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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

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Author: Oliver Wilkinson, Posted: Saturday, 24th February 2018, 09:00

Cat cystitis is a common and sometimes problematic issue that is frequently encountered. Recently I had to perform a very complex operation on a male cat that had had repeated blockages of his bladder due to bladder stones lodging in the tip of his urethra (the urethra is the tube that runs out from the bladder through which urine exits the body). The only long-term solution for this male cat was to create a type of stoma (an opening higher up in his urethra) where he could pee through that was at a much wider point of his urethra and wouldn’t get blocked by small stones. As you can imagine, operating on such tiny structures and in such a delicate area is fraught with risks and difficulties.

Triggered by stress, diet and weight
Fortunately this type of operation is only performed very rarely, as most cases can be managed without surgery. Cystitis is essentially inflammation of the bladder. In humans it is often caused by an infection but in cats the story is often a lot more complex. It is often triggered by issues such as anxiety, stress, diet, activity levels, weight and other health problems. You might think cats don’t have much to get stressed about, but lots of things can make them anxious. Cats are often much happier as solitary creatures so having multiple cats or introducing a puppy to the household can cause a lot of anxiety. Being harassed by the local tom cat can also be very unnerving. Other illnesses can trigger cystitis – cats become stressed when unwell, and there is a strong link between diabetes and thyroid disease with cystitis. Cats do like things ‘just so’ and any significant change to their normal comfortable lifestyle can increase their stress levels.

Humans with cystitis are advised to drink as much water as possible to dilute the urine and flush out the bladder. That’s not easy advice to give a cat, but if they have cystitis we can encourage them by switching from dry food to wet food which will, by default, mean they are consuming more fluid. I also often encourage owners to get a cat drinking fountain (a water bowl that creates a tap-like trickle of water) as cats often like to drink from running water.

Medication-wise there are nutritional supplements that can help with both stress and bladder health. We may also prescribe anti-inflammatories for pain relief and antibiotics if an infection is definitely present. Sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture to work out why a cat has had a bout of cystitis and how to prevent recurrent episodes. The most common cat that gets cystitis is overweight, sedentary and fed mostly dry food.

If your cat has had cystitis it is worth discussing with your vet what can be done to prevent long-term problems.

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