Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) in cats is serious. Casey, my 4-year-old orange tabby, sports a sleek coat, always aces his annual wellness exams and regularly made healthy deposits in his litter boxes — until one Sunday night.
As a master certified pet first-aid instructor, I knew this was a medical emergency. I placed Casey in his travel carrier, gathered the urine sample in a bag and took him to Hillside Veterinary Clinic, a 24/7 animal emergency center in Dallas.
The veterinarians were able to quickly unblock his urethra to allow the remaining backed-up urine to spill onto the steel examination table.
As I handed Casey to the veterinarian for his overnight stay, I will never forget what she said to me: “I am so glad you brought Casey in immediately. If you would have waited until the morning to bring him in, Casey may have died.”
What is feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD?
All cats can be at risk for urinary stones or crystals, blockages, infections and a host of other issues. Plumbing problems like feline lower urinary tract disease, especially in male cats, come in many forms and can strike quickly.
“When a cat has a urinary obstruction, it is a true medical emergency,” says Lisa Lippman, DVM, a house call veterinarian in New York City with experience working at an emergency veterinary clinic. “When a cat can’t urinate, toxins build up in the blood and the condition can cause life-threatening organ failures, including to the heart.”
What are the signs of feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD?
Crying while urinating
Excessive grooming of the genitals
Bypassing the litter box to urinate elsewhere
Having difficulty urinating
Seeing blood in your cat’s urine
Any and all of these signs can indicate a blockage in the urethra, the development of urinary or bladder stones, stress-induced urinary tract infection, bladder wall inflammation or a host of conditions.
Urinary tract disease or FLUTD, how should it be treated?
Depending on the issue, your veterinarian will perform a thorough exam that often includes taking blood and urine samples and performing an ultrasound. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to relax muscles, reduce stress or fight infections in your cat and, in some cases, surgery may be required. “We often use an ultrasound to look at the bladder wall surface for evidence of stones or crystals,” says Hazel Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP, a board-certified veterinary practitioner at WestVet in Garden City, Idaho, who serves as chair of the American Association of Feline Practitioners Guidelines Committee. “And we do abdominal radiographs and analyze the urine for the concentration, the pH (acid base level), whether there are intact red blood cells, any signs of sugar glucose in the urine and any indication of infection.”
Cats recovering from feline lower urinary tract disease, including Casey, are then often switched to therapeutic diets made by major pet food companies, such as Hill’s, Purina and Royal Canin, to reduce the chance for another urinary issue.
Your veterinarian may also recommend adding key supplements to your cat’s diet. Popular go-to choices. One of the very natural supplement is called Cosequin. It is used to help cats address bladder and joint issues. It comes in capsule form to sprinkle on a cat’s food or as a chewable treat.
How to prevent feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD
While not all feline lower urinary tract disease cannot be prevented, you can play a vital role in your cat’s health and survival. That starts by paying attention to your cat’s bathroom habits. Know what is normal for your cat in terms of frequency and size of the deposits in the litter box. And, strive to increase your cat’s water consumption to prevent dehydration that can exacerbate urinary issues. Dr. Carney says many studies suggest that offering canned food might decrease the recurrence of urinary diseases.
“But if your cat does not like canned food, you need to have multiple water bowls in your home away from their food bowls,” she says. “Why? The location changes when cats eat and drink . If they stay in one location too long, their sense of vulnerability (to perceived predators) increases.”