Crystals in Cat Urine: Causes and Treatment
If you notice that crystals are forming in your cat’s urine, you want to know about what could be causing the issue so you can get it treated. If it is left unsolved, it could lead to the formation of a urinary tract problem. On the plus side, you can often solve this issue with some simple dietary changes. A switch to a wet food diet can help. Dehydration could be another cause, so simply leaving some fresh water down on a regular basis could help to solve the issue. But this is still a problem that you want to consult your vet about. Here, let’s look at a general overview of this issue and how you can strive to deal with it.
What Are Struvite Crystals?
The crystals that build up in your cat’s urine are known as struvite crystals. They can occur in both male and female cats, but they are most common in male neutered felines. They comprise of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate. While they are quite common, problems can arise when they join together forming stones and grit. In some situations, they can be flushed out or dissolved. Other times, they need to be removed by surgery.
What Causes Crystals in Cat Urine?
Feline urinary crystals are quite common in cat urine, but it is the stones that can be particularly problematic. There are various reasons as to why these may occur. First, they could be due to urine that has become overconcentrated. It could be down to high levels of one or more of phosphate, ammonium, or magnesium. Less commonly, they may be the sign of an infection. As we have mentioned earlier, a problem for many felines that causes this issue is dehydration. Many cats are simply reluctant to get their water from a bowl after evolving from years in the wild getting moisture from their prey. Also, many cats now exist on an exclusively dry cat food diet.
When Crystals Become Stones
As we talked about a little earlier in the post, if the crystals are not passed out through urination, they can join together they can join together to form sand-like grains. These can then build up into larger stones when further material is deposited onto them. This is when more serious problem can arise. As you may have already guessed, these stones can restrict the outflow of urine, causing urine and waste to build up in the bladder. With this increase of tension, it can cause your cat pain and harm to their body. In a worse case scenario, there is risk of a complete blockage of the urethra, which may prove to be fatal if not given immediate veterinary attention. Bear in mind that stones can form anywhere along the urinary tract, resulting in the development of bladder and kidney stones.
Symptoms of Struvite Stones in Cats
Now, how can you tell that your cat is suffering from struvite stones? Well, first of all, it is worth noting that they occur most commonly in male neutered cats. If your cat is suffering from this issue, you will notice that they are producing little or no urine at all. At the same time, they may be going to the litter box more frequently in an attempt to pass urine. You may see them straining when they are going to the bathroom, and they may howl out if they are in particular pain. Alternatively, they could be urinating outside of the litter box entirely.
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You may notice that they seem in pain, though this can be difficult to see in cats as they have become very adept at hiding their discomfort. Your kitty may seem overly tired too. And they may also not be eating as much as they normally would. Bloody urine is another possible symptom, as well as a high level of licking and grooming around the urethral area.
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Diagnosing Struvite Crystals
If you have started to notice some of the symptoms listed above, you will want an official diagnosis, so get an appointment scheduled with your vet at the earliest possible opportunity. They will start with a physical examination, before following this up with a urine sample to determine if there is anything wrong. This may be followed up with x-rays, bloodwork, and ultrasounds, which determine information including the location, size, and number of stones that have developed. There may be other tests needed if other medical issues are suspected as a result of the stones.
Other Causes of Crystals in Cat Urine
So far, we have mainly talked about struvite crystals, but there are other possible causes for cat urine. One of them is bilirubin, which is a possible indication of liver problems. An excess of calcium or oxalic acid can lead to calcium oxalate. These are rare, but they can form in the urethral plugs of male cats.
How to Dissolve Struvite Crystals in Cats
Dissolving the struvite crystals is a common path to take, with the aim of creating urine that is more acidic and dilute. It is rare that crystal form as a result of a poor diet selection on its own, but imbalances in nutrition can be a major contributing factor.
There are canned prescription diets out there, but also some dry formulas for those who don’t enjoy wet cat food. There are also medications that work to acidify the urine. Keeping your pet well hydrated is important. Even if your cat enjoys a wet food diet, you should still provide them with other drinking water sources too.
Your vet will need to continue monitoring your cat’s situation until it can be confirmed that the stones have been entirely dissolved.
How to Treat Crystals in Cat Urine
Before attempting to treat the issue of crystals in cat urine, you need to know what is causing the problem in the first place. We have earlier mentioned the dissolving method for getting rid of struvite crystals, which is often effective, but if there is an infection as well, antibiotics may be needed. A specially formulated diet will be offered if the blockage is not serious. In some situations, your cat may pass the stones out naturally during urination.
If these methods do not prove to be effective, it may be that the stones have to be removed physically through surgery or another procedure such as the bladder being filled with water to create heavier urination and flush out the stone. Often, this is the case with female cats who have wider urinary tracts. Another possible process is known as lithotripsy, which involves the stone being broken down through shock waves.
How to Prevent Crystals in Cat Urine
The best way to prevent against crystals in cat urine is the simple improvement of their diet. It needs to be complete and balanced, helping to form dilute and mildly acidic urine. Much of this high-quality food is available over the counter, but if this is proving to be a particular problem for your kitty, it may be necessary that a diet is prescribed by your veterinarian. Bear in mind that if you are going to make changes to your cat’s diet, you often need to do so gradually. Otherwise, this can lead to a disruption in their diet. Another step that you can take is to feed your cat smaller meals on a more regular basis. This can help to prevent urine pH from fluctuating so much.
While diet can go a long way towards preventing the formation of crystals, it is also a good idea to encourage your cat to drink more fresh water by filling some dishes and putting them in different places. You may be able to make drinking more appealing by buying a drinking fountain. The movement of water can be quite appealing to cats. Another option is to provide a liquidous food source such as chicken broth to entice your furry friend.
A big part of preventing the formation of urinary crystals is simply monitoring your kitty’s food and water intake and noting any changes in their diet or thirst.
Another issue is that your cat may not be urinating enough, so think about the location of their litter box. It needs to be in a quiet area where they can have some privacy. If this is not working, you could always try putting down more than one so your cat has multiple options of where they can do their business.
The final step that you can take is the simple decreasing of stress from your cat’s life. Treat them well and avoid making them too jumpy. Avoid any major changes in their routine that can be helped. Cats are creatures of habit who need to have this consistency in their day to day routine.
How to Keep Your Cat Hydrated
Now, let’s zero in on the issue of cat hydration in an effort to help you deal with it more effectively. Not only can it result in the formation of stones that we have just discussed, but other issues can also arise ranging from diarrhea and vomiting to kidney disease, heat stroke, and diabetes. On average, your cat should be drinking 1 ounce of water per pound of their body weight. If you aren’t too sure how much your cat weighs, now is a good time to check as changes in their weight can also signify other medical issues. Simply stand on some scales on your own to measure your own body weight, repeat this while holding your cat, and then deduct their weight from your own. Other factors that can impact the amount of water your cat needs include the amount of physical exercise they get on a daily basis, the outdoor temperature, and the type of food they are regularly consuming.
The simplest way of encouraging your cat to drink is by putting fresh water down on a regular basis. Don’t just top up the levels when you notice that they have become low. You wouldn’t do this with your own water that has been sitting out for hours. Take the time to wash it out too as cats can be messy eaters and fur often gets inside the bowl, which also doesn’t make a pleasant receptor for your kitty to drink from.
Cats often like things that are presented in an unusual way, so you could try varying up the location where you put your cat’s water, as well as offering it to them in different receptacles. A water fountain can also be a useful purchase as many cats like to drink from moving water sources. This is also a more environmentally friendly option than just leaving the faucet running. Another way of getting more moisture into your cat’s system is with a broth – beef and chicken are popular choices. However, you should choose a low sodium option to ensure that they don’t get too much salt in their diet. And then you have the simplest way of keeping your cat hydrated which is by offering them canned food on a daily basis. If you want to be more economical, you could mix in the wet food with dry food to make it last longer.
Crystals in cat urine are not usually a major source of concern as they can be avoided with a simple improvement of diet and the rehydration of your kitty. It is when they develop into stones that this is cause for concern as they can be painful, lead to other health conditions, and even be life threatening. Your vet can help to dissolve them by suggesting a dietary change, but if this doesn’t work, surgery may be required. So, prevention is always far better than the cure, and this can be done by feeding your cat a moister diet, offering them more water on a regular basis, encouraging them to go to the bathroom more frequently, and decreasing your cat’s feelings of stress.