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What Is Feline Cystitis?

The term "cystitis" literally means irritation of the urinary bladder. Although this term is rather general, there is a common form of cystitis that occurs in male and female cats. This disease is also known as Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS) or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). It affects the bladder (not the kidneys), resulting in the production of tiny crystals and bloody urine. The cat often urinates much more frequently than normal, usually with the passage of only a few drops of urine. This can be confused with constipation. Many cats will urinate in places other than the litter box due to the irritation of the bladder wall, Hard cool surfaces such as tile floors, counter tops, sinks, and bathtubs are often used. They should not be punished for doing so.

What Causes Feline Cystitis?

We are not completely sure of the cause of this problem. Bacterial infections are the most common cause of cystitis in dogs and humans, but most cats with cystitis do not have bacteria in their urine. Neutering of male cats has been proposed as a potential cause, but this has been disproved as an initiating factor. Dry foods may not initiate, but will aggravate the problem after it begins. This is because of the higher mineral content (ash) and lower water content of dry foods. A herpes virus has also been incriminated. Despite extensive research, the cause remains elusive.

Are Bloody Urine and Straining to Urinate the Main Problems?

Most cats with cystitis exhibit blood in the urine and discomfort in urinating. The discomfort is usually mild but can become much worse if it is not treated. Some cats may develop stones in the bladder which can be surgically removed, or dissolved with a special diet. Male cats may develop enough crystals in the urethra (the narrow tube carrying urine out of the body) to cause an obstruction. This obstruction prevents elimination of urine from the bladder. If the obstruction is not relieved within 48 hours, most cats will die from kidney failure and the retention of toxins that were not removed by the kidneys. Because the urethra is relatively larger in the female cat, the emergency posed by complete obstruction is almost always found in male cats.

How Is Cystitis Treated?

Each cat with cystitis is treated according to the changes in the urine (pH, crystals, bacteria, blood, etc.), the type of crystals present, the presenting clinical signs (straining, increased frequency, etc.), and the presence or absence of a bladder stone or urethral obstruction. The first line of treatment is always to increase water consumption, decrease minerals in the diet and decrease stress. This is accomplished by eliminating dry food, and mixing water in with the canned food (which is preferably a food which promotes an acidic urine pH) If neither a bladder stone nor urethral obstruction is present, proper medication will generally relieve the discomfort. A urinalysis is necessary to determine the proper medication. A special diet will help to dissolve crystals in the urine and hasten recovery. If the cat has an obstruction of the urethra, a catheter is passed into the bladder while he is under a short-acting anesthetic. The catheter is frequently left in place for about 24 hours. The cat is discharged from the hospital when it appears unlikely that obstruction will reoccur, usually 1-2 days later. If he is experiencing kidney failure and toxemia, intravenous fluids and additional hospitalization are needed.

How Long Is Treatment Continued?

Following initial treatment, you may be asked to return the cat in 7-10 days for a recheck of the urine. This is very important because some cats will appear to feel much better, but the urine is still bloody or contains crystals. If medication is stopped based on how the cat appears to feel, treatment may terminated prematurely and a relapse will probably occur.

Can Cystitis Occur Again?

After one episode of cystitis, a cat is predisposed to recurrence. This is due to both systemic and environmental factors. This is the primary reason that an appropriate diet should be fed in the future.

Are There Ways to Prevent Recurrence?

Two things should be done to help prevent recurrence.

1. The most common type of crystals present in the urine are called struvite. These are dissolvable in acidic urine. Therefore, acidification of your cat's urine can be a significant means of prevention. It has been shown that environmental stress can produce the opposite of acidic (alkaline) urine. This is why cases of feline cystitis are associated with stress, e.g. travel, new pets, new people etc. Several special foods are available which acidify the urine. However, if your cat's crystals are not struvite, acidification may actually make recurrence more likely. Therefore, if at all possible, the crystals in the urine should be analyzed for their composition. This is the most important step in preventing future problems..
2. Restrict the cat's intake of dry cat food. Though dry foods do not cause cystitis, several studies have shown that the cat's total fluid intake is decreased when dry diets are fed. When the fluid intake is decreased, the urine is more concentrated with minerals and other materials that can cause future episodes of cystitis. Canned foods can result in increased fluid intake and more dilute urine. However, we know that many cats do not like canned food and that there are several distinct advantages to feeding dry food. Therefore, if there have been only a few infrequent episodes of cystitis, these other factors may be more important..

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.homevet.com