Copyright (c) 2012 Dr. Deva Khalsa
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is a relatively common problem in pet cats that can be worrisome and expensive. Just ask any cat owner whose feline gets cystitis at the drop of a hat. The good news is that there are natural supplements and homeopathic methods to help treat and more importantly avoid and prevent these bladder problems.
Anyone whose had cystitis can attest to that feeling of ‘needing to go’ and it’s the same with cats. In some cases, the urine may be pink or red. If your cat chooses a tile floor or the bathtub, it’s pretty easy to tell if the urine’s blood tinged. If the litter box is your cat’s preferred stopping place, mixing shredded white toilet paper into the litter is a handy trick.
In the case of a ‘blocked cat’, urine crystals or mucous blocks the urethra. Blocked cats exhibit frequent but fruitless straining along with signs of stress, discomfort and painful vocalization. While far more prevalent in male cats, urinary obstructions constitutes a true veterinary emergency.
Researchers are still looking for the causes of FLUTD. Over the past 20 years theories have changed. One historic cause was thought to be the ‘ash’ content in cat food but that’s been proven incorrect. Until the late 1980’s, struvite crystals were commonly found in a urinalysis. At present, calcium oxalate stones are also very common.
Different crystals require different treatments so an analysis of the urine is necessary to determine the exact crystal type. Interestingly, as the urine sits after collection, some crystals dissolve while others grow, just like in a high school science experiment. When having your cat’s urine checked for crystals, best get it to the lab as soon as possible after it’s collected.
In many cases the cause of simple cystitis is a bacterial infection and your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics. Blocked cats must be rushed to the veterinarian and have the urethral passage unplugged along with supportive emergency care. Unfortunately, cats that get FLUTD’s tend to get them more than once. Because of this, learning some simple facts about diet and nutrition concur with Ben Franklin’s observation that ” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
DIET can have a profound effect on bladder health. Felines have a low thirst drive, having evolved on the African savannah. Prey contains about 70 percent water. By comparison, dry kibble has only 10 percent water, so cats that eat only kibble will have more concentrated urine and a higher tendency to form crystals. Feeding more canned food and even watering it down a bit adds more liquid intake. Raw food diets also provide more dietary liquid.
The pH of the urine is important because crystals need a specific pH in which to form. Cats prefer protein rich foods, but they evolved eating whole prey and were conveniently provided with vegetable matter and greens from the prey’s intestines. Unfortunately, heated and processed pet foods, by nature of the preparation methods, are stripped of essential plant nutrients. Healthy plant nutrients such as Vitamin C and Cranberry work to acidify the urine and prevent buildup of certain crystals.
Vitamins K1 and D3 help metabolize and process minerals. Working together, K1 prevents calcium from washing into the bladder while D3 creates efficient mineral metabolism. Vitamin D3 also significantly improves immune function. A high incidence of Vitamin D deficiency is now being identified in humans so keeping an eye on our pet’s Vitamin D is essential. Vitamin D3, called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, becomes biologically active when the human body is exposed to sunlight. But cats don’t have the necessary components in their skin to do this so they need to get their Vitamin D3 from a supplement, raw liver or cod liver oil. This new research indicates that vitamins K1 and D3 may be very important in preventing urinary crystal formation.
PHYTOCHEMICALS are the organic components in plants that have protective or disease preventative properties and are now a huge focus in scientific research. Sometimes called ‘super-foods’, they work to promote health in the body for a much longer time than vitamins and minerals. For example: Vitamin C only acidifies the urine for a few hours after it’s taken, while CRANBERRY does the same thing (and more) for almost an entire day. Cranberry contains a polysaccharide called mannose, which selectively binds to bacteria, carrying them out of the bladder. In fact, bacteria prefer mannose to the cells of the bladder wall. Taking cranberry on a daily basis works to prevent and help treat urinary tract infections
MILK THISTLE is an herb that’s been used for centuries. Its benefits on the liver are well publicized but many are not aware that it also works to prevent crystal and stone formation in the bladder. DANDELION promotes urination and flushes the urinary tract. BLUEBERRIES have a diverse range of micronutrients, including manganese, B6, Vitamin C and K. They have so many health benefits that a 2007 Symposium on ‘Berry Benefits’ was held. Their positive effects range from preventing urinary tract infections and cancer to decreasing brain damage. In fact all super-foods have a wide range of health benefits.
HOMEOPATHIC remedies are also helpful and can be easily found in health food stores such as Whole Foods.
APIS MELLIFICA is a good remedy to give when the urine is blood tinged. CANTHARIS is excellent for cystitis that causes irritation and frequent urging. CAUSTICUM is indicated for chronic cystitis. They can be administered orally 2 to 4 times a day, depending on the severity of symptoms.
PURR-FECTING HEALTH The good news is: between your veterinarian, correct dietary management, a good supplement and some homeopathic remedies, you now have some excellent tools to alleviate and prevent FLUTD’s in your beloved pets.