Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is a term used to describe a variety of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra in cats. Some of the conditions that fall under this term are:
- Struvite and calcium oxalate stones
- Urinary tract infections
- Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
Symptoms of FLUTD
Symptoms of FLUTD include urinating in inappropriate places such as a cold bathtub or closet, crying or straining while urinating (or the inability to urinate), excessive licking of the genitals, missing the litter box, voiding in small amounts, and blood in the urine.
Struvite stones are a prevalent cause of FLUTD in cats and any breed can be affected.
However, several cat breeds have an increased risk of struvite crystals or stone formation including the Foreign shorthair, Ragdoll, Chartreux, Oriental shorthair, Domestic shorthair, and Himalayan.
Unlike in dogs, struvite urinary stones in cats are not usually associated with a concurrent urinary tract infection. Another problematic stone, calcium oxalate, is more prevalent in Burmese, Himalayan, and Persian breeds. Unlike struvite stones which can be treated with nutritional interventions, most cases of calcium oxalate stones require surgery.
The Risk Factors
Risk factors of FLUTD, and for struvite stones in particular, include being over the age of four years, neutering, being overweight, having little exercise or restricted outside access, and not drinking enough fluids. Struvite stones tend to form in concentrated urine and are made of an accumulation of minerals including magnesium and phosphorus. Therefore, ensuring adequate fluid intake can help prevent mineral concentration and discourage stone formation.
Contrary to popular belief, the ash level of a food is not the main factor in development of struvite stones. Rather, a diet containing excessive magnesium and phosphorus may contribute to struvite stone formation.
Some cats also develop FLUTD in response to a viral infection, while others can suffer from idiopathic cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder with no known cause. Stress and diet change can cause a flare up of cystitis in cats, and the condition can be chronic and challenging to treat.
The following are steps that you can take to help prevent future occurrences of urinary tract stones and aid with bladder issues:
- Feeding small frequent meals which can help regulate urine pH.
- Feeding a diet that promotes a moderately acidic urine. Avoid supplementing with additional urinary acidifiers which may cause other health issues.
- Provide fresh, clean water at all times to encourage drinking.
- Consider feeding a wet diet to help increase water intake. If you feed dry kibble only, adding water to the kibble can help increase fluid intake. Keep in mind thar kibble with added water must be treated like fresh food and not left out for long periods of time to ensure food safety.
- Provide an adequate number of litter boxes to encourage frequent urination. Typically, one more litter box than the number of cats in the household is recommended.
- Keep litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house where the cat feels comfortable.
- Keep litter boxes clean.
- Minimize stress by avoiding major changes in routine.
Please consult with your veterinarian regarding any dietary changes or if you think your cat may be suffering from FLUTD.
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