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Feline Urinary Tract Disease


FUS ~Feline Urologic Syndrome

What is FUS?? Feline Urologic Syndrome is an over-all term used to describe lower urinary tract disorders, including kidney and bladder stones, urinary blockage, and cystitis (infection or inflammation of the bladder). Since numerous conditions fall into this diagnosis, it can be confusing to veterinarians and pet owners, alike.

What Causes FUS, and is it common?? What is known is that FUS will affect nearly 30% of all domestic cats in their lifetime, and the pain that is associated with FUS will 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 FUS, it is very important to take the measures prescribed by your veterinarian, and start preventative treatment for the future, also. About 10 to 20% of these animals will develop recurring problems with FUS if they are not helped with preventative treatment. FUS can be caused by several factors, and combinations of these factors, which include stress, urinary pH, water and fiber intake in the animal's diet, and the ash content in the animal's diet.

What 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 (both male and female) is located directly above the urethral opening, 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 can become a problem with decreased urine volume (which leads to increased concentration of urine), and crystals, bacteria, and sloughed off cells may cause a disruption of the urinary tract's normal defenses, leading to a 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. When that happens, you only have 72 hours to correct the blockage, before the bladder ruptures.

What can I do to help prevent FUS?? 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…and magnesium is found in wet foods too. Look at the foods you are feeding your cat very carefully; some cat food manufacturers have supplemented their dry and canned offerings with pH-controlling acidifiers to help to keep the cat's urine PH in the normal range of between 6 and 6.5

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. Keep an eye on your cat during periods of stress, to keep the stress from helping create a positive environment for an FUS infection. And, helping to keep your cat fit and healthy is also important, as FELV and/or FIV positive cats are at higher risk for 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.

What Symptoms do I look for?? Straining and frequency are the first symptoms of cystitis, or FUS. Chances are, if you observe this behavior, it is more likely to be FUS than constipation…and FUS requires immediate treatment, while constipation does not. Look very carefully for traces or drops of very dark or bloody urine. Some cats with FUS 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 cystitis, 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. A few of the diets that do contain the acidifiers we mentioned above are: Science Diet's CD, Purina CNM, Wysong's Uretic Diet. Getting your cat to drink more water is essential in FUS recovery. 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.

What Happens if My Cat Has Repeated FUS Blockage?? Male cats, in particular, are repeat blockage candidates. 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 is FIP?

FIP stands for Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the lining if the abdomen and abdominal organs. There are two forms of FIP, referred to as Wet and Dry. In the Wet form (which is more common) the abdomen and/or chest cavity fills with fluid as the body tries to fight the virus.

What are the symptoms?

Clinical signs vary greatly depending upon the form of FIP. Some common signs are:


weight loss

loss of appetite


kidney problems

jaundice (yellowing of mucous membranes)

swollen abdomen

difficulty breathing

Is there a test for FIP?

There is no definitive test for FIP. Diagnosis of the disease is usually made by a series of tests. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical, blood workup, and possibly radiographs to test for the presence of fluid. If fluid is present, your vet may draw some for analysis. There are titer tests, which measure the level of antibodies in the blood. The problem with these tests is that any cat exposed to FIP will develop antibodies, but they will not necessarily get FIP.

We still don't know enough about FIP. This cat tested strongly positive for 6 years with no symptoms, and is now testing negative. What is the treatment for FIP?

Unfortunately there is no treatment for FIP. Supportive care should be administered, and the cat should be kept comfortable and happy for as long as possible. As the disease progresses and the cat becomes increasingly uncomfortable and distressed, euthanasia should be considered.

How is FIP transmitted?

No one knows exactly. It's suspected that the virus is transmitted via feces and urine. It is also thought that the virus could be airborne, and transmitted by sneezing. One thing we do know is that multiple cat households, especially those with stressful conditions, seem to make cats more susceptible to the virus.

How can I protect my cat?

The best way to protect your cat from FIP is prevention. Keep your cat indoors, and away from strange cats. If you have multiple cats, be sure to empty the litterboxes frequently. Also make sure each cat has enough "personal space". There is also a vaccine for FIP, although independent studies question its benefits.

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