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Feline Urological Syndrome

by: Nancy M. Gerhardt, DVM

Kitty seemed to be just fine yesterday. Now he seems to be going to the litter box more frequently and may be urinating outside of the box. "He's being spiteful," the owner may think. "He's just constipated," another owner may think. Or worse yet the loving owner may believe the five most dangerous words known to medicine-- "Maybe it will go away..." Suddenly the family's favorite feline is really very sick. There is blood in the urine or no urine passed at all. He may be lethargic and vomiting and also in pain. He may be a she, but signs this severe usually occur in male cats. Now the urinary tract passage to the exterior, the urethra, is blocked and urine is backing up in the bladder and causing uremic poisoning. Now there is a real emergency.

Feline urological syndrome is caused by a buildup of crystals in the urinary tract. Those most commonly found are struvite or oxalate crystals. While oxalates may actually form stones in the bladder, struvite crystals form very tiny granules commonly referred to as "sand". Some cats are more prone to develop these crystals than others, and in these felines diet plays a major role in the problem. Other kitties can eat any regular commercial food and never have trouble. Feeding a high quality diet low in ash and magnesium lowers the risk of a healthy pet developing crystals. Prescription diets are recommended for those who have already had an episode of this condition. It is very important for you to call your veterinarian at the first sign of any problems regarding urination or not using the litter box. Don't assume it is a behavioral problem or that "maybe it will go away". Early treatment with special diet and in most cases antibiotics or possibly urinary acidifiers may prevent a life-threatening obstruction of the urinary tract. If the obstruction has already occurred, catheterization is almost always necessary and extensive treatment is often in order. Don't wait hoping urinary symptoms will go away on their own. Your pet's life may be at stake if you wait. Call your veterinarian today!