Pet Health Library
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a broad term that includes several different conditions related to a cat’s urinary tract. Urinary tract infections, urinary blockage, bladder stones, bladder cancer, or behavior disorders and injuries can all result in signs of FLUTD.
The most common cause of FLUTD is feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC). The term “idiopathic” means that the cause is unknown, while “cystitis” refers to inflammation of the bladder.
Male cats seem to be at a greater risk for developing FLUTD, but it occurs in female cats as well.
Common signs of FLUTD include:
- Straining to urinate
- Difficulty passing urine
- Increased frequency of urination
- Crying out while urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Urinating outside of the litter box
Since FLUTD can have many causes, making a diagnosis requires performing a number of different tests.. Based on your cat’s clinical signs, your veterinarian will likely perform a physical examination and a urinalysis. If the cause cannot be identified by urinalysis, your veterinarian may recommend further testing, including blood work, x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, and a urine culture.
For most cats with clinical signs of FLUTD, feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is the diagnosis, because, despite extensive testing, no underlying cause can be identified. This can be a frustrating diagnosis for cat owners as well as veterinarians. Fortunately, the ultimate outlook for these cats is good. In a study with long-term follow up of cats diagnosed with FIC in Norway, 70% of cats with FIC recovered without additional episodes, had only a few recurrences, and are still alive 10 years later.
Treatment for FLUTD depends on the underlying cause. If your cat’s FLUTD is a result of a type of bladder stone known as struvite, your veterinarian may recommend a diet that will help dissolve the stones. If the stones are not struvite, do not dissolve or if there is a urethral obstruction preventing urination, your cat likely will need surgery and hospitalization. If a bacterial infection is identified in the bladder, antibiotics will be prescribed.
In the case of FIC, decreasing stress in the home and enriching your cat’s environment can help. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine sponsors the Indoor Pet Initiative which has excellent suggestions for decreasing cat stressors.
Your cat should also have access to fresh, clean water so he is encouraged to drink more. Using a feline drinking fountain helps to encourage water drinking in some cats. Changing from a dry food diet to canned food may also help increase water intake.
Preventing urinary tract disease is not always possible. However, encouraging water consumption, providing environmental enrichment, and maintaining a clean litter box can help. If your veterinarian recommends a special diet for your cat, be sure to continue with the diet unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise.