In cats

Feline lower urinary tract disease

This is a common condition affecting the urinary tract from the bladder to the external orifice via the urethra. It can encompass cystitis, which is a bladder inflammation that many women can relate to

Typical symptoms of the disease are frequent straining to produce very small quantities of frequently blood-stained urine. Often owners will think the straining is due to constipation. On examination the lower bowel is empty. In male cats there is a real danger the urethra may become obstructed by crystalline or sabulous (cheesy) material. This is a life-threatening situation if urine flow is not quickly re-established

In a majority (63%) of cases the cause of the condition is idiopathic (unknown). Generally only a small percentage (1-3%) of cases are due to infection. Sometimes stress (e.g. the presence of an aggressive nearby cat) can precipitate the condition. Sudden cold weather changes can be a factor as the cat may be reluctant to go outside to urinate. Obese cats that are too lazy to go outside are more susceptible

On veterinary examination the cat’s bladder may be small, hard and painful. In obstructed cats the bladder can be as large and as hard as a cricket ball. Urethral catheterization under general anaesthesia must be performed immediately. The catheter is sutured in place for some days and often the cat is put on a drip to flush out the bladder

In many non-obstructed cats the condition will resolve itself in a few days. Many drugs e.g. antibiotics, analgesics, antispasmodics, anti-inflammatories, cortisone and amitriptyline have been attributed to resolving the condition, but their efficacy is unproved. If crystals are present, urinary acidifiers are indicated to dissolve them

Recurrent episodes are common. Feeding the cat sloppy wet food to increase water consumption is recommended and less dry food may help with weight loss. If crystals are an underlying cause then special prescription diets to keep the urine acid may be indicated. Repeated cases of urethral obstruction can be avoided surgically by performing a perineal urethrostomy which is basically a sex change operation to create a urethra with a much larger diameter