If you have ever owned a cat you are likely privy to their susceptibility for developing urinary issues – particularly in our male cats! Feline lower urinary tract disease – or FLUTD for short – can occur for several reasons, however the most common causes in cats include urinary stones, urethral plugs, and a condition called feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC).
When cats are experiencing urinary symptoms of an unknown cause, this is considered feline idiopathic cystitis. Conditions that must be ruled out first include: bladder stones, urethral plugs, bladder infections, neoplasia, or anatomic abnormalities. Cats with FIC are typically very uncomfortable as this is a painful condition that causes inflammation of the bladder of an unknown cause. The thought is that it is linked to the cat’s response to an increase in environmental stress. Common clinical signs include straining to urinate, frequenting the litter box, vocalizing in the litter box, blood in the urine, and expressing discomfort or resentment when being pet/handled.
Any sign of urinary concerns should be reported to your veterinarian immediately as this can quickly become an emergency situation. Particularly in male cats, the urethra can become plugged or blocked with small urinary crystals, stones, or mucus that has accumulated in the urine. This does not allow urine to flow through the urethra and therefore the animal cannot empty their bladder. The consequences of this can de detrimental and devastating. A build up of urine in the bladder leads to a build up of toxins and electrolyte imbalances in the blood. Many owners report signs of nausea/vomiting, anorexia and lethargy as a result of their pet being blocked. Further, as a cat remains blocked for an extended period of time, we begin to see changes in their cardiac conduction and can see arrhythmias develop quickly. In many cases we will also see acute kidney injury. A blocked cat is a medical emergency and should be treated as quickly as possible.
Initial treatment for these patients includes effectively unblocking the urethra by placing a urinary catheter. Oftentimes this involves anesthetizing the animal, particularly in cases of a severe blockage. From there the patient will typically remain in hospital for several days for IV diuresis and monitoring, while receiving medications such as analgesics (pain relief) and urethral relaxants. The discharge plan for these patients often includes a diet change to a urinary dissolution diet along with some environment enrichment modifications in the home.
The recovery process can be lengthy and there is potential for additional complications, however, despite the severity of a urethral obstruction, many cats that are effectively and efficiently treated in a timely manner have a very positive prognosis. An important note to consider is that the reoccurrence rate in these patients is quite high and proper preventative urinary care is crucial to their long-term prognosis. With an appropriate diet and environmental enrichment plan, cats with urinary issues can live long and happy lives!
When you need to bring your beloved pet to the vet, contact the professionals at Toronto AMS for the safest, most convenient way to get them there.
Photo by Nathalie Spehner
Caitlyn A. is a Registered Veterinary Technician and a valued member of Toronto AMS.