FLUTD and UTI in Cats: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
What Causes FLUTD?
Feline lower urinary tract disease is a blanket term covering a variety of different conditions linked to difficulty passing urine.
These issues include:
- Inflammation of the bladder or urethra
- Calcium oxylate crystals in the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra
- Struvite crystals in the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra
- Physical trauma
- Bacterial infection
About 60% of FLUTD cases are idiopathic - in other words, the cause of the disease is unknown.
Signs that Your Cat Has a Lower Urinary Tract Disease
If your cat has FLUTD, it's critical that you identify it as soon as possible. Symptoms appear suddenly and the disease can progress fast. One day your cat can be perfectly fine and on the following day, they may have a completely blocked urethra. A total urethral blockage is highly dangerous: toxins will build up in your cat's system. If the blockage isn't solved within 2-3 days, this could lead to death.
So how do you know if your cat has a FLUTD?
Here are the signs:
- Excessive licking of the genitals
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Straining to urinate - or not being able to urinate at all!
- Blood in the urine
- Crying while in the litter box
If you notice these symptoms, act fast.
Has Your Cat Ever Had a Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
But...What really CAUSES Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease?
What is the real reason why so many cats suffer from urinary tract disease?
And the best answer that I've discovered over the course of several years of research is...dehydration. There are essentially two schools of thought with regard to the link between diet and FLUTD.
One focuses on the PH levels of food and the other emphasizes the importance of its moisture content.
PH and FLUTD
Struvite crystals are alkaline stones that may form anywhere in your cats lower urinary tract, leading to difficulty passing urine and, potentially, total blockage. These uroliths can be treated and prevented with a low PH diet.
Dry cat food for urinary tract health is based on the idea that a lower PH food can help to reduce the risk of developing crystals.
Interestingly enough, this approach to preventing urinary tract disease was once more relevant than it is today. For example,in 1984, struvite crystals were the most common type of urinary crystals seen in cats, meaning that a less alkaline diet was a valid solution. But considering that struvite crystals are no longer as common, a slightly acidic diet is far less likely to solve your cat's problems.
Hydration and FLUTD
Cats are obligate carnivores - but not really obligate water-drinkers. You see, cats ancestors lived in the desert and would have to get most of their moisture from their prey. That worked pretty well, since cats naturally eat animals that consist of about 30% water.
But over the years, cats have moved away from that original diet and often live off of dry food. While their diets have changed, their natural instincts remain the same. They just don't have very strong thirst drives. Cats who eat dry food, in all likelihood, don't drink enough water to stay hydrated.
The urinary tract demands water! Water helps everything flush through the bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra, including toxins. A chronically dehydrated cat (read: essentially any cat on a dry diet) will tend to have an unhealthy urinary tract.
The Link Between Dry Food and FLUTD
The Jerusalem Study is an interesting study that I always like to cite because it so clearly highlights the link between dry food and feline lower urinary tract. In this study, of 82 cats diagnosed with urethral obstruction, 83% consumed only dry food. The remaining sick cats ate a combination of both types. Not ONE of those cats ate only wet food. A high-moisture diet just didn't seem to have anything to do with urethral obstruction.
Dry Food and FLUTD
What Type of Food do You Feed Your Cat?
What Should I Do if My Cat Has FLUTD?
As always, we aren't veterinarians and can't give you medical advice.
Feline lower urinary tract disease is a serious condition with serious consequences. If at all possible, please have your cat checked out by a veterinarian. It's often impossible to diagnose your cat at home and in some cases, appropriate treatment can involve measures that go beyond a simple home remedy.
Treatments for FLUTD include:
- Antibiotics for bacterial cystitis
- Surgery to remove urethral plug
- Surgery to extract bladder stones
- Strategically increasing water intake and managing stress
But you can also treat your cat's FLUTD with home remedies.
Apple Cider Vinegar for FLUTD: Does it Work?
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Cure FLUTD and UTI in Cats?
Apple cider vinegar is a old-time folk remedy that has a long history with UTI for humans and apparently can help cats with FLUTD.
One study indicated that out of 43 cats that had been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, apple cider vinegar helped to treat 41 of those cats. That's a 95% success rate.
How does it work?
Apple cider vinegar is acidic - this means that it makes an unfriendly environment for bacteria in the case that your cat's illness is caused by a bacterial infection. If your cat has alkaline crystals, the acidic apple cider vinegar can help with those, too.
To treat your cat's FLUTD with apple cider vinegar, we recommend giving your cat 1-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to about 1/4 cup of water, providing about a teaspoon each hour. In order to accomplish this, you can either give your cat the solution in their food or by squeezing it into your cat's mouth using a syringe. Your cat will likely not enjoy the taste - not many people would, either! That said, it's completely safe for your cat to drink apple cider vinegar.
Does it have to be organic and unfiltered?
We've heard of people who swear by using only organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. At the same time, we have seen people who've successfully treated their cat's FLUTD with filtered apple cider vinegar. Because unfiltered ACV is more nutritionally complex, we do recommend choosing raw.
Monitor your cat closely! If you don't see an improvement within 1-2 days, please seek further professional care.