Recently our oldest cat, Jax, began displaying symptoms of severe discomfort. Usually a happy loner, he started to yowl about the house and to adopt an odd arching posture. His belly seemed bloated and his litter seemed unusually dry. Fortunately, we knew these to be telltale symptoms of urethral blockage and got Jax to the vet immediately. He required an overnight stay and surgery to unblock his urethra. Since we knew the signs and acted quickly, we were able to prevent the severe and potentially life-threatening consequences of untreated urinary blockage.
Jax’s case highlights a common health problem in felines. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) encompasses a range of causes and symptoms linked to problems with the feline bladder and urethra. Here we’ll discuss FLUTD and some of its causes, symptoms, and treatments. We’ll also talk about the signs of FLUTD and ways you can manage your cat’s urinary health with proper diet.
What is FLUTD and What Are its Causes?
In cats, the lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra) is subject to several painful and often dangerous conditions that prevent the animal from urinating properly. Causes can vary—from crystalline blockage and bladder stones to inflammation, infection, diabetes, or cancer—but any condition that prevents your cat from properly evacuating urine from its bladder can be dangerous. FLUTD refers to any and all of these conditions. Interestingly, FLUTD rarely occurs in kittens and is most often found in male cats over 2 years of age. Male cats have a narrower urethra than females, and this often results in a partial or complete blockage.
As you may imagine, the physical discomfort of an overfull bladder and blocked urethra can be significant. Knowing how your cat expresses pain can help you identify signs of discomfort early. In Jax’s case, it wasn’t difficult, because he’s a very vocal cat. For cats who tend to hide when in pain, the symptoms can be harder to recognize. A quick physical exam can reveal if the cat’s abdomen is bloated or seems tight. Gently palpating the cat’s bladder to express a few drops of urine can also help gauge the severity of the problem—a cat with severe blockage will pass little to no urine. Another simple way to confirm the presence of FLUTD is to check your cat’s litter. If it seems unusually dry or there is blood present in the urine, your cat may be experiencing problems urinating.
Since a blockage can lead to sepsis, kidney failure, or bladder rupture, act quickly if you suspect FLUTD in your cat. Get your cat to the vet as soon as possible for an evaluation and FLUTD treatment plan. Sense FLUTD is common, so an experienced vet will quickly recognize the clinical picture painted by the signs and symptoms. (Signs are the measurable factors we can’t see—like creatinine level—while symptoms are easily observable changes in our pet’s behavior). A vet can quickly evaluate whether surgery is necessary. In Jax’s case, it was, and he did not suffer any kidney or bladder damage because he received treatment quickly.
How Can You Maintain Your Cat’s Urinary Health?
The simplest preventative for FLUTD is to provide plenty of water for your cats. Water should be available at all times and from several sources so your animal never goes thirsty. Second, because FLUTD has been associated with high ash content in kibble, select a low-ash brand specifically designed for feline urinary health. Also, if your cat is on an all-dry diet, try supplementing it with a daily can of wet or moist cat food. Remember that cats are predators who, in the wild, would get much of their daily moisture from their prey—so a can of wet-food daily can help provide needed moisture.
Most important—if you suspect FLUTD in your cat, call your vet ASAP and schedule an appointment. We did with Jax, and today, he’s a happy healthy cat!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.