Cystitis is a general term referring to inflammation in the urinary bladder. The term cystitis does not imply a specific underlying cause.
In cats, diseases of the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra) are grouped under the term ‘feline lower urinary tract disease’ (FLUTD) as it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between diseases of the bladder and urethra, and many diseases will affect both structures.
Typical signs in cats with FLUTD are those of inflammation and irritation of the lower urinary tract. The common signs are therefore:-
With the latter sign particularly (straining without the passage of any urine), it is important to seek urgent veterinary attention as complete blockage to the flow of urine can be a life-threatening complication if left untreated.
There are a vast number of potential causes of FLUTD, but in many cats there may be severe inflammation of the bladder and/or urethra without an identifiable underlying cause (so called ‘idiopathic’ FLUTD). These idiopathic cases have to be differentiated from other potential causes of the clinical signs though so that appropriate treatment can be given. Some of the potential causes of FLUTD are listed below:
The initial diagnosis of FLUTD is based on the identification of signs of lower urinary tract inflammation. The clinical signs displayed by the cat are often characteristic of FLUTD, but where there is doubt, analysis of a urine sample will confirm the presence of inflammation or blood.
Initially, a cat with uncomplicated FLUTD may be treated symptomatically by a veterinary surgeon (for example with a short course of tablets). However, if the signs do not respond to this treatment, or if there is a recurrence of the clinical signs further investigation may be required to identify the underlying cause of the FLUTD.
Where clinical signs are persistent or recurrent, a number of investigations may be required to differentiate idiopathic FLUTD from the other known causes of urinary tract inflammation.
These investigations may include:
The information from these investigations should help to identify a specific treatable underlying cause if one is present.
This depends on the underlying cause. For example:
There is no universal treatment for FLUTD. Each case has to be investigated to determine the underlying cause, and then the treatment has to be tailored to the individual cat. Sometimes despite appropriate investigation and treatment clinical signs may still recur, requiring further therapy.
It is impossible to completely prevent diseases of the lower urinary tract occurring. However, FLUTD is more common in cats that have a lower water consumption, and in cats that are inactive and obese or suffer from stress. All these factors may relate, at least in part, to the frequency with which a cat urinates. Avoidance of obesity and encouraging exercise may be of some help in preventing FLUTD, and as cats tend to drink very little the feeding of at least some tinned/wet food rather than exclusively a dry cat food product will help to maintain a higher water intake. Some cats get FLUTD whenever they eat dry cat food.
Products like Feliway help reduce stress as does simple things such as having a couple of litter trays inside, clean and easily accessible.
If a cat develops urinary calculi stones), the feeding of special diets (available from veterinary surgeons) may help to prevent recurrence of stone formation.