A healthy cat is a happy one

Dr. Nancy Schenck D.V.M. Special to The Brazil Times

Cats are amazing. They bring joy and comfort to many homes. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 30 percent of American households own an average of two cats, (it’s hard to have just one) as compared to dogs, where 36 percent of households own an average of one to two dogs. Cats are right behind their canine friends in popularity.

Our feline friends are unlike our canine companions in ways other than attitude. Cats have a unique set of possible medical problems. Some very serious to the life of our pet, others more of an annoyance.

One serious situation is what is routinely referred to as a “blocked tom.” Cats sometimes develop a situation where crystals form in their urine. These crystals can range in size from microscopic to a gritty sand like substance.

The most common type of crystal is formed from certain minerals like magnesium and phosphorous, known as Struvite crystals.

For this type of crystal formation to occur, there must be sufficient concentrations of the minerals and a high (alkaline) pH to the urine. These factors may be managed by diet.

Male and female cats alike can develop crystals, also known as Feline Urological Syndrome. One of the first signs is urinating in inappropriate places. Sometime there is blood in the urine and possible bacteria. This often progresses to urinating small amounts frequently.

Unlike males, females have a wider opening to the urethra so they do not tend to “get blocked.” Males can have crystals collect at the narrow opening of the urethra, at the tip of the penis, and form a plug that makes it impossible for them to urinate. When this happens, often it starts with him urinating small amounts frequently until he is unable to pass any urine at all. Then the toxins that would normally be excreted with the urine are kept in the body and he becomes very ill. The signs owners may typically see with a male cat that is completely blocked are: sitting crouched, trying to urinate for extended periods of time and unable to produce any urine, crying, not eating and sometimes vomiting. If you have a male cat that exhibits any of the above symptoms, he needs to be seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian. This is an EMERGENCY!

Treatment for this condition generally involves anesthesia to pass a urinary catheter and empty the bladder. This catheter may be left in the urethra for several days. Fluid therapy is started and other specific treatments/medications to help restore normal function to the bladder. If left untreated, this condition in a male cat is often fatal. If treatment is delayed there is a greater risk of a heart arrhythmia and/or a bladder that cannot hold or void urine normally. A matter of hours can make the difference between life and death, so do not delay seeking medical treatment at the first sign of a problem Female cats also require veterinary attention, but not generally as an emergency.

Long-term management often involves a diet change to a prescription food that is low in the minerals that contribute to the crystal formation as well as one that keeps the pH of the urine in an optimal range.

A less serious condition, although not strictly a feline aliment, is hair balls, this is one of the most common problems faced by cat owners. Because cats often groom by licking, not only themselves, but also other felines and canine family members, they are more susceptible to the formation of hair balls in their stomach and intestines. Prevention can help minimize the risks of forming a hairball. Regular brushing can reduce the amount of hair ingested. Some cats do well on hairball diets or regular oral pastes that help move the hair through the gastrointestinal tract.

Signs that your cat may have hair balls include, but are not limited to vomiting-with or without hair, coughing, and decreased appetite. These symptoms also can indicate a more serious problem. If your pet has any of these symptoms it is best to seek veterinary attention.

Cats provide much in the way of companionship and joy. They give back in multiple ways. It has been proven that the act of petting a cat can lower your blood pressure and their purr can help hasten the healing of fractures. They have their own endearing qualities that true cat lovers can appreciate.

Dr. Nancy Schenck, D.V.M., of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services, Inc., can be reached at 812-448-1415. If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to wilson.braziltimes@gmail.com.

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