Feline urinary tract disease can cause pain, loss of bladder control or dire emergency situations for your cat. In this post, our Greensboro vets explain the disease, symptoms, causes and treatment options.
What is feline urinary tract disease?
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) actually refers to numerous clinical symptoms that can cause malfunctions in your cat’s urethra and bladder, often causing the urethra to become obstructed, or keeping the bladder from completely emptying. This can prove fatal if left untreated.
For cats with FLUTD, urinating can be difficult, painful or impossible. They may also urinate more frequently, or in inappropriate areas outside their litter box (occasionally on cool surfaces such as a tile floor or bathtub).
What are contributing factors or causes of feline urinary tract disease?
FLUTD can have more than one potential cause, making this a complex condition to diagnose and treat. Stones, crystals or debris may build up in the urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of your cat’s body) or bladder.
Other potential causes of lower urinary tract issues include:
- Incontinence due to too much water consumption or weak bladder
- Spinal cord problems
- Urethral plug (accumulation of debris from urine)
- Bladder infection or inflammation
- Injury or tumor in the urinary tract
- Congenital abnormalities
- Emotional or environmental stress
Urinary tract disease is typically diagnosed in overweight, middle-aged cats who have little to no access to outdoors, eat a dry diet or do not get enough physical activity - though cats of any age can get the condition.
Male cats are also more prone to the disease, since their narrower urethras are more likely to become blocked. Urinary tract infections are also common in cats with endocrine diseases, including hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
Other factors such as using an indoor litter box, emotional or environmental stress, multi-cat households or sudden changes to their everyday routine can also leave cats more vulnerable to urinary tract disease.
It’s imperative to determine the underlying, root cause driving your cat’s FLUTD, since it many be anything from bladder stones or infection to cancer or a blockage. If the vet is unable to determine the cause, your cat may be diagnosed with inflammation of the bladder (cystitis).
What are common symptoms of feline urinary tract disease?
If you suspect your cat has FLUTD, watch for common symptoms, such as:
- Inability to urinate
- Loss of bladder control
- Urinating small amounts
- Urinating more than usual or in inappropriate settings
- Avoidance or fear of litter box
- Strong ammonia odor in urine
- Hard or distended abdomen
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Drinking more water than usual
- Excessive licking of genital area
It’s critical that any bladder or urinary issue be treated right away. If left untreated, urinary issues can cause the urethra to become partially or completely obstructed, which can keep your furry friend from urinating.
This is a medical emergency that can quickly lead to kidney failure or rupture of the bladder. It may also be fatal if the obstruction is not eliminated immediately.
How will my vet diagnose and treat feline urinary tract disease?
If you think your cat may be having problems with their lower urinary tract, this can be a medical emergency. See your vet for immediate attention, especially if your kitty is straining to urinate or crying out in pain.
Your vet will perform a complete physical exam to diagnose the issue and take a urinalysis. Ultrasound, radiographs, blood work and a urine culture may also be done.
Urinary issues in cats may be complex and serious, so the first step should be to contact your veterinarian for immediate care. The prognosis will dictate which treatment is prescribed, which could potentially be one of the following:
- More water consumption
- Antibiotics or medication
- Changes in diet
- Expelling of small stones through urethra
- Urinary acidifiers
- Fluid therapy
- Urinary catheter or surgery for male cats to remove urethral blocks
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.