Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

One of the more common reasons for cats visiting our clinic is for Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), with issues including spraying, urinating inside, the presence of blood in the urine, pain and discomfort during urination, or being unable to pass urine at all.

We often see ‘runs’ of these patients, usually due to sudden changes in weather. Especially with cold weather, cats may decrease their water intake and they may not want to go outside in the cold to pee – and who can blame them!

Cats with FLUTD may appear constipated, lick under the tail and may cry loudly when urinating or if touched on the belly. Sometimes they may hide away, appear agitated or even vomit. Male cats have a very small urethral opening in their penis and are very prone to developing a complete blockage – THIS IS LIFE-THREATENING. If suspected, we treat it as an emergency 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Female cats are unlikely to have a complete blockage and while they do need to be seen promptly, this is not such an urgent case.

The FLUTD symptoms can have several causes including struvite crystals forming in the urine, stress cystitis (also seen in humans), a poor-quality diet and bacterial infection. To help us diagnose what is causing the problem, we examine a fresh sample of urine under the microscope.

Treatment varies according to the cause. A blocked male cat needs IV fluids, then an anaesthetic to pass a catheter into the urethra to flush the blockage out. We then hospitalise him for at least 48 hours until we are certain that he can urinate freely. A diet change to a prescription diet, which stops the formation of struvite crystals, is usually needed for the rest of his life.

Other treatments can include anti-anxiety medications, glucosamine to improve the health of the bladder wall, pain relief, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and diet changes.

At home you can encourage water intake by changing water every day, keeping the water dish away from the food dish or using a water fountain. Very low-quality dry cat food should also be avoided.

Please contact us if you are at all concerned about your cat’s urinary behaviour.