By Dr. Becker
According to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), in 2011 policyholders spent over $46 million treating the 10 most common conditions in dogs and cats. At the top of the list of kitty disorders is bladder infection. The second most common problem is chronic kidney disease.
Top 10 Feline Medical Conditions in 2011
- Bladder infection
- Chronic kidney disease
- Overactive thyroid
- Upset stomach
- Gum/dental disease
- GI upset/diarrhea
- Ear infection
- Skin allergies
Grain-Based Diets, Urine pH and Bladder Infections
VPI received over 3,800 claims in 2011 for bladder infections in kitties. The average claim was $233 per office visit.
Many people owned by cats don’t understand the connection between urine pH and bladder health. On the pH scale, 7 is neutral. Everything above 7 is alkaline and everything below 7 is acidic. Cats (and dogs) should have a slightly acidic urine pH of between 6 and 6.5 on the pH scale.
Kitties are obligate carnivores, meaning not only did they evolve to eat meat, they need it to survive. A balanced, species-appropriate diet will keep a cat’s urine pH in the 6 to 6.5 range ideal for urinary tract health. However, a cat fed a grain-based diet more appropriate for vegetarian animals will have more alkaline urine.
Alkaline urine sets the stage for bladder problems.
Common Kitty Bladder Problems
Three common bladder problems I see in cats fed grain in their diet include:
- Cystitis, which is inflammation of the bladder. This is a painful condition that can become chronic and lead to bleeding and secondary infections.
- Urinary crystals or stones. Alkaline, concentrated urine pH creates an environment in which minerals form crystals that irritate and inflame the bladder. If these sharp particles remain in the bladder long enough, they can fuse together to form stones.
- Bladder infection. Urine is sterile at an acidic 6 to 6.5 pH. But when it creeps up the scale and turns alkaline, it becomes a more attractive environment for infection to develop.
Clearly an alkaline urine pH (6 to 6.5 for cats) is crucially important for your pet’s bladder health.
Diagnosis and Treatment of a Bladder Infection
The most common symptom of a cat with a bladder problem is urinating in places other than her litter box. So if your kitty is peeing outside the box, you should make an appointment with your vet for a urinalysis.
A urinalysis will provide information about the presence of blood, protein glucose, ketones and bilirubin. It will also determine the concentration of the urine, which is a measure of kidney health. A urinalysis will also pick up the presence of white blood cells, indicating inflammation or infection.
A urine culture and sensitivity test can determine if bacteria is present and what antibiotic will be most effective in clearing the infection.
It’s important to note that sometimes pets can experience bladder inflammation or crystals without infection. In this case, a different type of medication may be needed.
If your kitty is diagnosed with a bladder infection or any form of lower urinary tract disease and you’re feeding a diet containing grains, it’s time to transition your pet to a more species-appropriate nutrition.