Oz: Combatting feline urinary tract disease
If you share your life with a cat you should be aware of a syndrome called feline lower urinary tract disease. (FLUTD)
This term refers to a number of abnormalities in the urinary tract including bladder infections and formation of crystals/stones.
In severe cases an obstruction of the urethra can occur, preventing the excretion of urine from the body. This condition is a true emergency situation that is fatal if left untreated.
The most common urinary disease in cats is a bladder infection of an unknown cause.
In these cases an inflammation is recognized but it is impossible to detect the specific cause for it. Often the cause for the chronic inflammation in the bladder is the formation of urinary crystals or stones which are rock hard collection of minerals deriving from the food.
Few factors promote the formation of urinary crystals and stones, the most significant ones are the urine PH and the amount of magnesium in the cat’s diet.
Besides the diet and the urine PH, other factors promote urinary problems in cats such as obesity, dehydration, and bacterial infections.
The condition is most common amongst cats at the age two to five years.
Cats are very finicky about their litter box. If the litter box is not clean the cat may be reluctant to use it, the prolonged urinary retention makes the cat prone to develop urinary issues.
People who experienced urinary tract infection know how irritating and uncomfortable it makes one feel.
Your cat can show you its distress by signs such as frequent urination, voiding small amount of urine in each urination, presence of blood in the urine, difficulty to urinate exhibited by prolonged squatting and straining accompanied by pain and excessive licking of the genital area.
Urination outside of the litter box is also a common sign that something is wrong.
The most serious problem associated with urinary function is urethral obstruction.
The obstruction is usually formed by either small urinary stones that are too small to stay in the bladder but are too large to pass in the urine. Another common cause is urinary plugs, formed by minerals, cells and mucus.
Regardless of the specific cause, the severity of the condition is the inability to pass urine and eliminate of the waste toxic substances in the urine and the imbalance of the body’s electrolytes lethally affecting the heart.
If the obstruction is not relieved, the cat will eventually lose consciousness and die within 24 to 48 hours from the time of the obstruction.
Male cats are more prone to develop urethral obstruction than females due to their long and narrow urethra. Statistics show that neutered males are even at greater risk of developing the condition.
A blocked cat will show the same signs of FLUTD—frequent attempts to urinate, straining and pain.
However, as time passes, an obstructed cat typically becomes much more distressed, they cry in pain, they are very restless and very sensitive to touch in their abdomen.
These kind of symptoms should make you rush into your vet’s office as soon as possible.
The treatment of urethral obstruction is to unblock the urethra by inserting a urinary catheter. This procedure is done under anesthesia or deep sedation.
The treatment may also involves other aspects of support such as IV fluids and electrolytes supplementation, depending on the cat’s state. This condition usually requires hospitalization until the cat is stabilized and able to urinate on its own.
Unfortunately this condition tends to reoccur. Owners of cats who experienced it before should monitor their cats closely for early identification of the next episode.
Diagnosing the reason for the blockage can assist in helping reducing the chance of recurrence.
In case of urinary crystals or stones, a special diet is available that helps regulating the urine PH.
Often the removal of urinary stones has to be done surgically. In some cases, a special diet can be prescribed in order to shrink down and eliminate the stones.
Other things you can do to hopefully prevent the condition are: provide clean, fresh water at all times. You can try to encourage your cat to drink by letting it drink from running water in the sink or by using a water fountain. Make sure the litter box is inviting. Clean it frequently and place it in a quiet place.
Urinary issues in cats are often diagnosed as incidental findings in performance of other medical procedures. A routine urinary test may help you detect a problem in an early stage and spare grief from both you and you cat.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.