Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Diseases of the lower urinary tract occur frequently
in cats, affecting the bladder and/or the urethra (the tube that carries urine
from the bladder to the outside of the body). Most cats with lower urinary tract
disease show remarkably similar signs, but to varying degrees. Cats will strain
and make frequent and prolonged attempts to urinate, but usually the amount of
urine passed during each attempt is quite small.
Affected cats tend to lick their
genital area excessively, and sometimes they will urinate outside the litter box,
often preferring cool, smooth surfaces like a tile floor or a bathtub. Occasionally,
there will be blood present in the urine.
Idiopathic Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Although cats with lower urinary tract disease behave
in similar ways, the potential causes are multiple. Urinary tract infections (bacterial,
fungal, parasitic, and perhaps viral), urinary stones, urethral plugs, cancer,
and other disorders can affect the lower urinary tract of the cat. Unfortunately,
in spite of extensive diagnostic tests, the cause of over half of the cases of
feline lower urinary tract disease remains elusive; such disorders are called
idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease (IFLUTD).
Cats suffering from IFLUTD
make frequent attempts to urinate, probably as a result of bladder discomfort,
and often are found to have blood in their urine. Dietary management has reduced
the likelihood that cats with IFLUTD will develop a urethral obstruction, but
there is no evidence that these "special" diets have reduced the incidence of
idiopathic feline lower urinary tract disease itself.
Veterinarians have recently noted many similarities
between this common form of feline lower urinary tract disease and a bladder disorder
affecting humans called interstitial cystitis (IC). A psychologically stressful
event often precedes the onset of lower urinary tract discomfort due to interstitial
cystitis in humans. Interestingly, in one study, a recent weather change or a
move to a new environment both potentially stressful events to a cat were
factors related to the onset of signs related to IFLUTD.
A number of therapeutic methods have been attempted,
but none are uniformly successful in the treatment of either IC in humans or IFLUTD
in cats. Studies are ongoing to determine whether the human and the feline disorder
are truly the same, and whether therapies helpful for humans will be of benefit
to cats as well. Thankfully, most cases of IFLUTD resolve within a short period
of time, even without treatment.