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. 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! 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

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 remaining crystals. These diets are intended FOR SHORT TERM USE ONLY. They have not been formulated to provide appropriate nutrition for long-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.

Our recommendation for cats that are currently being fed Lower Urinary Tract prescription diets: Each cat is an individual, and therefore has their own individual needs. To ensure that your cat is receiving the appropriate nutrition for them we suggest that you try changing them back to a non-prescription cat food. Cats that are in otherwise good condition should be fed at least 50% of their diet as a good quality canned cat food (i.e. Advance, Chef or Whiskas) and the remainder of their diet as a good quality dry cat food (e.g. Eukanuba, Iams, Advance, Hills). Feeding solely canned food can increase the rate of development of tartar – encouraging chewing through feeding dry food can help reduce this. Cats that have a history of poor dental health should be fed 50% of their diet as a canned cat food, and the remainder as a dental diet, such as Hills t/d. Cats that are overweight should be fed on a low calorie food. Prescription diets such as Hills w/d have acidifying properties, as the manufacturers recognise the correlation between overweight cats and crystalluria. Once weight loss is achieved, they can then be fed on a normal diet.