Urinary disease in cats is very common. It is sometimes called Feline Urological Syndrome (F.U.S.). It is primarily a disease of the urinary system, the urinary bladder in particular. Cats of all ages and both sexes may be affected. It is especially dangerous in the male cat.
Symptoms of F.U.S. include frequent trips to the litter box with little or no urine production, crying excessively while in the litter box, listlessness, poor appetite, abdominal pain, and occasionally an angry, sullen attitude. In the male cat, total urinary blockage may occur because mineral salt crystals can form a plug in the urethra, preventing urine evacuation. When this happens, an emergency situation exists, since the building urine supply in the bladder exerts pressure on the kidneys. This pressure can harm or even destroy the normal kidney function and cause death. In the female, this rarely happens.
Treatment of affected cats includes removal of urethral obstructions, flushing the bladder to remove as much debris and crystals as possible, fluid therapy to re-establish kidney function, antibiotics to stop infection, and anti-inflammatories to relieve the pain in the bladder. Most cases of F.U.S. can be successfully treated, and cats normally can be restored to normal urine function. The problem though, is that it can recur in these affected cats. So, what can we do to prevent it from happening again?
There are many factors that together can cause F.U.S. in cats. Some of these may include infections of viruses or bacteria, various stresses, over abundance of certain minerals in the diet, and urine pH. Any combination of these can trigger urinary bladder problems or even blockage in cats. The two main factors, though, are abnormal urine acidity and an oversupply of magnesium or calcium in the urine. Normally, urine has a pH that is acidic. In cases of F.U.S., the urine is often very alkaline. Magnesium is a mineral that cats need trace amounts of, but many commercial cat foods have far too much. This excess magnesium is dumped into the urine and can form crystalline salts in the bladder. These crystals can irritate the bladder lining and cause a painful, even bleeding condition. They can also form stones that further irritate the bladder or cause outright blockage of the urethra and inability to urinate.
There are other things that contribute to Feline Urological Syndrome, but these two are most important because they are ones we can control. By changing the diet to a low magnesium diet such as Hillʼs C/D, and by adjusting the pH of the urine, we can reduce the crystal formation that contributes so heavily to this bladder disease. In most cases of F.U.S., recurrence is likely without preventive measures. But with these measures, it is very possible to prevent most flare- ups of F.U.S. in male and female cats.