Feline Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is a syndrome which causes inflammation of the bladder and/or urethra resulting in painful urination, muscle spasms and inappropriate urinations (urinating outside the litter box). Cats also exhibit frequent trips to the litter box, straining to urinate, vocalizing while in the litter box, and producing small amounts of urine which can be bloody or blood-tinged. Typically, FLUTD is most common in neutered male cats between 3-7 years of age but it can happen with female cats as well. The cause of the disease is still unknown, but stressful situations have been associated with flare-ups. Diet can also be a factor. Diets which allow for an abnormal urinary pH level can cause crystals to develop which result in bladder inflammation. Left untreated, crystals can bind together to form bladder stones.

In its most severe form, FLUTD can cause complete obstruction of the urinary tract. When present, the obstruction can be composed of mucus or crystal plug which lodges in the urethra at the tip. A cat which is not able to urinate is an absolute emergency.

Cats become extremely ill with lethargy, vomiting, and lack of appetite due to the toxins circulating in the body which the kidneys are not able to remove because of the obstruction. These cats will die if not treated!

Treatment of an obstructed cat involves passing a urinary catheter (under sedation) and administering IV fluids to flush out waste products from the kidneys and the bladder. X-rays to rule out bladder stones and urinalysis with urine culture are done to help guide therapy. Typically cats remain hospitalized for 1-3 days for therapy.

The urinary catheter is removed once the voided urine is clear in color. Cats which have been obstructed can have a 50/50 chance of re-obstruction once the urinary catheter is removed. When the cat is urinating on their own, they are discharged from the hospital. Most cats are sent home with an antibiotic and pain medication.

To help prevent FLUTD signs and recurrence of obstruction, it is common to change the cat’s diet to a urinary tract formula. It is important to feed a diet with plenty of water content to help keep the urine dilute. For this reason, we recommend feeding a 50/50 ratio of canned and dry urinary tract formula. It is also very important for the cat to have unlimited access to fresh water. Place a separate source of water away from the cat’s food bowl. Try to increase water consumption by offering filtered water, putting ice cubes in the water bowl, or mixing chicken broth/tuna juice with the water. Be sure to change the water bowl frequently as spoiling can be an issue. We also recommend you purchase a water fountain from any pet store to make drinking more fun for your cat.

Litter boxes must be kept accessible, scooped daily and completely cleaned once weekly. Offer different types of litter to find the one most preferred by your cat. Rule of thumb is one litter box per cat in the house plus one. Offer different sizes of litter boxes in several places throughout the house. If your cat has soiled areas outside the litter box, these areas must be cleaned and deodorized. A number of commercial cleaning products are available at pet stores.

Regular exercise is very important for your cat to help with stress relief. Strive to have play time daily with your cat to keep him/her stimulated and stress free. Look for toys that mimic prey motion or intermittently release food. Another good idea is to purchase vertical surfaces (i.e. cat tree) for play and exercise. Provide surfaces for your cat to climb and areas in which to hide, perch, look outside and rest undisturbed.