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What is Feline Urinary Syndrome (F.U.S.)?

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), more commonly known as feline urinary syndrome (F.U.S.), is a scientific term used to describe a variety of urinary tract disorders in cats, including kidney and bladder stones, urinary blockage, and cystitis (an infection or inflammation of the bladder). Since numerous conditions fall into this diagnosis, it can be confusing to veterinarians and pet owners alike.

Male cats are much more likely to get this disease than females. While there is no specific means of prevention, a healthy and properly balanced diet can significantly reduce the chances of your cat getting FLUTD / FUS.

Treatment can vary from specialized diet to surgery. Cats usually recover if the disease is caught in time, although cats need to be carefully watched for any recurrence of FLUTD. It's important to note that FLUTD or FUS is NOT a specific diagnosis — there are many known and some unknown factors that may cause or contribute to FLUTD / FUS.

FLUTD will affect nearly 30% of all domestic cats in their lifetime, and the pain associated with FUS will likely cause great anxiety to the owners of their felines. First infections usually occur between the ages of two to six years old, and if the cat does develop a case of FLUTD / FUS, it is very important to take the measures prescribed by your veterinarian and also to start preventative treatment for the future. About 10% to 20% of these animals will develop recurring problems with FUS if they are not helped with preventative treatment.

FLUTD can be caused by several factors (and combinations of these factors), which include stress, urinary pH, water and fiber intake in the cat's diet, and the ash content in the diet.

What can I do to help prevent FUS / FLUTD?

Always make sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your kitty, and it doesn't hurt to add water to wet food that your cat may be used to eating. Dry foods generally contain more fiber than canned and semi-moist foods, and fiber draws water as it travels through the bowel, creating more concentrated urine, especially if the cat doesn't drink enough water.

Dry foods generally also have more ash per gram than moist foods, but moist foods alone cannot prevent FUS. FUS researchers have made a connection between high urinary pH levels and magnesium. Look at the foods you are feeding your cat very carefully; some cat food manufacturers, including Flint River Ranch, have supplemented their dry and canned offerings with pH-controlling acidifiers like DL-Methionine to help to keep the cat's urine pH in the normal range of between 6 and 6.5.

Flint River Ranch's Premium Cat Food for kittens and adult cats, Flint River Ranch's Premium Lite Cat Food weight control recipe, and Flint River Ranch's Premium Hairball Management Formula Cat Food are all examples of diets that contain low ash and magnesium content and the acidifiers needed for maintaining proper pH.

Helping to keep your cat fit and healthy is also important, as FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and/or FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also known as Feline AIDs) positive cats are at higher risk for FLUTD / FUS because their normal immune system responses aren't working properly. High sugar content in the urine of diabetic cats will also provide a great culture media for the bacteria that cause FUS infections.

Finally, stress in cats can definitely contribute to FUS, as many cats hide during stressful periods, and usually do not come out for litterbox trips and water bowl trips.

What symptoms do I look for?

Straining and frequency of urination are the first symptoms of FLUTD / FUS. Chances are, if you observe this behavior, it is more likely to be FLUTD than constipation — and FLUTD requires immediate treatment, while constipation does not. Look very carefully for traces or drops of very dark or bloody urine. Some cats with FLUTD will decide to urinate outside their litterbox, so be careful to investigate thoroughly before chastising your cat if he/she does this behavior.

What are the Treatment Options?

For cats with FLUTD / FUS, you and your veterinarian will be working together to ensure your cat has plenty of fluids, which may require the vet injecting fluid under the skin, or even by intravenous methods, if it is deemed necessary. Antibiotics will often be given to prevent infection, and special diets like FRR Premium Cat Food, FRR Premium Lite Cat Food, and FRR Premium Hairball Management Formula that contain low ash and magnesium content and the acidifiers needed for maintaining proper pH are key.

Getting your cat to drink more water is essential in recovery from FLUTD / FUS. You will need to monitor your cat's intake of food and water, and output of urine very carefully, so be sure to only use a small amount of litter. You'll also want to check the color and consistency of the urine. You should isolate your FUS kitty from any other cats in the household to ensure you can monitor, inspect, and encourage him/her during the recovery time.

If FLUTD/FUS is indicated without obstruction, 75 to 80% of FUS cats without obstruction may be successfully managed by special diet alone if urine reveals typical crystals and red blood cells. Unobstructed male cats or non-uremic obstructed males who have a good urine stream and bladder function after relief of an early obstruction may be managed as above initially. Cats who are symptom-free after 7 to 10 days of dietary management and who have normal follow-up urines at 21 days, may be maintained indefinitely with dietary management only.

What happens if my cat has repeated FLUTD / FUS blockage?

Male cats, in particular, are prime candidates for repeat blockage. Sometimes, there may be an accumulation of scar tissue along the urethral wall, which causes a permanent narrowing of the canal. These cats may be candidates for a surgery called "Perineal Urethrostomy," which enlarges the urethral opening by shortening the male penis and urethra to create a wider urine canal.

Surgery should always be a last resort, and once cats have had this surgery, they are more prone to urinary tract infections because of the shorter distance from the anus to the new urethral opening; however, since total blockage is a life-and-death situation, be sure to discuss this treatment with your veterinarian if your male cat has continued serious problems with FUS.

What exactly is Cystitis?

When something irritates the internal bladder wall, this causes inflammation of the bladder, which is cystitis. Some common causes of this irritation can be due to the cat retaining urine for an extended amount of time, the presence of stones or crystals which rub against the bladder wall, or infectious organisms that have built up inside the bladder.

Since the anus of the cat is located directly above the urethral opening (in both males and females), this gives feces and bacteria an easy opportunity to collect and colonize in the urethra and bladder. This is normally not a problem with regular urination and healthy urinary tract cells, but it can become a problem with decreased urine volume, which leads to increased concentration of urine. Crystals, bacteria, and sloughed-off cells may cause a disruption of the urinary tract's normal defenses, leading to a FLUTD / FUS attack.

If you notice your kitty feeling like he/she needs to urinate frequently, but does not produce much urine in the litterbox, this is a possible symptom of early cystitis, and you should IMMEDIATELY take your kitty to the veterinarian. If it is FUS, and is not treated, complete blockage will happen when the attack reaches the acute stage, when the cat's bladder becomes painfully distended with urine still being produced by the kidneys.

Uremic Poisoning, which is the accumulation of poisonous wastes in the blood stream caused by the inability of the kidneys to eliminate poisonous wastes from the body, can cause permanent damage to the bladder and will also cause death if not immediately treated by a professional, skilled veterinarian. Many sources state that you only have 72 hours (at the most — many cats have much less time than this) at this acute stage to make sure the blockage is corrected before the bladder ruptures and the cat dies.

The bottom line, however, is that the cat is suffering a great deal of pain and distress at this point, and every minute counts to save his life and prevent permanent damage.

Recommended Products:

Related terms: Cystitis, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), Feline Urinary Syndrome (F.U.S.), Uremic Poisoning, Perineal Urethrostomy, DL-Methionine, pH-balancing acidifiers

Additional Information on FLUTD / FUS:

Common Health Problems: What is FUS?
Cornell Veterinary Medicine - Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Diseases of the Lower Urinary Tract

FAQs: Pet Health Risks and Remedies

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