Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jack.. the vet visit..

So, I have to admit, I was a complete and utter chicken and broke down and brought Jack to the vet.  I'm not sorry I did (although I am a little aghast by the bill) even though I'm exactly where I was before I went but at least now I have someone else - a professional -  telling me the same thing. Dealing with crystals is not something to be taken lightly..

So as a recap, Jack has had two serious bouts with urinary crystals.  The first as in 05 when he was three.  He blocked and needed emergency intervention. He had a bladder the size of a baseball! I brought him home with a tube in his urethra so he didn't have to spend the night at the e-clinic.  They let me because I worked at a vet clinic at the time, and I assured them I knew what I was doing (although looking back I'm still a little surprised they did it).  he blocked again a few days (weeks?) later.  this was shortly after Eli had been peeing blood and had been diagnosed with urinary crystals too.. and Em was diabetic.

My cats were getting a "premium" brand of dry food, and I was shocked we were having these issues.. oh how ignorant I was as to what causes these issues.  (a good part of the reason I share these things on my blog is to help get the word out.  I want to join the growing choir of voices singing the praises of species appropriate foods for an obligate carnivore and the wonders it can do)

Anyway.. I started reading what other people with cats with urinary crystals were doing and the majority of them at places I visited said that simply switching them to canned food and getting rid of dry would keep the problem from re-occurring.  Working at the vet I got 'prescription' food at cost, but reading over the bags and cans it kept saying for occasional use only - which always bugged me.  These cats were on this for the rest of their life, why did it say for occasional use??

Then there was the question of multiple cat households.  Most of the people buying the food gave it to every cat in the house.  This didn't seem right.  There was also the issue that a lot of cats on this food quickly became overweight.

I read and read and read.. I put Jack and Eli on an over the counter urinary canned cat food.  Eli did fine, Jack blocked (the second time)  I kept reading.

This is when I learned.. that while they do not know what causes some cats to get urinary crystals  they do know how to prevent it from becoming a problem.  You basically need to do two things, keep the urine slightly acidic - in the 6.0-6.5 range (neutral is 7.0) and keep them well hydrated.  As I posted yesterday: There are other schools of thought that you need to keep ash low or potassium low or magnesium low or calcium low - or all of the above - but to me that just seems to open the door up for nutritional deficiencies   I feed my cats what they were designed to eat - raw meat and as little plant based ingredients as possible.  This has kept Jack crystal free for quite some time.

You can keep a cat's urine naturally acidic by feeding it a mostly animal based diet.  The fewer plant based ingredients the better. Which is one reason why I chose to feed my cats exclusively a raw diet (except for treats.. and when we run out of raw, I feed a canned food with as few plant based ingredients as I can find) Except Jack - my chow hound, my dishwasher, my garbage disposal, my incredibly food motivated boy - has other ideas. He has chewed through more bags of treats, bags of dry food I bring home for foster kittens (I am now extra careful not to leave them in the house, they stay in my car until I am ready to head down to the kitten room) and a bag of Swheat Scoop which is wheat based and several bag of Worlds Best Cat litter which is corn based. I do my best to limit treats. Plants work against the cat in that they make the urine alkaline. When the urine is alkaline the crystals either form easier or aren't broken down by the acid so they accumulate more easily. Dry food has far too many plants in it - it has to in order to form kibble shapes. They get around this problem by adding acidifying agents such as the low cost dl-methionine (if you have a bag of kibble, go look, chances are that is in there)

Anyway, back in 08, he got into a bag of something, and then I was overly generous with the treats, and he ended up peeing in the bath tub. I was not as well versed in treatment options as I am now, so off to the vet we went. One thing I did know that he, like a lot of cats with crystal problems, generally doesn't have a bacterial infection to go along with it. When the vet gave me an antibiotic (clavamox) along with the recommendation of 'prescription' foods, I asked if she saw an infection. She admitted she didn't, but then told me that the clavamox would help acidify the urine. I have not been able to confirm that anywhere, and I believe she simply made it up on the spot for some unknown reason... probably to justify having dispensed it to me. There are better, cheaper, and less dangerous ways to acidify the urine.. (the over use of antibiotics is just as dangerous for pets as it is for people)

More reading, more learning,and more websites including ones for alternative /  holistic care and I came to a set of protocols I was comfortable using when he gave me the signal he was uncomfortable (which will happen when he breaks into a bag of something, or I get heavy handed with treat time - it is just so hard not to, the cats love it so!) for four+ years I have been able to keep a handle on this. Actually I haven't really had to do anything other than watch his diet for the past two or three years.

It happened so very fast.  Usually I don't notice that he is having an issue and it is the pee in the tub that tips me off, so I imagine this hit him very fast.  I started supplementing him, and making sure he had plenty of tempting acidifying foods that had extra water in them.  I was a little afraid I was behind the eight ball and that I was foolish for trying to take care of this myself, but after a night he seemed to be doing better.   I backed off the supplements afraid of over acidifying him and causing more problems and unfortunately he started leaking urine.  back to the dose I originally settled on, but things seemed to be progressing faster than I could take care of it.  The irritation of the crystals caused my boy to start peeing blood.  I can only imagine the pain he must be in.

Being that it is the weekend, I thought it would be negligent to not get to the vet.  I know full well that a blocked cat can die very quickly.  So I made a call and got squeezed in.  There was an xray taken, and the urine was looked at (although there was so many red blood cells it was hard to get a good look) fluids were given and pain medication was given (and dispensed in case he needs it over the weekend)  I am very happy with this vet in that they didn't lie to me, didn't push anything (script food was offered but he didn't push when I declined it) I was a little less than thrilled on a few accounts, but I know I'm horribly picky and I'll probably never have a vet that I 100% agree with and I can accept that and not nit pick here.

When Jack got back in his carrier he let his bladder go again (I can only imagine how painful it is to 'hold it') and his urine is so red it looked like cherry kool-aid.  I am very fortunate that my boy has enough dignity to keep himself to easily cleaned surfaces now that he is dripping urine.  Even still to spend some time away from him (he is isolated in one room to keep cleaning to a minimum) coming upon that is really heart breaking.  There are drops everywhere, and frankly it looks like a bit of a massacre happened.. 

Sadly I can not prove it was the Catswell treats I gave him that caused this.  I have been going over the past week trying to think if he got into anything else, think if I might have given too many treats.. come up with ANY other reason why this would have happened now.. and there isn't anything else.  We did have a couple of visitors, a couple more than is standard but Jack loves people (more people to tell him how HANDSOME!! he is)   I supposed that I could give them again after Jack gets better, but there is no way on earth I'm risking that.

I am specifically not mentioning what I use to help Jack simply because I do not want anyone to follow my lead with out doing their own reading and research and understand exactly what issues can arise if you are not careful because I am not a veterinarian nor do I play one on the Internet.  I am very happy to get into an email conversation (or facebook) if you want to learn more about what I use and why.


  1. Poor Jack! I am sure he has been miserable. I hope the crystals clear up soon - I don't blame you for taking him to the vet. All that bloody urine would freak out most humans, not to mention the pain to a kitty!

  2. Oh, I'm so sorry for Jack. I would've taken him to the vet too. I hope he gets better very soon. It's so hard when they're in pain. Gentle hugs to him.

  3. It's terrifying when it happens, isn't it. Gypsy had the same problem back when she was about a year old and it scared the bejezus out of me. Ever since then she gets raw chicken to eat, with a very small amount of the "good" dry food, and she's never had a relapse. I guess it's important to work out what will work with each animal.

  4. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Poor baby :-( I too would've taken him to the vet! I hope that he starts feeling better very soon. I know that he is in good hands.

  5. Oh the poor guy. Yes, I can't imagine the pain he must be in. How frustrating a condition like this must be for you (and him)! We continue to send healing purrs.

  6. Oh Poor Jack! I know how awful that can be. Leo had a bout with it, not as bad as this sounds, but it was scary. We were told no fish and I've been very strict about that with Leo and he has not had any problems since. What bothered me was the offhand way my vet said it, when if it's that important, he should have stressed it. I did a little research at the time, and it seemed to make sense. How many desert animals eat fish anyway.. but anyway, I hope your Jack gets better quick and doesn't have any more issues!

  7. Poor Jack. We'll send healing purrs for him.

  8. Oh Jack - you poor guy. That sounds painful and frustrating and heart-wrenching.... Purring for a swift recovery!!

  9. get well soon Jack I'm sure you will you have a great mum taking care of you,xx Speedy and mum

  10. Poor kitty! It's always so hard when our four legged furry friends are sick. Sending big hugs!
    xo Catherine

  11. Sounds like you have things under control. Hopefully Jack feels better soon. :)

  12. You need to take him to the vet when you've done everything to avoid the issue and still it happens; even if you don't find out why it happened, you find out his current condition. And I found with a few tough cases that even with a raw diet just a few commercial pet treats or licking the cans from non-approved canned food (from my geriatrics in this case) could do it. Also, two of my current boys showed signs of blockage while they were still on dry kitten food (those were the days) since the increased protein can be an issue. If I see any signs I start them on vitamin C and cranberry concentrate right away. For treats I give them brewer's yeast tablets (no garlic)--they all adore them! Good luck, hope he's okay!

    1. The vet didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. They were able to get me pain meds, something I do not have access to. Jack is doing a lot better today, and I am pretty sure that if I had not gone we would be exactly where we are now just a few more dollar bills in my hand.

      But I did not know that and I did not want to risk going into the weekend this being my first time trying to treat this on my own. I am heartened to know that if I had, we would have been fine.

      As I said, I would never recommend someone not take their kitty to the vet if they are experiencing urinary issues with their kitty. Trying to handle this is not for the general cat owner. Even I, with the experiences and knowledge of what I have gone through, wasn't willing to risk going 48 hours with only an emergency vet to help me.

      Western medicine is not the only alternative out there. There are other options. Writing this reply has been very hard for me because I am very conscious of the very thin line of sounding like a reckless hack. I have become a huge fan of 'traditional' medicine - or alternative, or Eastern.. how ever you want to put it. Using food as medicine, using herbs, and the healing power of nature - like using silver.. I first started losing faith in the medical establishment more than a dozen years ago when I almost lost my dad to a medical mystery. I lost more on my own health journey.. Not that there isn't a lot of good in there, because there is, but there are a lot of smoke and mirrors as well.

  13. It is amazing what food can do to the body. Lucky we have never had crystals, but Baggy has kidney problems and is on a low protein diet now and his kidneys are within normal!

    I really appreciate that you are not sharing what you are doing on the internet. It is so easy to become your own vet/doctor. Even when doing things that a vet may recommend may not be appropriate in all cases. People need to do their own research, talk to their own vet.

  14. Oh awful! Purrs Jack feels better very soon!!


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