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Oxalate crystals in cat urine

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Q: My 11-year-old cat has developed oxalate crystals in her urine. I did a little research and learned that wet food is best for my cat because she develops these crystals. What do you think? And what's the best treatment for my cat?

E. T., Georgetown, Ky.

A:"We don't know how to prevent these stones from occurring in people, but we do know that increased water intake is often helpful, and we assume the same is true for cats,'' said feline specialist Dr. Drew Weigner, in Atlanta, Ga. "The problem is that you can lead a cat to water, but you can't make him drink.''

While you can't make him drink, Weigner says there are some tricks. Lots of cats are intrigued by the drinking fountains made for cats. Also, some cats are tentative about using the water bowl because there may be only one, and the cat doesn't want to compete with other cats or the family dog. Also, the bowl may be at a place where there's commotion - for example, screaming toddlers. Multiple water bowls are suggested, especially if one (or more) of the bowls are up high in a cat tree or on a windowsill.

Weigner adds, "You're right, there's far more water in moist food than in kibble, so moist food is probably a far better option.''

Also, there are several prescription diets that you can ask your veterinarian about. These diets arguably do the most to prevent certain crystals from forming by adjusting the pH of the urine.

Sometimes the stones pass on their own, and no treatment is needed. If necessary, surgical removal is an option. Veterinary schools and some select veterinary specialty clinics may offer a procedure that crushes the stones without invasive surgery (a procedure called lithotripsy) using either laser or shock wave therapy.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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