• Kelowna's Homepage
  • Vernon's Homepage

Feline urinary tract disease

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

If you share your life with a cat, you should be aware of a syndrome called Feline lower urinary tract disease (aka FLUTD). 

This term refers to a number of abnormalities in the urinary tract, including bladder infections and formation of crystals/stones. In severe cases, an obstruction of the urethra can occur, preventing the excretion of urine from the body. This condition is a true emergency situation that is fatal if left untreated.

The most common urinary disease in cats is a bladder infection of an unknown cause. In these cases, an inflammation is recognized but it is impossible to detect the specific cause for it. Often the cause for the chronic inflammation is the formation of urinary crystals, or stones, which are a rock-hard collection of minerals deriving from the food. 

A few factors promote the formation of urinary crystals and stones, the most significant being the urine PH and amount of magnesium in the cat’s diet.

Besides the diet and the urine PH, other factors promote urinary problems in cats such as obesity, dehydration, and bacterial infections. 

The condition is most common among cats aged two to five years old.

Cats are very finicky about their litter box. If the litter box is not clean, the cat may be reluctant to use it, and the prolonged urinary retention will make the cat prone to developing urinary issues.  

People who experienced urinary tract infection know how irritating and uncomfortable it makes one feel. Your cat can show you its distress by signs such as frequent urination, voiding small amount of urine in each urination, presence of blood in the urine, difficulty to urinate exhibited by prolonged squatting and straining, accompanied by pain and excessive licking of the genital area. Urination outside of the litter box is also a common sign that something is wrong. 

The most serious problem associated with urinary function is urethral obstruction. The obstruction is usually formed by small urinary stones that are too small to stay in the bladder but too large to pass in the urine. Another common cause is urinary plugs, formed by minerals, cells and mucus. 

Regardless of the specific cause, the severity of the condition is the inability to pass urine to eliminate the waste toxic substances and imbalance of the body’s electrolytes, which can lethally affect the heart. If the obstruction is not relieved, the cat will eventually lose consciousness and die within 24 to 48 hours from the time of the obstruction.

Male cats are more prone to develop urethral obstruction than females due to their long and narrow urethra. Statistics show that neutered males are at even greater risk of developing the condition.

A blocked cat will show the same signs of FLUTD- frequent attempts to urinate, straining and pain. However, as time passes, an obstructed cat typically becomes much more distressed, they cry in pain, they are very restless, and very sensitive to touch in their abdomen. These kind of symptoms should make you rush into your vet’s office as soon as possible. 

The treatment of urethral obstruction is unblockage of the urethra by inserting a urinary catheter. This procedure is done under anesthesia or deep sedation. The treatment may also involves other aspects of support such as IV fluids and electrolytes supplementation, depending on the cat’s state. This condition usually requires hospitalization until the cat is stabilized and able to urinate on its own. 

Unfortunately this condition tends to reoccur. Owners of cats who experienced it before should monitor their cats closely for early identification of the next episode. 

Diagnosing the reason for the blockage can assist in helping reducing the chance of recurrence. 

In case of urinary crystals or stones, a special diet is available that helps to regulate the urine PH.

Often the removal of urinary stones has to be done surgically. In some cases, a special diet can be prescribed in order to shrink down and eliminate the stones.

Other things you can do to hopefully prevent the condition: 

  • Provide clean, fresh water at all times. 
  • Encourage your cat to drink by letting it drink from running water in the sink or by using a water fountain. 
  • Make sure the litter box is inviting by cleaning it frequently and keeping it in a quiet place. 

Urinary issues in cats are often diagnosed as incidental finding in performance of other medical procedures. A routine urinary test may help you detect a problem in an early stage and spare grief for both you and you cat. Consult your veterinarian about more information on urinary tract health in cats.


Antifreeze poisoning

Lets face it, winter is here. As much as I was dreading it, I can’t deny it any longer, so the winter boots are out of the storage, along with the snow suits. The shovel is ready in standby. 

The car is winterized. I’m pretty much ready, are you? If you are still in the process, take this as a friendly reminder of how to prevent a possible winter-related intoxication of pets drinking antifreeze. 

Antifreeze is also known as ethylene glycol. It is a syrupy liquid that is usually brightly coloured, either neon green or pink. Antifreeze is odourless and sweet, which makes it attractive to pets. Antifreeze is extremely dangerous to both humans and animals, with cats about four times more sensitive to the poison than dogs. 

The intoxication has two phases. 

First phase of antifreeze intoxication

About 30 minutes after consuming the antifreeze your pet will start to show symptoms that will look as though it has been drinking alcohol. Staggering, confusion and disorientation, excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and listlessness. 

These symptoms last about six hours then it will look as though your pet is recovering, and the symptoms are subsiding.

Antifreeze affects mainly the kidneys, but also the liver, because these are the organs responsible for metabolizing the poison. 

Second phase of antifreeze intoxication

Phase two of intoxication is a result of the permanent failure of kidneys and liver. At this point, your pet will show inability to produce urine, and will present terminal neurological symptoms such as seizures, coma, and eventually death. 

In cats this usually happens 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. In dogs, 36 to 72 hours.

If you suspect that your pet may have ingested ethylene glycol, seek immediate veterinary attention. I can’t stress enough how important it is to treat the pet early, before permanent damage occurs. This is not a ‘wait and see’ condition, because unfortunately, waiting in this case could cost you your pet’s life. 

When you take your pet to the vet, they will perform blood and urine tests to detect the typical changes caused by antifreeze intoxication. They will induce vomiting, perform stomach pumping, and probably feed the pet with active charcoal to try decreasing further absorption of the poison. They will also establish intravenous fluids to increase urine production and excrete as much ethylene glycol as possible. 

The treatment of choice is using the poison antidote. Dogs and cats can only be cured when the poisoning is detected before extensive kidney damage has occurred, hence it so important to rush your pet straight to the vet’s office. 

Prevention is key. Keep your antifreeze on a high shelf in a place not accessible to your pet. Practice routine vehicle maintenance, and keep an eye out for evidence of leaks (greenish pools underneath your car). In case of spilling that might happen when your refill your vehicle's reservoir, immediately clean up the spills 

Switching to a propylene-glycol-based antifreeze, a safer, less toxic, and non-sweet chemical, is a good alternative to ethylene glycol. This is one step that many pet owners take to protect their pets from accidental antifreeze poisoning.

I hope this winter will be nice, warm and safe for all of the pets and pet lovers out there.

Coyote attacks

What makes our town so wonderful, in my eyes, is that it is the perfect combination of urban living and country living. 

Living in such close proximity to nature brings some undesirable encounters with wildlife, though. Wild animals are getting more and more used to humans. Bears and coyotes are not scared of people as they used to be, so many of us find these unwanted guests in our backyards. 

Coyotes are considered carnivores, but more often are omnivores (eating everything). They are opportunistic, versatile feeders, eating small mammals such as squirrels, mice, birds, snakes, lizards, deer, and livestock, as well as insects and other invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Fruits and vegetables can form a significant part of its diet in summer and autumn. 

Part of the success as a species is this dietary adaptability. As such, they have been known to eat human rubbish as well, and domestic pets. They increasingly rely on household pets as their source of nutrition, with cats and small dog at particular risk. Pets are more commonly attacked during the winter months than in spring and summer, which corresponds to the coyote breeding season.

Though they have been observed to travel in large groups, coyotes primarily hunt in pairs. They are often attracted to dog food, and animals small enough to appear as prey. Items such as garbage, pet food, and sometimes feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards.

Coyote attacks are usually fatal for cats and small dogs. If the animal gets away or is saved by the owner, it can sustain significant damage that requires surgical repair and antibiotics for the potential infections caused by bite wounds. Typically, the actual tissue damage of the bite wounds is much larger in the deeper tissues compared to the visible external wounds. This is attributed to the tendency of the predator to stick its teeth in the prey’s flesh and shake its body. Externally, one may only see the teeth marks, however the animal is usually suffering from a much more significant injury. Hence, any bite wound, let alone a coyote bite wound, even if seemingly minor, requires veterinary attention.

If we can not get rid of coyotes, we have to learn to live with them. The best way is by trying to avoid any contact with them. Fences can help to keep them out of your yard, but they have been known to jump over fences. The most effective fence is at least six feet tall, with solid walls that are not see-through, and has a roll bar on top. If you are aware of coyotes in your neighbourhood, try to avoid leaving your dog alone outdoors (especially if it is a small breed).

Some coyotes will attempt to attack a dog on a leash, although not using a retractable leash will reduce the chances of that happening. If you encounter a coyote, try to scare it away. Scream, wave your arms, throw objects at it. Do not run away, as running will elicit an attack. Any injury sustained by your pet requires immediate veterinary care.

Most importantly, keep your property environment free of potential attractions of wildlife. Make sure you don’t leave food outside, including pet food, and make sure your garbage is stored in sealed containers. Feeding stations for birds can also attract, so you may want to rethink having them in your backyard if you live in an area frequented by coyotes.  

As for cats: For their safety, I strongly recommend to keep them strictly indoors. Cats that have never been exposed to the outdoors, will not ‘crave’ going outside. An encounter with a coyote is most probably equal to a death sentence for them. Between coyotes or other wild predators, as well as neighbourhood dogs and vehicles, the outside world is just too dangerous for cats. They are better to stay indoors.  






Aural hematoma

Ear issues have always been a common problem faced by pet owners. Besides the typical reasons for ear infections in pets, such as allergies, hormonal imbalance etc, another very common reason for sudden ear ache and head shaking in this season is spear grass penetration.  Unfortunately on top of the ear infection, another abnormal outcome that can arise is a sudden swelling of the ear flap, which is known as Aural hematoma.

The ear flap consists of cartilage, small blood vessels, covered by skin and fur. When the ear is irritated, a normal reaction by pets is head shaking. When the pet shakes its head vigorously, it can often snap one or more of the blood vessels supplying the ear flap (pinna). As a result of the blood vessel breakage, blood accumulates under the ear flap skin. This pocket of blood in medical terms is called Aural hematoma.

Aural hematoma can occur in both dogs and cats, but significantly more common in dogs. Aural hematoma is typically characterized by a warm, painful swelling on the inner side of the ear cartilage. Depending on its size, the swelling can be either soft or hard. The swelling typically appears acutely (all of the sudden and not in a gradual manner).

Aural hematoma can only seldom heal on its own without medical intervention. It is not recommended to leave the hematoma untreated due to a few reasons.

The blood pocket itself can be a perfect medium for bacteria to overgrow, spread and cause a severe infection. The blood in the pocket tends to clot and its ability to dissolve and get reabsorbed into the body is very limited to non existent. Last but not least, it is important to remember that Aural hematoma in the vast majority of cases is secondary to a primary problem in the ear that caused the initial vigorous head shaking and scratching. If the primary ear problem is not addressed and treated the problem will recur.

There are a few medical possibilities to treat Aural hematoma. If the hematoma is addressed very close to its formation, it may be resolved by simple aspiration. However, unfortunately in most instances a short surgical procedure is required in order to treat the problem and reduce the likelihood of recurrence.   

Beside surgical drainage, the ear canal is tested for the presence of infection, foreign bodies or any other irritant that led to the head shaking. Very commonly, an oral antibiotic is prescribed to treat and prevent infection along with pain control medication and anti-inflammatory medication.

Sometimes the ear cartilage does not go back to its original shape and scar tissue in the form of wrinkling occurs. Treating the hematoma as close as possible to its formation reduces the chances of any secondary complication that may arise. Being diligent and addressing any ear issues that may manifest by repeated scratching, and/or head shaking, before the hematoma even forms can save both you and your pet a lot of grief.

More Dr. Oz's Vet Advice articles

About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories