Feline Urological Syndrome

Feline Urologic Syndrome (which is now called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorder) is a more general term for a collection of problems including:

  • Cystitis or inflammation of the bladder or urethra.
  • Urethritis or infection of the urethra or bladder.
  • Urinary Tract Cancer or a tumor in the bladder or urethra.
  • Trauma to the urinary tract (getting his by a car, falling etc.).
  • Urethral Plugs which consist of a soft, malleable material containing minerals, cells/cellular debris, and protein. Many things interact to produce plugs including: viruses, bacteria, physical inactivity, stress, diet, decreased water consumption, urine retention, and urine pH.
  • Urethral/Bladder Stones (Urolith) which are formed if crystals or mineral deposits build up long enough. These stones are generally made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate (struvite) or calcium oxilate. These stones will irritate the lining of the urethra or bladder and can partially or completely block the urinary tract.

This disease can happen to cats at any age, although it is more prevalent in older cats. FLUTD is also more prevalent in males than in females due to the anatomy of the female which is that of a longer and thinner urethra. Determining the cause of FLUTD is the key to treatment; however, it is very difficult to find the exact cause of the disease. In fact, 50% of the time a definitive cause is not found. Such cats are said to have idiopathic feline lower tract disorder (IFLUTD).

It is not 100% clear why cats get any of the above problems. Diet is thought to be one cause. A diet high in magnesium is thought to assist in the production of mineral deposits. A urine environment that is basic (the opposite of acidic) is conducive to struvite formation. Many cat foods today are actually formed to help to keep the pH of the urine low and maintain low quantities of magnesium in the body. Also mineral deposits tend to form in concentrated urine. Thus make sure your cat drinks plenty of fresh water to keep the urine dilute. Stress is thought to be another potential cause. In fact studies have shown that a prior stressful event correlates highly with the onset of FLUTD.

If you suspect that your cat has a urethral blockage of any kind (if you see any of the symptoms listed below) call your vet immediately. When a cat can’t urinate the kidneys become unable to remove toxins from the blood, and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. When this happens the cat can die within 48 hours due to the high level of toxins in the blood and/or electrolyte imbalances (which leads to heart failure).

Symptoms to look for:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination with little urine
  • Urinating outside of the box
  • Hard or full bladder
  • Licking of the genital area
  • Blood in the urine

Treatment:

If you suspect your cat of having FLUTD take your cat to the vet immediately. He/she will take a urine sample from your cat and test it for the presence of crystals and to determine the pH. Your vet may also take a few X-rays to look for stones or blockages.

If your cat does have FLUTD he/she may need catheterization or surgery to remove any blockages or plugs. If your cat is dehydrated or has any electrolyte imbalances he/she will receive fluid therapy either subcutaneously or intravenously. Your cat will be put on a course of drug therapy to acidify the urine, combat bacterial infection, relieve pain, and/or restore bladder function. And your vet will probably prescribe a diet that will promote good urinary tract health.

Precautionary measures:

The best precautionary measure for FLUTD seems to be through the diet. Feed your cat only a high-quality, vet-approved diet that is low in magnesium and promotes good urinary tract health. Make sure your cat drinks plenty of fresh water. And keep your cat’s litterboxes clean so as to reduce the risk of any urinary infections or inflammations.