Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

Written By Dr Kate Harmon

A common problem we see in the clinic is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

There are a few identifiable causes such as bacterial infections, bladder stones, urethral plugs and cancer but most of the time (60-70% of cases) the cause is unknown hence termed Idiopathic Feline Cystitis (FIC). Stress can be a main trigger for FIC.

Typical clinical signs of FLUTD are straining to urinate and passing small amounts of urine frequently with blood. 

Your cat can show signs of pain, irritation, aggression or overgrooming, and display abnormal behaviour such as going in and out of the litter tray or cat flap, or urinating in abnormal spots in the house.

Diagnosis of FLUTD initially involves a physical examination by your vet, then collection of urine for urinalysis. These urine tests will show if there is any blood in the urine or if the pH is abnormal. 

A urine sediment examination will find any evidence of bladder stones or infection. An ultrasound or radiograph may also be required.

If you have a male cat showing FLUTD signs and he is not producing any urine, there is a high chance that your cat's urethra is blocked either with a urethral plug or stone. 

When this occurs, it is a medical emergency as your cat cannot pass any urine and is at risk of developing acute renal failure. 

These cases need to be seen by a vet immediately for treatment.

A blocked cat will require blood tests, intravenous fluids, pain relief medication, a general anaesthetic to unblock his urethra and urinary catheter placement with a hospital stay of a few days to stabilise and recover.

Treatment for each cat suffering from FLUTD will vary depending on what is found. 

Common treatments used are pain relief and anti-anxiety medication, changing to a wet food diet to increase water intake, encouraging increased drinking, urination and exercise, reduction of weight if obese, antibiotics for infection and special diets or surgery to remove bladder stones.

FIC can be a recurrent problem in some cases so long term special diets and certain medications may be required to manage these cats to keep them, and their bladder, happy and heathy.