This week we’re focusing on feline urinary health: What can go wrong? How to spot a bladder health problem in your cat? And what can be done to help maintain a healthy bladder?
The urinary system of cats (encompassing the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) appears to be prone to developing issues. Studies point to around 3-4%1 of the UK’s cat population being affected by bladder and kidney issues. This compares to a prevalence of only 1% of the dog population2. It isn’t clear why this is the case but with so many cats affected, it pays to help your cat maintain excellent urinary health and know the signs of problems to watch out for.
FLUTD or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease describes a group of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats. Common causes include bacterial infection, stones/crystals developing in the urine or most commonly, a sterile inflammation of the bladder thought to be related to stress, called FIC (Feline Idiopathic Cystitis). Whilst FIC is responsible for 60-70% of cases3 of FLUTD, it is important to note that only 5-15% of all cases of FLUTD are linked with a bacterial infection3 so most cases do not require the use of antibiotics. This is good news in light of the growing global issue of antibiotic resistance.
FLUTD affects both male and female cats but as male cats have a longer narrower urethra which can more easily become blocked by inflammatory debris and stones, they are more prone to developing a life-threatening complication of FLUTD whereby the cat cannot pass urine at all. This is referred to as becoming ‘blocked’ and requires immediate emergency veterinary attention.
While FLUTD can occur at any age, it is most common in cats aged 1-4 years old5. With young male cats being most prone to developing FIC and older female cats prone to bacterial infection. There is also evidence to suggest that a cat’s environment and lifestyle can impact their urinary health. We will explore this in more detail but in short, bladder health problems are common in cats of all ages and sexes and should be taken seriously.
Urinary problems may develop slowly or suddenly appear, seemingly overnight. Given the secretive nature of many cats, they may choose to hide signs of a health issue until it becomes a significant problem for them and so it is best to pay attention to even subtle signs of change. Pay attention if you notice any of the following...
It goes without saying that if you are concerned your cat is showing any/some of the above signs, the best thing to do is immediately speak with your vet and have your cat examined by them without delay.
Certain factors can put your cat at risk of developing a urinary health issue. Some you can take steps to avoid, whilst others are sadly unavoidable.
STRESS - Thought to be a key factor in the development of FIC.
BODYWEIGHT - Overweight cats are more likely to suffer from FLUTD.
WATER INTAKE - Cats who drink less have more concentrated urine which appears to increase crystal/stone formation in some.
EXERCISE - Cats with sedentary lifestyles or those who have no/limited access to the outdoors have a tendency to develop FLUTD.
NEUTERING - In spite of its many benefits, neutering predisposes some cats to developing FLUTD.
FOOD - Cats fed on dry diets have been shown to be more at risk than those fed mainly a wet food.
Read on to understand where you can make a difference...
INCREASE WATER INTAKE
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