Vet 101 will return next week. This week we have a guest post by an old online friend and cat lover Kathryn Esplin. If you’ve ever worried about feline urinary issues or FLUTD read on. When Kathryn’s her cat Cheddar fell ill recently I was worried. Not peeing can be deadly. I’d rushed Merlin to the vet a few times over the years thinking it was serious when it wasn’t. Pet parents often agonize when to take a cat to the vet and what cost they’re willing to pay for peace of mind.
This post sheds light on what to look for before, during and after a bout of urinary blockage with crystals.
I Couldn’t Pee On This: Diary of Cheddar, The Cat’s Bad Week.
By Kathryn Esplin
Could it really be only three weeks ago that we (banish the thought) were afraid we would lose our beloved 10-year-old Cheddar? Happily, this turned out for the best, but — we didn’t expect a bill of $1,800! for two days in a vet hospital. The photo (above) of Cheddar was taken during recovery.
Had we known then what we know now — yeah, ooh boy – we would have fed our boys differently. I thought that commercial canned food like 9Lives and Friskies, and Purina dry food at night was an excellent diet. Silly moi. Commercial pet food has a high Ph, (like McDonald’s food for we hoomans), which leads to urinary/bladder/crystal issues in male housecats, and possibly to other diseases in cats like diabetes and heart disease.
November 26th. Cheddar wasn’t himself. He wasn’t purring. He looked in pain and he cried out. He didn’t seem to be peeing. I Googled. That’s what scared me. I was up all night with him. Knew we had to get to the vet. I couldn’t tell what was wrong, but he was crying and licking himself. I suspected crystals. The symptoms can come on suddenly, so that’s another worry. It’s not like you have weeks – or even days – notice. The cat has them for a considerable time before, but he’s not in discomfort until the situation is life threatening.
November 27th. I took Ched to PetSmart, which contracts with Banfield. Banfield called VESCONE, Veterinary Emergency Specialty Clinic of New England, http://www.vescone.com/ and said we are on our way. My husband and I brought Cheddar over. (I highly recommend VESCONE, by the way. A+ BBB rating.) The staff is very nice; the place is exceptionally well appointed, and so very pet friendly. Pets? These are our friends and we are their moms and dads.
November 27th. The vet could feel that Cheddar had a large number of struvite crystals, blocking his bladder and that it was an emergency. We knew it was life threatening; the poor boy was not himself. The hospital said his kidney values were elevated. The hospital catheterized him, put him on an antispasmodic, and gave him a painkiller. Death can occur within 36 to 72 hours.
Struvite crystals are common in bladders of cats who eat commercial dry or wet food. The symptoms are difficulty urinating or blood in the urine. You might think your cat is constipated, but he probably has trouble peeing. Not that many years ago, surgery was required to remove the crystals; nowadays, a catheter is inserted to help the cat’s urethra, which helps flush the crystals, and then a special, Vet-prescribed diet low in magnesium usually dissolves these struvite stones. These stones can also be caused by infection. Struvite crystals happens more often with male housecats, because the male urethra is narrower and curved.
November 28th. Cheddar was so happy to see me and his brother, Mao! Cheddar almost mewed! He did purr a bit. Mao was freaked out, but happy to see his bro – they’ve been together since birth. Cheddar was still listless, but didn’t look like he was in danger. Mao mewed all the way to the vet, but didn’t say a peep on the way back. He seemed to know we were going home.
November 29th. Cheddar came home. He still had crystals, but he was peeing, drinking, and eating. About 40 percent of cats relapse, the vet said. This usually happens the first week, the vet said. Mao was different with Cheddar. Usually, Mao establishes his brotherly dominance almost nightly by grooming Cheddar and then attacking him. Mao seemed to know that Cheddar wasn’t feeling well, because Mao curled up next to Ched and hasn’t tried to pin Ched since Ched came home. Mao usually sleeps on my knees (strange, I know) but Mao was needy while Ched was in the hospital. Mao curled up next to me, which he never did before – or since. Perhaps in a few weeks Mao will take to pinning Ched again, in their friendly game of “I’m the boss over you, Chedster.”
Prevention. The cure for crystals is to give the cat the right food. Most cats that eat commercial dry food will get crystals. The issue didn’t even exist before dry food was invented. However, our cats had only a little dry food at night. Mostly, they ate 9 Lives and Friskies wet food. Turns out that any commercial cat food is bad for cats. Cats that eat commercial food are more likely to get crystals (mostly male cats), diabetes, cancer and heart disease. So, we have a prescription for Hills Diet dry and wet food. This brand is the special bladder formula that has been clinically proven, to dissolve crystals. It has a low Ph, unlike commercial food, which has a high Ph.
Cheddar was on the antispasmodic at home for a week. It is a muscle relaxant and a nerve relaxant, and it can cause dilated pupils – so it works on the optic nerve, as well as other nerves. Well, Cheddar wasn’t going to take a capsule, so I broke it and mixed it in with baby food. I only serve them small amounts of baby food –rarely, and only pure meat. The antispasmodic helped keep Cheddar’s urethra and bladder from cramping again, while he gets used to the prescription cat food. I am going to get a pet fountain. Powerful stuff. While on the antispasmodic, Ched seemed subdued.
December: Cheddar is off the medication and he’s livelier. He’s eating, drinking, purring, and putting his paw on my sleeve (while I am at the computer) to remind me to rub his belly – or else! He’s running around. We hope none of our cats ever have to go through this misery again.
Bio about me:
I was born in Utah, but moved to Montreal with my scientist parents. I’ve since moved back to the U.S. We always had cats around the house, growing up. I’ve had about 15 cats in my life, plus three dogs, a bunny, a guinea pig, gerbils, squirrels, a toad, frogs/tadpoles, a sloth, (he lived in the animal lab at the University) two parakeets and a duck. Cats are so special. I’m a sucker for anything that purrs. I studied English and Journalism, and worked for newspapers. Currently, I edit legal, food and parenting articles, and am working on a romance novel. (to be submitted soon to a publisher). I have a Montreal Food and Travel Blog. http://montrealquebectravel.blogspot.com/