Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is a condition we see frequently in clinic and following medical management, the ongoing prevention of urinary conditions reoccuring is heavily reliant on nutritional management, and strict compliance is necessary to save your special cats from unnecessary pain and suffering.
So what is FLUTD?
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease describes a number of symptoms such as blood in urine, straining to urinate, accidents in the house, urinating outside the litter box, vocalising when urinating and frequency in urination that can be caused by and associated with a range of urinary conditions. Urinary crystals, urinary tract infections, stress induced cystitis, and urethral plugs all fall under the umbrella of FLUTD. Although there is a behavioural component of this condition, it’s not to be ignored and you should immediately enlist the help of your vet if your cat is displaying any of these symptoms as they can quickly become a medical emergency. The most common emergency we see in general practice, is an obstructed male cat; this is a cat with FLUTD whose urethra has become blocked by urinary crystals or a mucus plug and cannot urinate. Never delay seeking treatment in these situations.
How does nutrition help?
Therapeutic diets are formulated to provide a number of benefits to your cat suffering from FLUTD. Often after your cat has obstructed once, or has been diagnosed with FLUTD by your vet, it will be recommended you move onto a urinary diet. These diets have a number of functions:
– dissolve crystals that are present in the urine
– lower the urine pH to prevent crystals from forming and reduce the occurrence of infections
– increased sodium levels to encourage drinking to increase how much urine your cat produces
– omega 3’s to reduce inflammation associated with urinary conditions
– tryptophan to help calm cats who have stress induced urinary issues
– controlled levels of magnesium and phosphorus that contribute to the formations of crystals and stones
There are a number of different diets on the market and depending on your pet’s situation, your vet or nutritionist can advise you on which diet is best for you. It’s very important to remember that this diet must be the only food your cat gets, any snacks, treats or other foods can reduce the effectiveness of the prescription food and cause a relapse to occur.
What about over-the-counter urinary diets?
Over the counter urinary diets, such as the type you would by from a pet store, can be helpful in the management of these conditions but I would always recommend starting on a prescription diet initially and seeking the advice of your vet before moving onto an OTC version, as some FLUTD cats are extremely sensitive to dietary changes and can see a rapid relapse in symptoms. Over the counter versions are typically less effective than prescription diets, but may be suitable for cats who have never obstructed and do occasionally exhibit odd bathroom behaviours. For cats that have obstructed, it’s incredibly important that your pet remains on a therapeutic diet for life, to prevent it from happening again.
What about a pure wet food diet?
Adding moisture to your cat’s diet is useful, but it’s not the only treatment for urinary conditions. As per the list above on how urinary diets work, adding moisture just increases urine volume which helps cats who have frequency in urination and frequent UTIs, so as to prevent irritating the urinary tract especially in stress cystitis patients, however will not dissolve crystals to prevent obstruction. Feeding a dry only prescription urinary diet is just as effective as feeding a wet only (or mixed) urinary diet. Just feeding a wet diet of any sort will not protect against urinary issues, it’s important to feed a diet designed for FLUTD.
What about home made diets?
Making your own food for your cat is extremely difficult and I don’t say that lightly. Home made diets are notoriously difficult to make complete and balanced for your pet, and prevent nutritional deficiencies or excesses. Add in needing to control the urine pH and prevent crystals, I’d leave this to the professionals. If you insist on feeding your urinary cat a home made diet, enlist the help of a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist and/or BalanceIt.com – they will provide you with a recipe that you must follow exactly and not change or substitute at all.
Do you have a urinary cat at home? How do you manage their condition?