Interview With A Pet Parent Of A Cat With Crystalluria
We sat down with Figo Cheif Marketing Officer, Vanessa Yeh, to learn more about her journey dealing with urinary crystals in her cat Richard Parker.
Q: What were the first signs/symptoms you noticed that made you decide to get Richard Parker checked out?
A: I adopted Richard Parker in 2013. I first started noticing symptoms a year later when he started peeing outside the box and was straining to urinate – squatting and trying his best all around the house. Cats can pee outside the box for any number of reasons, including a change in routine or overall unhappiness with something going on in their lives, so I thought at first it might be a behavioral issue and not a medical one. After two weeks of this with no reprieve, I decided to take him to the vet.
Q: Once Richard Parker was diagnosed, what were the recommendations you got from your vet? Did they involve any major lifestyle changes for him?
A: After he was diagnosed with crystals, we had to start putting him on medicated cat food . We were told no more treats either as they were likely to have ingredients that aggravated his condition. We were also instructed to try and get him to drink as much water as possible, so we introduced a cat fountain and tried adding water to his cat food. We’d warm it up a little, and turn it into a sort of warm, wet mush. Cats can be very picky, so I’m lucky that he actually liked the taste of Urinary SO cat food.
Q: Did you have pet insurance and did it help with this issue?
Symptoms Of Crystals In Cat Urine
Since the minerals that make up crystals in a cats urine are naturally occurring, urine crystals and stones are fairly common at low levels. While they can be microscopic and pass easily through the urinary tract, they can also grow large enough to cause pain and block the passage of urine. The inability to eliminate toxic waste can be fatal if not treated. Watch your cat for these symptoms, and contact your veterinarian immediately
if your cat:
- Has a poor appetite
- Seems lethargic and depressed
Its been noted that urine crystals and struvite stones occur more often in male cats, since their urethras are narrower than female cats. Siamese, Himalayan and Persian cats also seem more likely to develop struvite stones, which leads some animal health experts to believe the cause can be genetic.
What Causes Urinary Crystals In Cats
While the cause of urinary crystal development or crystalluria isnt always known, it tends to occur frequently in domestic cats. What we do know is that some minerals are naturally found in your cats body. When these minerals are not properly processed by the cats urinary system, they can crystallize.
Certain risk factors predispose house cats to the development of urinary crystals. A few of the most common include:
- Age. In general, middle-aged and senior cats are most likely to develop crystalluria.
- Gender. Male cats are most at risk.
- Weight. Urinary crystals tend to form most often in overweight or obese cats.
- Breed. Certain breeds, like Tonkinese, Burmese, Devon Rex, Himalayan, Persian, and Siamese cats, are most at risk for developing calcium oxalate crystals.
- Urine pH. Alkaline urine can cause struvite crystals to form, whereas acidic urine can lead to the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.
Additional factors that can predispose a cat to the development of urinary crystals include:
While cats can develop urinary crystals because of certain risk factors, crystals can be a normal finding on intermittent occasions. Also, urinary crystals can be present due to sample handling. If a cat repeatedly has a large number of crystals in a freshly collected urine sample and improper sample handling has been ruled out, then treatment for crystalluria is recommended.
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What Types Of Urinary Crystals Develop In Cats
There are two types of urinary crystals that typically develop in cats: struvite and calcium oxalate.
Struvite crystals. Struvite crystals have a characteristic coffin box shape when examined under a microscope. Typically, struvite crystals develop in alkaline urine, which is urine that has a high pH. They generally develop without a urinary tract infection, making them sterile uroliths. Struvite uroliths that are due to a UTI are rare but tend to occur in kittens and older cats. Struvite crystals can also be present in the urine of healthy cats.
Cats between 2 and 10 years old have the greatest risk of struvite urolith formation. Struvites are common in the bladder but rare in the kidneys. Therapeutic diets that reduce urinary phosphorus, magnesium, and pH are very effective at dissolving and preventing struvites in cats.
Calcium oxalate crystals. Calcium oxalate crystals develop in urine thats too acidic. In general, these crystals look like a square with an X through the middle when viewed under a microscope. Since struvite crystals develop so commonly in cats, most cat foods incorporate magnesium into their formulas, helping to make cats urine more acidic. This change has now led to an increase in the number of cats with calcium oxalate crystals. Burmese, Himalayan, Tonkinese, Devon Rex, Persian, and Siamese cats appear to be genetically predisposed to developing calcium oxalate stones.
Signs Of Bladder Stones & Bladder Infection In Cats
Symptoms of bladder stones are much the same as the symptoms of a bladder infection in cats, this is due in part to the irritation caused within the bladder due to the stones. If your cat is suffering from bladder stones you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination in small amounts of urine
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Straining to urinate without producing urine
Bladder stones can lead to a urinary obstruction in cats which is considered a medical emergency! A urinary obstruction occurs when your cat’s urethra becomes blocked with a stone and your cat is unable to pass urine. Signs of urinary obstruction include:
- Repeated trips to the litter box
- Yowling or crying while in the litter box
- Straining to urinate without producing urine
If you notice your cat straining to urinate or any of the other symptoms associated with a urinary obstruction contact your vet immediately or visit your nearest emergency animals hospital for urgent care.
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How To Break Up Crystals In Cat Urine
It can be difficult to break up crystals in cat urine, but you can do it. Stones will gradually dissolve over time if your cat eats a prescription diet. Regular X-rays will keep your veterinarian track of any changes. Apple cider vinegar can also help to reduce the acidity of your cats urine, which will be beneficial in terms of removing harmful bacteria and lowering the pH. Apple cider vinegar, when combined with chicken or beef broth, can be an effective way to make it more palatable for your cat.
What Dissolves Struvite Crystals In Cats
Cats between 2 to 10 years old are at greatest risk for struvite urolith formation. 1 Although common in the urinary bladder, struvite is rare in the kidney. By reducing urinary phosphorus, magnesium, and pH, therapeutic foods are very effective at dissolving and preventing sterile struvite uroliths in cats.
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What Is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Feline lower urinary tract disease describes a variety of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats. Cats with FLUTD most often show signs of difficulty and pain when urinating, increased frequency of urination, and blood in the urine. Cats with FLUTD also tend to lick themselves excessively and may urinate outside the litter box, often on cool, smooth surfaces like a tile floor or a bathtub.
While FLUTD can occur at any age, it is usually seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that get little exercise, use an indoor litter box, have little or no outdoor access, or eat a dry diet. Factors such as emotional or environment stress, multi-cat households, and abrupt changes in daily routine may also increase the risk that a cat will develop FLUTD.
Major signs of feline lower urinary tract disease include:
- Straining to urinate
- Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate
- Crying out while urinating
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Blood in the urine
Note that cats with a urethral obstruction will also show these signs but will pass little or no urine and become increasingly distressed. Urethral obstruction is seen more often in males than female cats due their longer, narrow urethra. A urethral obstruction is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary treatment.
Diagnosing Bladder Stones In Cats
There are two methods of diagnosing bladder stones in cats. First, if the stone is big enough, your vet may be able to feel it by pressing on your catâs abdomen. Most smaller stones must be diagnosed through ultrasounds or radiographs. These methods also help determine the cause of the stones. Your vet may start by performing a urinalysis, which can point to the likelihood of stones or help determine the likely type of stone.
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What Are Struvite Crystals
Struvite crystals are microscopic crystals that are found in the urine of some cats. Struvite specifically is a material that is composed of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate. Struvite and struvite crystals can be a normal finding in your cats urine at a low level but become problematic when the crystals combine to form grit or stones of varying shapes and sizes. These stones can be found in the urinary bladder, the urethra, or the kidneys.
How To Prevent Urinary Crystals From Forming
If your cat requires treatment for urinary crystals or bladder stones, preventive measures are needed to keep new ones from forming. These cats will continue to develop urinary crystals and/or bladder stones if proper prevention isnt implemented.
Keep your cat crystal-free with the following prevention guidelines:
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Does Tuna Cause Crystals In Cats
Tuna contains high concentrations of unsaturated fats that are quite unhealthy for cats. It can cause a serious vitamin E deficiency, which can lead to a dangerous condition called steatitis. This is a painful disease where the cats body becomes inflamed. Tuna is also high in minerals that can cause bladder stones.
Symptoms Of Bladder Stones In Cats
Itâs not always easy to tell when your cat is injured or ill. Cats often hide when they are uncomfortable because it can be dangerous to show weakness in the wild. Cats are solitary creatures, so showing pain wonât bring help from others if theyâre on their own. You will need to pay attention to tell if your cat has bladder stones.
Common signs that may indicate bladder stones are:
- Straining to urinate
- Excess phosphate, ammonium, or magnesium in the urine
- Urine pH out of balance
- Dietary supplements or drugs that affect the urine
- Congenital liver shunt
- Breed predisposition
Do cats get bladder stones at certain ages? Cats can develop bladder stones at any age. Some types of stones are more likely to form at different life stages. The risk of developing calcium oxalate stones, for example, increases as your cat ages. These commonly show up in cats between 5 and 14 years old.
Do some cats have a higher risk of getting bladder stones? Common belief has suggested that neutered male Burmese, Persian, Siamese, and Himalayan cats may be genetically predisposed to developing calcium oxalate stones, but more research is needed to prove this for sure. Overweight cats, male cats, and older cats are more likely to develop these stones as well.
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Will My Cat Require Treatment For Crystalluria
Many cases of crystalluria are not clinically significant. If your veterinarian determines that this is the case for your cat, no treatment will be needed.
If your cat has clinically significant crystalluria, your veterinarian may recommend a number of interventions to help decrease crystal formation and decrease the likelihood of bladder stones. In some cases, a specific cause of crystalluria can be identified and that cause can be alleviated. In many cases, however, treatment focuses on long-term management to reduce crystal formation. Increasing water intake, regulating urine pH, and encouraging frequent urination can all play a role in decreasing crystalluria in affected cats.
Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet and/or medications to change the chemical composition of your cats urine and discourage crystal formation. Additionally, you may be advised to take steps to encourage your cat to drink more water. Through the use of running water fountains and/or flavored water , you can encourage your cat to drink more water and pass more dilute urine. These measures can help decrease the likelihood of your cat forming urinary stones and experiencing other negative impacts as a result of crystalluria.
How Do You Treat Struvite Crystals In Cats
There are a few ways to treat struvite crystals in cats, depending on the severity of the problem. If the crystals are not causing any problems, your vet may simply recommend a change in diet to help dissolve them. If the crystals are causing pain or other problems, your vet may recommend surgery to remove them. In some cases, struvite crystals can lead to urinary blockages, which can be life-threatening. If your cat is having trouble urinating, is in pain, or is showing other signs of illness, contact your vet immediately.
A cat can develop sluggish crystals in his or her urine, which can be quite painful. The cause of struvite stones is unknown, and this disease is associated with feline lower urinary tract disease . Cats frequently do not drink enough water, which can result in crystals and stones forming in their urine. A high fluid intake can lower the level of minerals in the urine and prevent stone formation. Because dry cat food contains very little moisture, you should think about feeding wet cat food to your cat. Cat owners have several options for preventing cat crystal and stone formation. It is beneficial to mix wet and dry food to help you stay hydrated and prevent urine concentration. Make certain that family routines are kept in check, including feeding, exercise, and activity. Always keep your cat well-cared for, and make sure your vet sees him or her frequently.
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How Will My Veterinarian Diagnose Struvite Bladder Stones
If your cat is having urinary issues, your veterinarian will first recommend a urinalysis. This test involves obtaining a small urine sample for biochemical analysis and microscopic examination. Struvite stones are most commonly seen in concentrated urine that has an increased pH. On microscopic examination, your veterinarian will likely see red blood cells , white blood cells , and increased numbers of struvite crystals.
Your veterinarian may also recommend blood tests, including a complete blood cell count and serum biochemistry profile. These tests will assess your cats overall health and rule out other medical conditions that may be contributing to your cats urinary signs.
“On radiographs, struvite stones typically look like smooth rocks or pebbles within the bladder.”
Finally, your veterinarian will likely recommend abdominal radiographs . Radiographs are the most effective way to diagnose bladder stones, because most bladder stones are visible on radiographs. On radiographs, struvite stones typically look like smooth rocks or pebbles within the bladder. Ultrasound may also be used to visualize bladder stones.
Treatment And Management Of Crystals In Cat Urine
Treatment involves eliminating the crystals from the bladder, controlling the underlying cause of the crystals, managing Crystalluria associated risk factors and preventing their further formation. The vet with the proper assessment of the situation will also make sure to stop the discomfort or pain that may come with crystals in the cats urine. Most of these forms of treatment resemble ways of managing Crystalluria.
- The most shared and notable way of treating Crystalluria is increasing the cats water intake this means also reducing dry foods in their diet schedule and introducing more wet foods. By doing this, there is an increase in urine volumes thus the bladder flushes out the urine. Its commonly known as fluid therapy.
- Balance diet is also essential as it will ensure the PH levels are moderate acidity or alkalinity levels are not high. You can also modify the cats diet if you notice the PH levels arent balanced through prescription dieting.
- Encourage your cats regular and complete voiding of urine by making sure there are an adequate number of litter boxes placed in quiet and safe places.
- Because sometimes can the crystals bring about pain and irritation to the cats bladder or even cause infection, medications are also important for this type of situations t they include pain relievers and antibiotics.
Take your cat to the vet for a checkup during the treatment/ management process to see how the situation is developing.
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Treating Pet Urinary Stones And Crystals
Once a vet identifies urinary crystals in dog urine or cat urine, the next step is to assess whether the crystals are likely to cause a problem. In some cases it is more important to treat a pet’s underlying condition first. For crystals that may lead to stone formation or urinary obstruction, dissolving or eliminating them is a higher priority. Nutritional adjustments and convincing your pet to drink more water will often treat crystals effectively, but surgery is also an option in severe cases.
While it’s rare for crystals to form as the result of poor nutrition or inadequate diet selection, nutritional imbalances can play a role. Nutrition is crucial when it comes to reducing crystals in cases where stone or urethral plug formation is a risk. Your vet will likely prescribe a therapeutic food to a cat or dog at risk for a urinary obstruction.
Make sure your pet always has access to plenty of fresh water. Keeping pets hydrated keeps their urine from becoming concentrated and makes crystals less likely to form. Offering additional sources of water along with wet food is strongly recommended.
As always, follow your vet’s advice on feeding and home care. Being vigilant about nutrition and water intake goes a long way toward reducing or even preventing crystal formation.