The vet’s office: A common cat quandary
Examining feline lower urinary tract disease
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Feline patients frequently come to veterinarians for the problems of urinating outside of the litter box. Sometimes it is a behavioral problem that responds to behavior therapies. Many other times the behavior is caused by a medical condition called feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). It is the most common reason people bring their cats in for medical care. I worked at a 24-hour emergency clinic my first year out of vet school, and FLUTD was the No. 1 reason cats were presented.
Much more has been learned about FLUTD since I graduated, but the most common signs are the same. Cats will start urinating in new places, and they may be restless. They may have pink or blood-stained urine, and they may cry out when urinating. They will often lick the urinary opening more and adopt a tense posture when voiding. Sometimes they will strain without producing urine, which is a key sign to bring these cats in, especially if they are males.
FLUTD takes a number of possible forms. The most common is an inflammation of the bladder from an unknown cause. Stress is a typical factor.
The second most common form involves stones and microscopic crystals that form clumps big enough to block the urethra, the tube through which urine exits the bladder. Since males have a longer, narrower urethra, they are more likely than females to have a blockage. Cats can also have plugs of mucus and debris or even blood clots that obstruct the urethra. Any blockage is a life-threatening emergency.
Less common forms of FLUTD include anatomical defects that obstruct urine flow and urinary tract infections. As cats age, the risk of UTIs increases.
Though owners may not be able to prevent all cases of FLUTD, there are things they can do to reduce the risks. Feeding cats a high-quality diet with the correct balance of minerals is important as too much of some ingredients can promote crystals and stones to form. Also, avoiding obesity helps because too much food means too many minerals are being processed.
Make sure to provide plenty of fresh bowls of water to entice cats to drink. The more water they take in, the more diluted their urine is, and stones are less likely to form. Adding canned food also helps with moisture intake.
Try making the litter as attractive as possible by keeping it clean and in a private area.
There are numerous other risk-reducing tips and practices not mentioned here. You can obtain more help from your veterinarian and the technicians who play a key role in identifying your concerns.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.