Formerly known as FUS (Feline Urologic Syndrome), FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) is a group of symptoms affecting the cat's lower urinary system and bladder, which lead to difficulty and discomfort urinating, and in severe cases can cause complete obstruction of the urinary tract. Approximately 1% of the cat population will experience FLUTD, it is more serious in males than females as they have a narrower urethra, making them more likely to become blocked, which is a medical emergency.
All cases of FLUTD have the same symptoms, bu there are numerous causes, including urolithiasis (stones in the urinary tract), cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and urethral obstruction. Although FLUTD is currently the subject of much study and research, the exact cause is unknown. The influence of environment, heredity, diet, infections and stress are being investigated. Many people do not even realise that their perfectly healthy cat has FLUTD until the disease is well advanced. This does not have to the be the case; there are ways to identify FLUTD early in its development.
FLUTD occurs in all breeds and ages, in neutered an entire animals, indoor and outdoor cats and those fed a variety of diets. It is one of the most serious and distressing cat diseases confronting cat owners and vets. If the obstruction is not relieved promptly, affected cats rapidly become very sick and die.
Symptoms of FLUTD
- Irritability and restlessness
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent trips to the litter box and constant licking around the genitals
- Straining while in a squatting position (often mistaken for constipation)
- Urinating in unusual places about the house
If untreated or unnoticed, the condition may progress. With the kidneys unable to excrete urine, poisonous waste products build up. Cats with more advanced cases may emit deep cries of pain, strain constantly, have an enlarged, tender abdomen, or vomit and drool. They may also appear very quiet and unresponsive. Unless the process is reversed quickly, the cat will die in a painful death.
How is FLUTD treated?
- Relief of blockage
If the urinary passage is blocked, relief is absolutely essential. This usually requires anesthesia (unless the cat is already is in a coma). Although anaesthesia is dangerous because of the cat's poor condition, there is no alternative. Most of these blockages yield to flushing by catherisation (passing a fine tube) up the urethra. In case where the 'stones' are unusually stubborn abdominal puncture of the bladder may be necessary. The catheter may be left in place for a few days and a restraint collar put on the cat to prevent him removing the catheter. The chances of success are directly proportional to how quickly the cat has been brought in for treatment.
- Fluid therapy
This is indicated when the cat is dehydrated or toxic. This consists of intravenous administration of large volumes of balanced fluids.
Used to take care of infections that may develop as a result of abnormalities in the urinary tract
Prognosis of cats diagnosed with FLUTD
Cats can die from this condition even after the best treatment. The deaths are usually associated with severe electrolyte imbalances, or kidney failure. In successful cases catheterisation of your cat, we will usually discharge it direct to your own veterinarian the following day with a urinary catheter still in place. Unfortunately, these conditions can recur, particularly where there is marked inflammation, but there are medical and surgical methods that can help in the long term.
FLUTD is a serious condition, often requiring intensive treatment. Where treatment is instigated early and aggressively, chances of a full recovery are good, but in some cats the damage to kidneys is irreversible and they die despite the best efforts of the attending veterinary surgeon.