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Cystitis, FLUTD, crystals, etc.

Treatment of feline lower urinary tract disease

Moisture is imperative to urinary tract health. Cats with histories of urinary tract stones, cystitis, urinary tract infections, and other urinary tract disorders should be fed all wet food, canned or raw.


Urine is composed of water and sediment, byproducts filtered out by the kidneys. A urinalysis will determine urine’s specific gravity. The specific gravity measures how much of the urine is composed of sediment. If the urine is composed of too much sediment, or high specific gravity, stones may develop. There are two common forms of stones. One forms when the urine is too acidic (pH is too low), the other when the urine is too alkaline (pH is too high). Crystals may form in urine within 30 minutes after collection, creating a false positive, so diagnosis should be done promptly and carefully.

If a cat is straining to urinate and not producing urine, it may have a life-threatening blockage and should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. A blockage can cause death within hours. Surgery may be needed to remove the stones.

Cystitis or Inflammation

Cystitis is simply inflammation of the urinary tract. It may result in blood in the urine and frequent urination, perhaps of small amounts. In many cases, the cause is stress or is unknown. It may occur in conjunction with stones or infection, or alone. Cystitis generally resolves on its own in a few days. Antibiotics are unnecessary and will not shorten the duration of cystitis.

Bacterial infections

The symptoms of a bacterial urinary tract infection are similar to cystitis. Bacterial urinary tract infections are rare in cats that do not have diabetes or kidney disease. Most cases are cystitis. Diagnosis should be done using a culture & sensitivity (C&S). Urine should be collected through a needle inserted into the bladder (cystocentesis) to avoid any contamination of the sample from urine on the cat’s fur or collection container used. Anesthesia is not necessary for the procedure. A C&S will identify the type of bacteria present, and the best antibiotic for treatment. Overuse of antibiotics is detrimental, so a C&S is imperative for differentiating a bacterial infection from cystitis. Both conditions can result in blood as well as white blood cells to be present in the urine.


Urinary tract stones, cystitis (urinary tract inflammation), and bacterial urinary tract infections are all more likely to be avoided by feeding an all-wet diet, canned or raw. Dry food exacerbates urinary tract problems by increasing the urine’s specific gravity and decreasing the volume of water flushing out sediment, decreasing the frequency it is flushed out. An all-canned diet has been shown more effective at preventing urinary tract stones than prescription dry food.

Meal-feeding, rather than free-feeding, helps maintain a proper pH balance in cats’ urine

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For futher information, visit:

Feline Urinary Tract Health: Cystitis, Urethral Obstruction, Urinary Tract Infection by Lisa Pierson, DVM

Management of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease by S. Dru Forrester, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease by Andrew H. Sparkes, BvetMed, PhD, DECVIM, MRCVS. WSAVA 2006

Lower Urinary Tract Disease - Feline by David Senior, Professor and Head, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Louisiana State University, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA. WSAVA 2006

Clinical evaluation of commercially available urinary acidification diets in the management of idiopathic cystitis in cats. Markwell PJ, Buffington CA, Chew DJ, Kendall MS, Harte JG, DiBartola SP, J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1999 Feb 1;214(3):361-5.

Clinical evaluation of cats with nonobstructive urinary tract diseases. Buffington CA, Chew DJ, Kendall MS, Scrivani PV, Thompson SB, Blaisdell JL, Woodworth BE, J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1997 Jan 1;210(1):46-50

Idiopathic/Interstitial Cystitis in Cats: Diagnosis and Management Dennis J. Chew, DVM Diplomate ACVIM (Internal Medicine), CAT Buffington, DVM PhD Diplomate ACVN

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (Session 1), Sterile Cystitis (Session 2) Tony Buffington - WSAVA 2001

Idiopathic cystitis: Recurrence rates can impact almost half of patientsBy: Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM - DVM news magazine, Mar 1, 2006

Amitriptyline treatment for severe recurrent idiopathic cystitis in cats. Chew DJ, Buffington CA, Kendall MS, DiBartola SP, Woodworth BE., J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1998 Nov 1;213(9):1282-6

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease by Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

Bladder Stones by Mar Vista Animal Medical Center

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease by Danielle A Gunn-Moore

Non-obstructive Idiopathic/Interstitial Cystitis in Cats: Thinking Outside the (Litter) Box Dennis J. Chew, DVM, DACVIM (Internal Medicine), Charles A. Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN

Treating Cats with Idiopathic Cystitis - What is the evidence? by Joseph W Bartges, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVIM, Dip. ACVN

Urinalysis Revisited by Antech Diagnostics January 2006: A good resource on collecting samples for urinalysis.

Date last updated: 01/04/2010

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