Urinary tract infections are quite common in cats, especially indoor cats. This condition encompasses a range of disorders, ranging from mild to severe. If left untreated, it can be fatal for cats.
1. What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
FLUTD is not a specific disease but a term used to describe conditions that can affect the bladder and/or urethra (lower urinary tract) of cats.
FLUTD is believed to affect around 1-3% of cats each year, making it one of the most common feline diseases. Due to the diverse nature of underlying causes, FLUTD can affect cats of all ages, breeds, and genders.
2. Signs of Lower Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Typical signs of lower urinary tract infections in cats include:
- Frequent urination: Infection and inflammation of the bladder and urethra can cause irritation and increased frequency of urination.
- Painful or bloody urination: Affected cats may take a long time to pass a small amount of urine, experiencing extreme pain. Some may even cry out in pain.
- Blood in urine: Blood in urine may be microscopic (only detectable through testing) or more severe, visibly changing the color of the urine to red.
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine: Cats may exhibit changes in behavior, such as increased aggression or irritability.
- Inappropriate urination: Cats may urinate outside of the litter box due to bladder or urethra pain, making it difficult for them to reach the litter box in time.
3. Causes of Lower Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
a. Idiopathic Cystitis
Idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is the most common diagnosis in cats with lower urinary tract infections. FIC, or idiopathic bladder inflammation, accounts for approximately half of all cases. Distinguishing these cases from other underlying causes is essential to determine appropriate treatment.
b. Urinary Stones or Bladder Stones
Around 20% of cases of FLUTD in cats under 10 years old are caused by urinary stones. The two most common types of stones are ‘struvite’ and ‘calcium oxalate.’ While struvite stones can be dissolved with a special diet, calcium oxalate stones often require surgical removal.
c. Urethral Obstruction
Urethral obstruction is the most dangerous condition in cats with lower urinary tract infections as it can be life-threatening. Obstruction can result from stones or other blockages. Prompt medical care is crucial in these cases.
d. Other Causes
Other less common causes of lower urinary tract infections in cats include bacterial infections (rare primary infections but potentially secondary complications) and structural abnormalities.
Diagnosis of FLUTD
Initial diagnosis of lower urinary tract infections in cats is based on identifying the symptoms. Urine analysis is used to confirm the presence of inflammation or infection.
Additional diagnostic tests may be required if symptoms do not respond to initial treatment or if clinical signs recur.
Treatment of Lower Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
The treatment approach for cats with lower urinary tract infections depends on the underlying cause. Here are some examples:
Urinary tract infection: Infections caused by bacteria generally respond well to antibiotic therapy. However, antibiotics should only be used when there is suspicion of a bacterial infection or when it has been confirmed through analysis and culture of a urine sample.
Urethral obstruction: Prompt treatment is necessary to relieve obstruction. This often involves the placement of a catheter to relieve the blockage. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
Urinary stones: Depending on the type of stone, dietary management or surgical removal may be necessary. Special diets tailored to prevent stone formation can be recommended by a veterinarian.
Idiopathic cystitis: Management of FIC is more complex as the underlying cause is not fully understood. Increasing water intake and reducing stress can be beneficial. Providing a clean and safe environment for urination, as well as opportunities for natural hunting behavior, can help reduce stress.
Regardless of the initial treatment performed, applying a veterinarian-recommended diet can be helpful in preventing stone recurrence. Feeding wet food instead of dry food can increase water absorption and aid in preventing a relapse.
Prevention of Lower Urinary Tract Infections in Cats
Preventing lower urinary tract infections in cats may not be entirely possible, but there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk. These steps include:
- Feeding small frequent meals.
- Managing weight and promoting exercise.
- Providing clean, fresh water at all times.
- Ensuring an adequate number of litter boxes (usually more than one box per cat).
- Keeping litter boxes in quiet, safe locations.
- Maintaining clean litter boxes.
While it’s not always feasible to prevent lower urinary tract infections entirely, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and providing a balanced diet can help reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Lower urinary tract infections in cats encompass a range of conditions affecting the bladder and urethra. These infections can have various underlying causes, and treatment should be tailored to each individual case. Preventive measures such as weight control, promoting exercise, and providing a clean and stress-free environment can help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in cats.