a plug in their urethra. If this happens they are unable to urinate, electrolytes in the blood reach toxic levels and surgical intervention is needed immediately.

Prevention and control of FLUTD

While some cats may never have an incidence of FLUTD, others may have them repeatedly. To help prevent the recurrence of clinical signs of FLUTD in your cat, there are several things you can do: Reduce stress – try to discourage other cats from being on your property, slowly introduce new things, and if you have a busy household, try to provide a quiet area where your cat feels safe. Encourage fluid intake – by increasing fluid intake, your cat’s urine will be diluted, helping to flush out crystals and prevent the formation of crystal plugs. You can encourage fluid intake by ensuring there is always fresh water available, and feeding at least 50% of your pet’s diet as canned food. (Please note: If your pet’s diet is predominantly canned food, it is important to monitor their dental health. Feeding the remainder of your pet’s diet as a dental biscuit can help.) Maintain a healthy weight – overweight cats are more prone to developing FLUTD. By reducing their weight, you can help reduce the risk of developing clinical FLUTD. Several of the prescription weight reduction diets also contain compounds to acidify the urine to help dissolve crystals to help control FLUTD while the patient is losing weight.

The Use of Lower Urinary Tract Prescription Diets

Usually following an episode of crystalluria (increased numbers of crystals in the urine), cats are prescribed an acidifying diet to try to dissolve any remaining crystals. Ideally these diets are only for short-term use. After several months of feeding your cat these diets, you should change them back to normal cat food. It has been shown that feeding wet food can have a significant effect on reducing recurrence of FLUTD so cats that have a tendency to develop this condition should be fed mainly on wet (i.e. canned) food. Overweight cats should be fed restricted calorie diets to try to reduce the risk of FLUTD recurrence. Stress should be reduced. After feeding your cat a normal diet for a period of one month, we recommend that a repeat urinalysis be performed to ensure that crystalluria has not recurred. If the urine appears normal, follow up urinalyses should be repeated every 6 months or so, with any recurrence of clinical signs managed on an incident-by-incident basis.