Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) in cats
Published on 10 Jun 2021
Is your cat having “accidents” in strange locations? They might have Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease.
What is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)?
As the name suggests, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is the term given for a collection of conditions that affect the lower urinary tract of cats. The lower urinary tract includes the bladder, the urinary sphincter and the urethra which is the tube that urine passes through on its way out of the body.
Lower urinary tract disease can be caused by problems such as bladder stones (or uroliths), urinary blockages, urinary tract infections, bladder inflammation, congenital abnormalities, tumours, or other underlying diseases which can include endocrine (hormonal) diseases and diabetes.
Which pets are most affected?
FLUTD can occur in any breed, sex, and age of cat however, PetSure claims data from 2020 indicates that FLUTD occurred in cats most frequently between 1 and 4 years of age.
According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), FLUTD is most prevalent in the following breeds:
|Exotic Short Hair||1.13%|
|Domestic Short Hair||0.87%|
|British Short Hair||0.87%|
|Domestic Medium Hair||0.80%|
|Domestic Long Hair||0.78%|
*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.
There are some factors that are known to increase the risk of FLUTD in cats including obesity, stress, and exclusively dry food diets. In addition, male cats are at higher risk of having a urinary blockage, because their urethra is narrower than that of females, meaning it can become blocked more easily.
Signs of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
The most common signs of FLUTD are associated with urination. Cats may be noted to appear to have difficulty passing urine and may cry while they are trying to go to the toilet.
They may go to the litter box more often than usual or spend more time in the litter box than they usually would. Some cats may start urinating in strange places.
The urine may appear very dark or bloody.
Some cats will spend extra time licking their genital area than usual.
When there is a urinary blockage, this is an emergency condition and cats are often distressed and they may even have a swollen abdomen. In cases where they have had a blockage for a prolonged period, cats may be lethargic, collapse and can die.
If you are concerned that your cat has urinary disease, get in touch with your vet who will be able to assist you.
Diagnosing Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
The first stage of diagnosing FLUTD will involve the Vet taking a clinical history. This means finding out as much information as possible about the patient including whether there is a history of stress, the type of food the feline patient eats, and whether there have been prior incidences of urinary problems. A thorough physical exam of the pet patient will also be performed.
It is not uncommon for a urine sample to be collected via cystocentesis which means directly from the bladder with a needle. This sample can then be tested for bacteria, blood, and other abnormalities. X-rays or ultrasound may be recommended to check the bladder, kidneys, and other structures for abnormalities. Blood tests are often recommended to check vital electrolyte balances in the blood as well as check organ function like the kidneys.
Management of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
Managing FLUTD depends on the underlying cause. Bladder inflammation and infections are painful, so pain relief is often recommended. Antibiotics are indicated when there is an infection. Dietary changes are often recommended for cats with chronic FLUTD. This can mean a change to a special prescription diet for urinary tract disease or making a change from dry to wet food to increase the amount of water the cat is consuming which helps to dilute the urine.
Other management practices at home including increasing the number of litter trays available, purchasing a water fountain to encourage cats to drink, and reducing stress in the household. These are often advised to help tackle FLUTD when no medical cause can be found (known as idiopathic FLUTD). Weight loss is often recommended in overweight cats.
Urethral blockage is an emergency condition which requires dislodging the obstruction and emptying the bladder as well as supportive care which often includes hospitalisation, intravenous fluids, and other medications. Other treatments may include surgery on tumours, or by way of a procedure called a urethrostomy, create a wider opening for urine to pass through and prevent future obstructions.
How much does it cost to treat?
According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to FLUTD was $449, with the highest, single treatment cost being $10,013. It is important to highlight that FLUTD can require ongoing management.
The overall treatment cost of managing FLUTD will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to those treatments.
Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.
- American Veterinary Medical Association, “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease”, accessed on 14/04/21
- International Cat Care, “Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)”, accessed on 14/04/21
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