Natural methods for dealing with struvite crystals in cats
Cats can form several different types of crystals. Longterm control to prevent crystal formation is usually dietary, with the type of diet being determined by the type of crystal present. The most common crystal is the struvite crystal, also known as the triple phosphate crystal or the magnesium ammonium phosphate crystal. We used to think that this type of crystal formed as the result of high ash content in the food. We now know that multiple factors lead to struvite crystal formation including the pH of the urine, the amount of magnesium and phosphorus excreted in the urine, the length of time urine stays in the bladder before the cat urinates, and the concentration of the urine. Foods formulated to prevent struvite crystal formation produce an acid urine, have lower levels of magnesium and ash, have higher salt content to encourage more drinking which leads to more dilute urine and more frequent urination. The bladder is emptied more quickly so crystals have less time to form. Many over-the-counter cat foods are formulated to prevent struvite crystal formation, but some severely affected cats need a more restricted prescription diet. Some cats will continue to form crystal despite our best efforts. Struvite crystalluria is diagnosed via a urinalysis.
Two things should be done to help prevent recurrence. 1. The most common type of crystals present in the urine are called struvite. These are dissolvable in acidic urine. Therefore, acidification of your cat’s urine can be a significant means of prevention. It has been shown that environmental stress can produce the opposite of acidic (alkaline) urine. This is one reason why cases of feline cystitis are associated with stress, e.g. travel, new pets, new people etc.
Struvite crystals are one type of urinary blockage that petcats can develop. Some male cats can develop blockages in theirurethras (the tube through which urine travels out of the bladder) fromthe tiny crystals, or full-blown stones can develop in a cat's urinarytract.Cats are not natural water drinkers, as they evolved over millions of years and derived most of their moisture from their prey. Cats that are routinely fed a diet of dry food are particularly at risk for struvite crystals. Dry cat food provides very little moisture in their diet & can make their urine too concentrated, making it difficult for them to pass the crystals. Cat crystals do not tend to appear in a more acidic environment (a low pH) and where the urine is more dilute.In urgent situations, surgery may be required to remove a stone ifit's blocking urine from leaving the cat's bladder. This surgery isrequired if your cat has developed large struvite stones. Some malecats may require a different type of surgery to resize their urethra ifstruvite crystals continue to be a problem.Proper diet will acidify the urine. However, if your cat’s crystals are not struvite, acidification may actually make recurrence more likely. Therefore, if at all possible, the crystals in the urine should be analyzed for their composition. This is the most important step in preventing future problems.In older times (25 years or so ago), cats virtually never developed calcium oxalate bladder stones. Cat bladder stones could reliably be assumed to be made of struvite (a matrix of ammonium-magnesium-phosphate). In those days, feline lower urinary tract symptoms were generally thought to be caused by struvite crystals in urine and feline lower urinary tract symptoms were extremely common. The pet food industry responded by acidifying cat foods to prevent the development of crystals. In a way it worked. Feline lower urinary tract symptoms declined. Male cats with struvite urinary blockages became far less common. The trade off was that calcium oxalate bladder stones began to develop. Acidifying the body leads to an acid urine pH and more calcium loss into the urine, both factors in the development of a calcium oxalate stone. Currently most bladder stones formed by cats are calcium oxalate stones.When I was in vet school we saw a lot of struvite crystals. These crystals form in the urine of cats that have high PHs, aka alkaline urine. Carnivores have acidic urine – if you eat a diet mostly of meat you do. Herbivores have alkaline urine, a natural product of eating plants. Cats should naturally have a pH of between 6-6.5. Struvite crystals often form when urine pH is 7 and higher.