Water, diet key to treating feline urological disorders

Other animals develop condition too, veterinarians say

  • Critter-care-2

  • Toledoan Crystal Lawson feeds her cat Joey prescription food. Joey is recovering from urinary tract issues, which are the ‘number-one problems cats have,’ Dr. Gary Thompson says.
    Toledoan Crystal Lawson feeds her cat Joey prescription food. Joey is recovering from urinary tract issues, which are the ‘number-one problems cats have,’ Dr. Gary Thompson says.

    Crystal Lawson talks about her cat Joey the way some people talk about their children.

    “There is a lot that makes Joey a special cat,” said Mrs. Lawson, a Toledo resident. “He is the only cat that I know that has this weird meow and purr mixed together. It is so loud that you can hear it across the room or behind a shut door. It makes me laugh every time he does it, and also it calms me when I am having a bad day. I think that is why I love him so much.”

    The handsome brown tabby cat almost died from a urinary tract blockage in January. He spent several days in the hospital at West Suburban Animal Hospital, 3265 N. King Rd., in Sylvania Township, where medical personnel inserted a catheter into the feline.

    “Urinary issues are the No. 1 problems cats have,” said Dr. Gary Thompson, a veterinarian at the hospital. Dogs also can develop urinary infections and bladder stones.

    Joey first became ill in late December.

    “He was acting weird, and I thought he was constipated, but then I noticed that he was trying to urinate on the floor, licking himself a lot around his genitals afterwards,” Mrs. Lawson said. “That is when I noticed the red in the urine, and I then decided that I could not wait any longer and had to get him in to be checked out.”

    She took him to Animal Emergency and Critical Care Center, 2921 Douglas Rd., where it was determined he was not fully blocked.

    At the time, she couldn’t afford to have Joey catheterized and hospitalized, so she opted to take him home with antibiotic medicine while keeping a close eye on him.

    “I had to check on him every hour on the hour to make sure that he is urinating a good amount and also drinking something,” Mrs. Lawson said. “I ended up giving him water in a syringe every hour.”

    Joey came through the episode and seemed to return to normal. He was checked out by the veterinarians at Country Squire Animal Hospital, 3243 Navarre Ave., Oregon, who advised Mrs. Lawson to put Joey on a diet of canned-cat food only.

    “Dr. [Erin] Roe told me that dry cat food is actually not good for cats anymore due to health issues like the UTI problems,” Mrs. Lawson said. “She said that throughout the day, cats do not drink enough water, and the only way for owners to be sure they are having enough water in their diet is to give them [canned] cat food and encourage them to drink more by having a cat-water fountain or have running water within their reach.”

    All went well for about a month before Joey started acting strangely again.

    “There were a lot of the same symptoms,” Mrs. Lawson said. “He was having problems urinating, urinating on the floor, growling during and after, which was very uncommon for him. Throughout the day he also seemed to be bloating, which started to scare me.”

    Joey was rushed to West Surburban Animal Hospital, where it was determined he had developed full blockage and a catheter was inserted. Mrs. Lawson by now was able to afford to have Joey hospitalized for several days, and he was sent home with instructions to eat only a prescription canned cat food formulated for cats with urinary problems.

    Diet may play multiple roles in controlling feline urological problems, according to the Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. Dry food consumption doesn’t cause the problems, but dry food might aggravate the disorder in susceptible cats.

    “Consequently, we recommend either adding water to the dry food or changing to canned foods, particularly if the patient is a male cat, because of the risk of urethral obstruction, if this is feasible for the owner and the cat,” Jodi L. Westropp, a veterinarian with Ohio State University, said.

    “Benefits of increased water intake could include dilution of any noxious substances in urine, more frequent urination to decrease bladder contact time with urine, and removal of any excess crystals,” Dr. Westropp said. “We also recommend that the same diet be fed for extended periods of time to reduce the stress that some cats seem to experience when the diet is changed.”

    There is no cure for feline urological problems, which have been described in veterinary literature for at least 80 years, Dr. Westropp said. Owners can prevent the illness from progressing by restricting diet and recognizing the symptoms early so the cat gets prompt veterinary treatment.

    “For cats with a history of urinary problems, unscented clumping litter should be considered,” Dr. Westropp said. “Litter boxes should be cleaned regularly and replaced; some cats seem quite sensitive to dirty litter boxes. Litter-box size and whether or not it is open or covered also may be important to some cats.”

    Cats are not alone in having urological problems. Dogs commonly develop two major types of “stones” that reflect their chemical composition: calcium oxalate and struvite, according to Dr. Thompson.

    Crystal Lawson gives her cat Joey canned prescription cat food. Dry food doesn't cause blockages, but veterinarians say it can aggravate the problem.
    Crystal Lawson gives her cat Joey canned prescription cat food. Dry food doesn't cause blockages, but veterinarians say it can aggravate the problem.

    As with cats, the general course of treatment involves increasing water consumption and avoiding the main triggers for development of stones, Dr. Thompson said.

    Prescription diets make the dog or cat’s urine more acidic and ideally will prevent crystals from forming, Dr. Thompson said.

    Diet is not as effective if there is an underlying infection. Some dogs have a resistant urinary infection or become reinfected.

    “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can develop after long-term therapy, and a [urine] culture and sensitivity will make sure you are using the right drug to clear the infection completely,” Dr. Thompson said. “Some dogs who get reinfected may need prophylactic antibiotic therapy as prevention.”

    As for Joey the cat, Mrs. Lawson is so grateful that he came through the last scare and hopes the prescription diet will keep him away from the emergency vet clinic.

    “He is a very laid-back, easy-going cat that will even snuggle up to our dogs,” Mrs. Lawson said. “He is also the only cat that I know of that if I call for him upstairs he will come running to find me. I love him so much.”

    Contact Tanya Irwin at or 419-724-6066.