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Caring for Struvite Stones

LUTD stands for feline lower urinary tract diseases, and describes several different disorders involving the bladder and urethra. Two of these disorders involve the formation of "struvite" stones in the bladder. If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD or as having struvite problems, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet -- such as an FLUTD-safe diet -- and other lifestyles changes for your cat.

What are struvite stones? How are they treated?
What causes struvite stone formation?
Looking after cats with struvite stones

What are struvite stones? How are they treated?
Struvite stones, found in the urinary tract, contain magnesium, ammonium and phosphate. Fifty per cent of these stones are called calcium oxalate stones. They may lodge in and block the urethra of the bladder. Early signs of inflammation or partial blockage of the urethra include bloody urine, frequent urination, and straining to urinate (which may seem like constipation). If your cat spends long periods of time in the litter box, or cries in pain while attempting to urinate, take her to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If the urethra is completely blocked, your cat's bladder will fill to excess, preventing the kidneys from removing metabolic wastes from the body. As these wastes build up, your cat may be listless, and show signs of loss of appetite, depression, and possibly vomiting. Get immediate treatment -- it is required to save your cat's life.

Your veterinarian may empty your cat's bladder by passing a small catheter through the urethra. After the urethra has been un-blocked, he or she may start fluid therapy to flush out the metabolic wastes that have built up in your cat's bloodstream. You may have to feed your cat a special diet to prevent the problem from recurring.

Straining to urinate is a warning sign of urinary tract diseases, including urethral blockage. Normally your cat should squat down very close to the ground or to its litter box, but if the urethra is partially or completely blocked, the cat may raise her haunches slightly. She may cry out with pain, and the urine passed may be bloodstained.

What causes struvite stone formation?
A number of factors have been suggested that may increase your cat's risk of suffering from struvite stones.

  • Gender: Both female and male cats can develop stones in their bladders, but male cats are at greater risk of urethral blockage - their long, narrow urethra increases the likelihood of blockage with struvite material.
  • Age: Cats at one to two years of age are at greater risk for struvite stones, but the risk for another type of stone -- calcium oxalate -- increases with age. Inflammation of the bladder can occur at any age.
  • Confinement: Cats who don't go outside may have a greater risk of lower urinary tract disorders.
  • Inactivity or laziness: Inactive cats seem to be at greater risk for lower urinary tract disorders than active cats. Overweight cats also seem to be at greater risk than cats of normal weight.
  • Diet and urine pH: The food that your cat eats influences the acidity or alkalinity of its urine, and struvite stones are more likely to form if the urine is relatively alkaline, and less likely to form if the urine is slightly acidic.
  • Minerals: High dietary levels of magnesium, combined with alkaline urine, seem to increase the risk of formation of struvite stones.
  • Water intake: If your cat's water intake is low, her urine will be more concentrated. Be sure that she always has access to clean fresh water -- this will promote a good urine output, and may help prevent lower urinary tract disorders.

Looking after cats with struvite stones
You can help your cat's condition by feeding her a diet specially developed for cats who suffer from the formation of struvite stones. If your cat is prone to developing struvite stones, she may need to be fed a special diet permanently. This special diet should also provide urinary pH control to keep her urine continuously acidic, and a reduced but adequate level of magnesium. Make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Consult your vet to determine an adequate diet.

There are several measures you can take to ensure the best possible health for your cat during her recovery period and after:

  • If she has been prescribed drugs, make sure you administer them exactly as prescribed.
  • If she has been prescribed a pH control diet, serve it exactly as prescribed to maintain her normal body weight. Don't give your cat snacks.
  • Allow her access to fresh water, and change the water daily.
  • If she requires surgery to re-establish the free passage of urine, follow your veterinarian's advice on care of the surgical wound. Your cat may need to return to the veterinarian for re-check visits.
  • Allow her access to a clean litter box or to an outside toilet area. Clean the litter box daily.
  • Encourage her to exercise - play games with cat toys or let her go outside several times a day.

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