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Urinary tract health in cats

Here are some tips and hints to help you better recognize the signs of urinary disease and how you can help prevent it in your cat.

How can I recognize the symptoms of urinary disease in my cat?

Observe your cat and pay particular attention to his excretion habits in his litter box. The first signs may look like constipation (frequent exertion). When urinary problems occur, cats often go back and forth in the litter box and try to urinate without success. In addition to frequent urination or difficulty urinating, there can be blood in the urine and a strong smell of urine. The cat may meow in pain, groom his belly excessively (licking around the penis or the vulva). You should be alert if your cat lacks appetite, hides or urinates outside the litter box (on the floor, in the bathroom…). Urinary disease can lead to complete urinary obstruction (a blockage that causes the inability to urinate), especially in male cats. The advanced stages of the disease can manifest themselves as vomiting and severe weakness. It is essential to recognize these symptoms because it is a potentially fatal condition if untreated.

What causes urinary disease in cats?

Medical causes that lead to urinary problems in cats include infections, polyps (tissue growths) and tumors. But tumors are uncommon and more often affect senior animals. Urinary problems in cats are mainly related to the presence of urinary crystals. Urinary crystals are small mineral formations (known as urinary sand) in liquid urine. If there is a large number of crystals in the urine, they can agglomerate into urinary stones. Depending on their size and the amount, these crystals and urinary stones can block the natural urinary tract for urine evacuation. The cat cannot urinate and is in urinary blockage. Male cats are at greater risk because their urethra (the urinary tract from the bladder to the tip of the penis) is longer and narrower than that of the females.

How can I reduce the risk of crystals and urinary stones in my cat?

Regularly observe his excretion behavior.

Pay special attention to his litter excretion habits. The first signs of problems are similar to those related to constipation ones (frequent exertion). Urination outside the litter box, frequent trips to the litter box and effort during urination are all worrying signs. When in doubt or if your cat is defecating outdoors in the garden, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Regularly inspect the litter box.

The litter box should be cleaned frequently and your cat should be monitored for unusual signs, especially blood-colored urine or a change in urine volume. Many cats prefer open and shallow boxes. On the other hand, avoid strongly scented litters. Ideally, keep the litter box in a quiet place, away from doors and busy areas.

Reduce stress factors.

Some cats develop urinary problems when they feel threatened, bored or anxious. Feel free to include more playtime and interaction with you.

Promote physical fitness and exercise

Cats that are in good physical shape and exercise enough are at a lower risk of developing urinary disorders. Regular exercise and a good nutritional plan can also minimize these risks.

What diet should I choose to limit the risk of urinary disorders in my cat?

When you add a large amount of salt to a small glass of water, the salt eventually stops dissolving and becomes visible in the glass. Similarly, crystals and urinary stones can form in the urine when mineral salts can no longer dissolve. Either because urine contains too many minerals (calcium, magnesium and phosphates) compared to the amount of water drunk by the cat, which prevents the minerals from dissolving properly; either as a result of a change in the chemical composition of the urine, such as a change in the acidity (pH) of the urine. Insufficient water intake can also lead to urinary problems in your cat. Choose a container that does not retain odors and that is always kept very clean. Your cat must have access to fresh water at all times.

The relative supersaturation ratio (RSS) is a method of predicting the formation of crystals in a cat’s urine based on his diet. This measure helps predict the likelihood of urolithiasis by considering not only urine pH, but also urine volume and mineral concentrations, which includes calcium, magnesium, oxalate, citrate, phosphate, sodium, potassium, ammonium, sulfate and urate.

A low RSS ratio indicates that your cat’s dietary formula has been specially designed to help manage urinary acidity, urinary volume and mineral concentrations to prevent urinary diseases.

Relative supersaturation values may fall in three categories that indicate the likelihood of crystal formation:

  1. Undersaturated: this includes RSS values below 1 (<1). This indicates that crystals would dissolve and would prevent any new crystal formation.
  2. Metastable: this includes values over 1, but below the supersaturation levels. This is the range targeted for healthy cats with no history or predisposition to urinary stone formation for the prevention of crystallization.
  3. Supersaturated: this includes elevated values where crystals can form spontaneously.

Vetdiet® nutrition trials on urinary health

We regularly conduct nutrition trials on our formulas to fulfill our commitment to offer products of high quality that provide optimal health benefits. One of the parameters that we conduct nutrition trials for is urine relative supersaturation (RSS). As mentioned above, this measure helps predict the likelihood of urolithiasis by considering not only urine pH, but also urine volume and mineral concentrations which includes calcium, magnesium, oxalate, citrate, phosphate, sodium, potassium, ammonium, sulfate and urate. Our formulas are designed and tested for the prevention of crystallization, to fall within the metastable range for both struvite and calcium oxalate crystals. While our formulas are not meant to dissolve urinary stones and have not undergone the necessary studies to demonstrate a urinary tract health benefit, our data suggests that our formulas are not conducive to a supersaturated urine that could cause crystal formation. Our Wellness and Care lines deliver an optimal balance of key nutrients for lifelong pet health, and we go to great lengths with the support of our Health and Nutrition Advisory Board to offer products for optimal lifelong pet health.

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