Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or more commonly known as FLUTD, is a clinical condition that occurs as a result of a cystitis (a bladder infection)or as a result of the formation of mineral crystals in the urine. These crystals cause irritation to the lining of the urinary tract and may even block the tract, which can be life-threatening.
 
FLUTD occurs as frequently in females cats as in male cats, however, due to anatomical differences, blockage occurs more often in the male cat.
 
The onset of this problem seems quite innocent. Your cat may show signs of decreased appetite and doesn’t drink as much water as usual. You may also begin to notice after years of using the litter box faithfully, accidents start happening. They may visit the litter box more frequently, crouching down instead of squatting down, straining (sometimes giving the appearance of constipation), crying, and if urine is produced it may have a very strong odour with a very dark appearance.
 
These cats require immediate veterinary attention. Vomiting may start as a result of the build up of wastes, often to toxic levels, in the body. This stage is very serious and if left untreated may be fatal. No breed is safe from this disease.
 
How does the problem get started?
Cats have the ability to conserve body water by highly concentrating their urine. In urine, there are mineral elements - magnesium, ammonium, phosphates and others, the natural components of the food. In most cases, these minerals are dissolved and leave the body.
But this process can fail - the less cats drink, the more concentrated their urine becomes. The result - crystalline complexes can form and accumulate in the bladder and urethra. In males, the very narrow urethral channel easily traps these crystal fragments causing blockage. In females, the crystals cause a urinary tract inflammation as opposed to a blockage.
 
Watch for the Signs

*      frequent attempts to urinate
*      flow reduced to a dribble
*      urinating outside the litter box
*      crouching instead of squatting
*      obvious straining
*      very dark urine
*      very strong odour of urine
*      loss of appetite
*      excessive licking of the genital area
*      vomiting
*      listlessness
*      bloated or tense abdomen
 
Prevention

Your cats diet is the key in preventing FLUTD. Using high quality, well-formulated diets that reduce the minerals in the urine that cause the formation of the crystals and maintaining urinary pH is the best method of prevention.In the past there have been some misconceptions on the importance of “Ash” in the diet. Ash is the measure of all the minerals in the food. It is now thought that a low level magnesium (a component of ash) in combination with a consistent acidic urinary pH is the more appropriate measure.
 
Home Management

Cats that have a history of FLUTD are at risk to have it recur. Lifelong management is necessary to decrease this chance. Following are some helpful hints:
*      strictly adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions
*      provide clean fresh water - cats are more likely to drink larger volumes if it is clean
*      maintain clean litter - your cat may settle for retaining urine as long as possible if it isn’t clean or is hard to reach - an invitation for crystal formation
*      encourage exercise - obesity or lack of exercise may contribute to FLUTD
*      feed the diet recommended by your veterinarian
 
Summary

FLUTD can be prevented - by following a few simple steps you can protect your cat by helping to avoid the occurrence of this disease.