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Nutrition Team Blog

Urinary health in cats - dietary management

Published: Thursday, February 12, 2015


Urinary health
The information in this article is designed to help owners keep their cat’s urinary tract as healthy as possible. If you suspect your cat has a urinary condition, immediate veterinary attention should be sought as these disorders can be painful and in some cases life threatening.

Dietary management
As you may have read in Part 1, increasing the water content of your cat’s diet is essential for cats prone to urinary problems. However, there are other dietary considerations to maintain a healthy urinary system.

How much should you feed?
Free feeding or feeding ad-libitum has been shown to increase the risk of developing urinary conditions. There are several reasons for this:

* Overfeeding increases the amount of waste products in urine which can irritate the bladder membrane.

* It also means that the ratio of dry food to water is increased so the urine becomes more concentrated; this is likely to make the bladder a more favourable environment for bacteria.

* Obese cats have also been shown to be more at risk from urinary conditions, so food should be carefully measured out.

A natural, good quality food such as Burns will be easy to digest, so the daily feeding amounts are lower. Avoiding ingredients such as sugar means the urine is a less favourable environment for bacteria to thrive. A better quality diet may reduce waste products in the urine which can irritate the bladder.

Obesity
Overweight cats and those with a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to urinary conditions. A low fat diet and increased exercise is therefore recommended to maintain urinary health. Try to encourage exercise by playing with your cat in short 5 minute sessions throughout the day.

Use puzzle balls to encourage your cat to work for his/her food or use your stairs to encourage exercise. Moist food can be put at the top or the bottom of the stairs so the cat has to use them to get food, or dry food can be scattered on the stairs or in and around cat activity centres.

Nutraceuticals (supplements)
A healthy bladder membrane is lined with glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which are thought to have a protective effect by preventing bacteria and crystals sticking to the membrane causing irritation and inflammation. Studies[1] show that this protective layer is reduced in cats suffering from urinary conditions (when compared to healthy cats). This has lead to the belief that supplementing with GAGs such as glucosamine and chondroitin may help these cats. However, current research has found that oral supplementation of these products does not seem to have any distinct benefits. Omega 3 fatty acids such as DHA found in fish oils have also been suggested as a suitable supplement due to their anti-inflammatory properties but again more research is needed on this.

Specialist diets
Veterinary advice on the correct diet for your cat is recommended if he/she has a urinary problem. A specialist diet may be needed and the correct diet will depend on the diagnosis. Urinary diets often contain substances which change the pH of the urine to make it more acidic or more alkaline (depending on the type of bladder stone). Often these diets will have a reduced protein or mineral content too.

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