Cats are frequently subject to problems associated with the lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra). They are brought to our veterinarians with any combination of the following signs relating to these problems:
- Straining to Urinate
- Urinating in inappropriate places
- Licking of the genital area
- Blood in the urine
- Lack of appetite
Cats are prone to more lower urinary tract problems than are dogs. These problems are seen more frequently in male cats (due to their relatively narrow urethra), indoor cats (perhaps because they don’t urinate as freely or frequently as outdoor cats) and overweight cats. Lower urinary tract problems generally fall into one of 5 categories:
- Infectious: caused by a bacterial or viral infection of the urinary tract
- Crystal/Stone related: Formation of crystals and/or stones can irritate the bladder and cause obstruction of urine output. Cats are predisposed to form a number of crystals in the urine. The formation of crystals (and the stones they can cause) is dependant on the pH (acid/base property) of the urine, and the concentration of various minerals in the urine, particularly magnesium, calcium and phosphorous. Both the urine pH and mineral content of the urine is dependant on the nature and quality of the diet. Crystals alone rarely cause significant disease. However, they can form the core (nidus) of stones in the bladder. If there is inflammation in the bladder, crystals may join with the inflammatory debris (proteins and dead cells) in the bladder and form “sand” and/or plugs which may obstruct the urethra.
- Inflammatory: Many cats suffer from an idiopathic (unknown cause) chronic inflammation of the bladder which leads to intermittent signs of pain, difficulty urinating, bloody urine and any of the signs above.
- Behavioral: Some cats begin to show some of the symptoms above due to psychological issues. These can range from problems with the type or quality of the litter, location and type of litter box, presence of other pets in the home, schedule changes of the owners etc. (see Inappropriate Urination handout for further information)
- Cancer: Cats, like all pets, can develop cancer in the bladder, which may lead to the same symptoms as those above.
How does our veterinary clinic diagnose feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD)?
The clinical symptoms with which the cat is presented give us the indication that there is a problem in the lower urinary tract. Based on these indications, our veterinarians will usually perform examination of the urine (urinalysis) to determine the properties of the urine. Frequently we will send a sample of the urine to the lab for culture to determine if there is a bacterial infection and what antibiotics may be appropriate to correct the problem. Radiographs (x-rays) may be indicated to help look for stones or other abnormalities in the belly. Blood tests will tell our veterinarians if there are any problems in the kidneys or other organ systems. Finally, ultrasound may be utilized to image the bladder wall and interior.
How does our veterinary team treat FLUTD?
Before our veterinarian team can treat any of these problems, we must determine the cause. Once we know what we are treating, our veterinarians may use antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, pain relievers and other drugs to help resolve the problem. In most cases, we will prescribe a prescription diet that will help reduce the potential problems related to crystal and stone formation. If stones are found in the bladder, surgery may be needed to remove them.
If we don’t find any physical reason for the problems, then we must address behavioral issues with behavior modification training techniques and/or medications.
What can our patients from Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana, and the Inland Empire expect from treatment?
Cats with FLUTD are frequently subject to recurrence of the problem. Often, our veterinarians can reduce the chances of recurrence through a process of dietary management and surveillance. Many times, owners do not realize the importance of the dietary component in the management of this disease. They switch to alternate feeds once the problem appears to resolve, only to have it recur in short order. Regular checks of the urine by the veterinarian can help to catch FLUTD recurrences early in their development and can make management of them more successful.
Are there risks involved with not treating this problem?
Any cat that has lower urinary tract symptoms is at risk of becoming obstructed. If this should occur, the cat is at great risk and could even die from the problem. Therefore, any time the cat is showing symptoms, veterinary care should be sought immediately.