Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), is a catch-all phrase which describes several conditions affecting the lower urinary tract of cats. The three most common conditions are: feline idiopathic cystitis, bladder stones and blockages of the urethra caused by the accumulation of urinary crystals (urethral plugs).
What are the Symptoms of FLUTD and What Are Its Causes?
These conditions cause a variety of symptoms such as blood in the urine, frequent urination, painful urination and urination inappropriate urination (outside of the litter box).
"Urinary crystals are one cause of feline lower urinary tract disease that occurs when crystals accumulate in the urinary tract," says Dr. Simon Starkey, PetSmart veterinary expert. "The crystals may form stones and the urinary tract can become obstructed with these stones, preventing urine from passing. Urinary obstructions related to FLUTD can be life-threatening."
Crystals themselves can form smaller aggregates, called plugs, which may block the urethra, particularly in male cats, says Starkey. Given the range of possible causes of urinary tract disease and the potentially life-threatening nature of certain forms of FLUTD, Dr. Starkey always recommends a trip to the veterinarian if your cat is showing any urinary symptoms.
The two of the most common types of crystals associated with FLUTD are struvite and calcium oxalate. Struvite crystals form when the urine pH is higher or alkaline. Calcium oxalate crystals form in more acidic urine when the pH is lower.
While dogs can be affected by urinary stones and blockage, these disorders are more prevalent in cats.
How can Urinary Health Cat Food Help?
Nutrition is an important factor in treating and preventing FLUTD related to urinary crystals or stones.
"The proper balance of nutrients helps maintain proper urine pH levels which if too acidic or too alkaline, can create different types of crystals or stones," says Dr. Starkey.
Feeding management is also important in maintaining the proper urine pH. Feeding multiple, small meals throughout the day helps minimize pH fluctuations.
Also, ensure your cat is drinking plenty of water and try to ensure your pet is at a healthy weight as both decreased water consumption and obesity are risk factors for urinary tract disease.
While surgery is sometimes needed to treat FLUTD, many cases of struvite crystals or stones can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription foods specially formulated for struvite dissolution and feline urinary tract health If you suspect your cat has urinary stones or crystals, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before attempting to treat your cat with a targeted diet because diets designed to dissolve and prevent struvite crystals may not be effective against calcium oxalate stones and may worsen that condition.
If your cat is susceptible to struvite crystals, look for foods that:
Are specially formulated for urinary health that have been tested extensively
Have the proper mix of nutrients which aids in the production of acidic urine to prevent struvite formation
Are low in dietary magnesium (less than 0.14%)
The information used in this report is approved by PetSmart nutritionists and vet experts.
Information from "Small Animal Clinical Nutrition," 5th Edition, Hand, Thatcher, Remillard, Roudebush, Novotny, Copyright 2010 by Mark Morris Institute was used in this report.
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