What Is FLUTD in Cats? - Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
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You may have heard the acronym FLUTD in reference to feline health, but may not be aware of what it means for your cat. It is an acronym which refers to a set of varying problems which affect the lower urinary tract of cats. FLUTD is characterized by various symptoms, but we most often first notice if the cat has difficulty in urinating. In the most severe cases, it can lead to an obstruction of the urethra which constitutes an emergency.
At AnimalWised, we reveal more about feline urinary tract infections (UTIs) by answering what is FLUTD in cats? We look at its causes, symptoms and treatment so you can know what to expect.
What is FLUTD in cats?
The acronym FLUTD stands for feline lower urinary tract disease. It does not refer to one specific feline health The name FLUTD encompasses different problems in cats that affect both the bladder and the urethra. The bladder collects urine to be excreted as waste via the urethra. Many people think feline UTIs are the same thing as FLUTD. Although they can be related, it is not usually the case.
There are two different types of FLUTD in cats. One is obstructive and the other is non-obstructive. We explain the difference in the sections below.
Symptoms of FLUTD in cats
Unfortunately, the symptoms of FLUTD in cats are often nonspecific. Instead of being a sign of a specific disease, the symptoms are the same as those which can appear in several medical problems affecting the lower urinary tract. For this reason and more, it is vital you take a cat showing the below symptoms to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
The veterinarian will perform the correct diagnostic tests to determine the correct type of feline lower urinary tract disease. We cannot try to diagnose the problem ourselves as the wrong treatment can cause more damage. Prompt treatment is also essential as it avoids complications and decreases the severity of an episode. Some cats may suffer from recurrent cases of FLUTD, something which prompt intervention also reduces.
The most common signs of FLUTD in cats include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain during bowel movements
- Meowing in pain
- Increased amount of urination times
- Crystals in the cat's urine (urogliths)
- Blood in the cat's urine (hematuria)
- Urination outside the litter box
- No or less liquid expelled during urination
- Behavioral changes including not using the litter tray or aggression
- Excessive licking of the private area
- Injuries to genitals due to excessive licking
- Weight loss
Risk factors for FLUTD in cats
FLUTD can occur in male or female cats of any age, although it is most common in cats between 5-10 years of age. Other risk factors that have been determined to influence the appearance of this problem are the following:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Indoor cats without outdoor access
- Diet base don poor quality feed and low water consumption
- Persian cats (a genetically predisposed breed)
- Lastly, male cats are at greater risk of suffering from an obstruction of the urethra because this duct is narrower than in females
Causes of FLUTD in cats
There are multiple causes of FLUTD. However, we should bear in mind that most cases will remain unknown. This is either because it is idiopathic FLUTD in cats (i.e. the underlying cause remains unknown) or because determining the exact cause is unnecessary to administer treatment.
Causes of FLUTD in cats can occur individually or in combination with other veterinary health problems. As we stated above, FLUTD in cats is either obstructive or non-obstructive. This means there either is or isn't an obstruction in the urinary tract. An obstruction can seriously complicate issues and even be potentially lethal.
Causes of non-obstructive FLUTD in cats:
- Non-obstructive idiopathic cystitis: this is diagnosed in more than half of cats with FLUTD. Stress is considered fundamental in its development. Cats are very sensitive to changes in their environment. Modifying their diet, the arrival of new members to a family, poor sanitation or feline overcrowding in the home are only some stress triggers in cats. This type of feline cystitis is diagnosed as a cause of FLUTD when all other causes have been ruled out.
- Bladder stones: also called uroliths, they are hard deposits in the bladder. In cats they are usually struvite or, to a lesser extent, oxalate.
- Anatomical defects: genetic issues or problems during pregnancy can lead to malformation of the urinary tract which is linked to disease.
- Tumors: whether benign or cancerous, tumors can lead to FLUTD.
- Bacterial infections: urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other bacterial infections are very rare and usually secondary to another of the most common causes. Older cats, especially those with kidney disease, are at higher risk. However, FLUTD is not generally common in them.
Causes of obstructive FLUTD in cats:
- Idiopathic obstructive cystitis: similar to the non-obstructive variety, but less common.
- Urethral obstruction: can be made up of proteins, bladder waste or urine cells. This is the most common cause of obstructive FLUTD.
- Bladder stones: if the uroliths from the bladder are large enough, they can cause obstruction. May or may not be accompanied by bacterial infection. A dietary change for cats with stones may be requried.
Treatment of FLUTD in cats
It is believed that non-obstructive FLUTD cases can resolve spontaneously in less than ten days. However, we still need to take them to the veterinarian as we will require a professional diagnosis to determine if this is the case. This way we can spare the cat the pain and stress which comes with FLUTD. Additionally, we are putting them at rish of a urethral blockage, especially with males.
A pharmacological treatment may be required, depending on the underlying cause. This may include, but is not limited to medication to relax the muscles of the urethra and analgesics (painkillers). Management of FLUTD in cats is also required for a better prognosis. This will include:
- Examine the living circumstances to identify stress triggers which need to be changed. Take into account environmental enrichment for cats.
- Offer a wet food diet in whole or in part. If you cannot afford it, you can mix wet food into the dry kibble. If the cat does not accept wat food, ensure adequate water intake and increase hydration in cats. This can be done with incorporating drinking fountains, replenishing their drinking water more regularly and dividing their daily food intake into smaller portions. This will help the cat's urine volume increase and they should urinate more. If your cat has crystals in their urine, you will need to help them dissolve via diet.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to What Is FLUTD in Cats? - Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
1. Piyarungsri, K., et al. (2020). Prevalence and risk factors of feline lower urinary tract disease in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Scientific Reports, 10(196).
- García, & Bárcena. (2014). Main pathologies of the feline lower urinary tract. Veterinary Portal.
- Palmero, M.L. Cystitis in cats. Update on the diagnosis and treatment of FLUTD. Gattos Clinical Feline Center.