What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
FLUTD consists of a group of conditions, many of which cause inflammation of the lower urinary tract. Affected cats frequently show signs similar to those of cystitis in humans. In some cats the formation of crystalline material in the lower urinary tract can result in obstruction to the passage of urine. This is more common in male cats, because the male urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside) is much narrower than in the female. Complete obstruction can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys, unless quickly treated.
There is no single cause of FLUTD, and therefore diagnostic tests are usually recommended.
Risk factors that have been shown to be significant are:
High levels of certain minerals in food can increase the chance of crystal formation in urine. The minerals magnesium and phosphorus are components of the most common crystal type - struvite. Therefore it is helpful to limit the levels of these minerals in the food. The food a cat eats also influences the acidity of its urine. Struvite crystals tend to form in more alkaline urine, and other types such as calcium oxalate in association with more acidic urine. Therefore feeding a food that results in the proper urine pH is essential to reduce crystal formation.
Lack of exercise, confinement indoors, reduced water intake, and even dirty litter trays may cause your cat to urinate less often. Low frequency of urination can play a role in encouraging the development of FLUTD.
Excessive weight, because of a combination of dietary and environmental factors, also predisposes towards FLUTD.
Although both sexes are equally likely to develop signs of FLUTD, urinary obstruction, because of plug formation, is more common in neutered male cats.
Recognising the signs of FLUTD
FLUTD can be uncomfortable, and, if a blockage occurs, extremely dangerous. Recognising the typical signs is critical. Sometimes even subtle changes in behaviour may indicate a serious problem. Be aware of the warning signs of FLUTD, and contact your veterinary surgeon without delay if you notice any of the following.
Signs of FLUTD
- Abnormal urination, including b1ood in the urine, abnormal colour of urine, excessive straining to urinate, or passing urine frequently in small amounts (little and often).
- Behavioural changes such as restlessness, listlessness, hiding away or refusal to eat.
- Changes in the pattern of urination such as urinating indoors or in unusual places such as a shower recess.
A male cat which is not urinating freely requires immediate veterinary attention, because a life threatening urinary blockage may be present.
Because there are several causes of FLUTD your vet may perform a number of diagnostic tests, such as urinary pH measurement. Your veterinary surgeon can collect a urine sample, but it could be helpful if you are able to take a fresh urine sample from your cat to the surgery with you.
In some cases the urine may be sent to a laboratory for a detailed examination, including identification of any microscopic crystals present. Urine crystals can be successfully managed by feeding an appropriate food; however the specific treatment will depend on the crystal type that is present. Cases that do not respond to treatment may require further procedures such as radiography (x-rays), to identify the cause of the problem.
Management and control of cats with FLUTD
Royal Canin Urinary pet foods are specifically formulated to minimise dietary risk factors that influence the development of struvite-related FLUTD. The diet contains slightly elevated sodium levels to encourage urine dilution. It also controls the levels of magnesium and causes an increase in acidity of the urine to help dissolve the struvite crystals and to help prevent the reformation of struvites and calcium oxalates.
Royal Canin Veterinary diets, such as Urinary S/0 Feline (wet or dry), are designed to be fed, under veterinary supervision, to cats suffering from FLUTD, and to help prevent its recurrence. We recommend a veterinary check up every six months while on these therapeutic diets.
- Feed only the food recommended by your vet
- Do not give any extra treats, food scraps, bones or vitamin supplements
- Provide lots of clean fresh water at all times
- Encourage exercise whenever possible
- Keep the litter tray clean and fresh
- Once a cat has suffered from FLUTD, a food specifically designed to prevent crystal formation should be fed for life to prevent recurrence
All Royal Canin foods are extremely palatable and are eagerly accepted by most cats. However, when suffering from FLUTD your cat may have a reduced appetite or be less willing to eat. If your cat does resist a change of food, the following tips may help:
Introduce the new food gradually - mix it with your cat's usual food, adding more of it each day until you have completed the change-over.
Warm canned food to body temperature - but no hotter - before feeding.
If you pet refuses to eat for more than 48 hours, discuss the problem with your vet.
Remember, Royal Canin offers a palatability guarantee, if after trying the food your cat will not accept it, we will reimburse the purchase price.
If you wish to discuss your cat’s condition personally with one of our vets, simply call one of our clinics to make an appointment.