One of the most common reasons cats are presented to veterinarians is urinary tract problems
Commons signs of urinary tract disease that owners notice include their cat straining to urinate, or noticing blood in the urine. Cystitis is a general term referring to inflammation in the urinary bladder. The term cystitis does not imply a specific underlying cause.
In cats, diseases of the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra) are grouped under the term ‘feline lower urinary tract disease’ (FLUTD) as it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between diseases of the bladder and urethra, and many diseases will affect both structures.
“Cystitis is a general term referring to inflammation in the urinary bladder”
There are a vast number of potential causes of FLUTD, but in many cats there may be severe inflammation of the bladder and/or urethra without an identifiable underlying cause (so called ‘idiopathic’ FLUTD). These idiopathic cases have to be differentiated from other potential causes of the clinical signs though so that appropriate treatment can be given. Some of the potential causes of FLUTD are bacterial urinary tract infections, bladder stones, cancer, anatomical (structural) abnormalities, and urethral plugs (blockage of the urethra).
Urethral plugs can be a life threatening condition as they stop the passage of urine out of the body. This can lead to an increase in blood potassium which if left uncorrected can eventually cause heart failure. If your cat is displaying signs of lower urinary tract disease and you are uncertain if he is passing urine, you should contact you veterinarian immediately.
There is no universal treatment for FLUTD...
The initial diagnosis of FLUTD is based on the identification of signs of lower urinary tract inflammation. A number of investigations may be required to differentiate idiopathic FLUTD from the other known causes of urinary tract inflammation. Common diagnostic procedures include analysis of a urine sample, and bacterial culture of a urine sample. Cases that do not respond to initial treatment may require further diagnostic tests such as ultrasound or x-rays to look for bladder stones, anatomic abnormalities or cancer.
The treatment for lower urinary tract disease depends on the underlying cause. Cases of idiopathic FLUTD may respond to treatment with anti-inflammatory or analgesic (‘pain-relieving’) drugs, but it is crucial that you only use drugs specifically prescribed by your veterinary surgeon, as may human products are extremely dangerous to use in cats. Dietary therapy and anti-depressant medications may also be very effective. Bacterial urinary tract infections require antibiotic therapy. If a cat develops a blocked urethra (this almost exclusively occurs in males), emergency treatment is required to remove the blockage, which may require flushing of the urethra while the cat is given a short anaesthetic. Most cats will need to stay in hospital for several days.
There is no universal treatment for FLUTD. Each case has to be investigated to determine the underlying cause, and then the treatment has to be tailored to the individual cat. Sometimes despite appropriate investigation and treatment clinical signs may still recur, requiring further therapy.
It is impossible to completely prevent diseases of the lower urinary tract occurring. However, several therapies may be beneficial in reducing the number of attack of idiopathic FLUTD. These include special diets for cat with bladder problems (only available at vet clinics), anti-depressant medications and anti-inflammatory mediactions. Minimising stressful events is very important in some cases.
For cats that have recurrent episodes of blockage of their urethra an operation is available to stop this complication.