Tuesday, December 1, 2009 3:17 PM

Feline Urological Syndrome

Cats, for some reason, seem to have extremely sensitive urinary systems. Many cats have chronic problems with cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder, which often causes them to urinate in unacceptable places. Older cats often suffer kidney failure, which, unfortunately, is incurable. Others, often young males, develop the dreaded Feline Urological Syndrome; or, as we used to call it when I worked for veterinarians, "plugged cat".

And "plugged" they are. If this condition is ignored for too long, the cat will die from blood poisoning brought on by renal failure. Particularly if you have an indoor cat, it will be hard to miss the symptoms: The cat keeps squatting in the box more and more often, and for extended periods of time. There is no urine output, or there are only a few bloody drops. The cat becomes very upset, and looks very anxious. Despite these obvious clues of distress, some people do not take care of the problem in time. I worked once with such a person, too caught up in her own life to notice that her cat was dying. Yikes.

What causes this problem? Crystals made of magnesium and phosphorus form in a cat's urine when it is in an alkaline state, rather than acidic. These crystals will irritate the bladder and get caught in the urethra (which is why this problem affects males more than females). Mucus forms as the body tries to soothe the affected area, and a solid plug forms, keeping the cat from emptying his bladder. The real cause of this problem is a diet that is foreign to what a cat would naturally eat. Commercial dry food is the biggest offender, but canned food also contributes to this problem.

When Bear developed this trouble, he was typical: 4 - 6 years old, a bit overweight, lazy and eating a commercial (though premium) diet, both canned and dry. He was hospitalized for several days, and put under anesthesia so they could drain his bladder. The veterinarian told me in no uncertain terms that dry food was now out of the picture, which I already knew. He was also put on a urine acidifier called Methioform. This is pretty much standard treatment, and it does work.

Tomorrow, preventing both the occurrence and recurrence of FUS.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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