Q: My three-year-old male Maine Coon suffered from urolithiasis and had to undergo a procedure to have the struvite stones flushed out. Although he has fully recovered from this episode, I understand that there is a high recurrence of the condition. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?
A: Urolithiasis, the formation of struvite stones and crystals in the urinary system, and urinary tract infections, generally occur when an animal’s urine becomes concentrated and alkaline (pH 7 or greater). The natural diet of our pets, which are carnivores, contains fresh red meat that produces acidic urine.
The high water content in the proteins also prevents dehydration, crystal formation and excessive concentration of urine, especially in cats. On the contrary, processed food has significantly higher levels of non-meat ingredients for economic reasons as red meat is expensive. However, substitute byproducts and white meats, like chicken, do not have the same acidifying effect.
Your vet may suggest a prescription diet that will include artificial urinary acidifiers. This can also be done with natural supplements that are available in the market. Alternatively, you can consider adding cranberry tablets to your furkid’s food. Besides containing vitamin C that naturally acidifies the urine, it helps to create a mucilaginous lining on the mucosal surface of the bladder wall, which inhibits the attachment of bacteria. This assists the voiding of any contaminants, such as crystals or stones, with normal urination.
I would recommend feeding your furkid a diet that comprises of 80 percent red meat and 20 percent vegetable matter and cooked brown rice. Avoid giving any form of dry kibbles as this will cause the urine to become concentrated and thus, more likely to form stones. You should ensure that your Maine Coon has access to adequate fresh water. Do consider getting a cat drinking fountain, as it encourages them to drink more.
Test your pet’s urine using a pH test strip at home or at the vet monthly for the next three to four months. Once the pH level is stable (between four and six for a cat), you can cease the cranberry supplement. Review four weeks later to make sure it has not changed. I would suggest that you continue to monitor the pH level of the urine regularly for the rest of your Maine Coon’s life to ensure that the condition has not reoccurred.