Bladder Problems in Cats: An Integrated Approach

Allen M. Schoen, D.V.M., M.S.

Bladder problems are not as uncommon in cats as one might think, unfortunately. The incidence is estimated at about 1-6% of the cat population. There is great debate on their causes and their treatment. Bladder problems may be caused by either infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, mycoplasma or fungi, crystals in the urine, noninfectious conditions such as interstitial cystitis, as well as from trauma such as being hit by a car or falling out of a tall building and injuring their back. Many of these conditions are often clumped together as “FUS” or feline urologic syndrome, but actually, as you can see, there are many different causes. It affects both male and females, though it can become a much more serious condition in males since crystals can form a plug that will block their urethra and prevent them from urinating.

The most common signs you see include seeing your cat spending alot of time in the litter box, often straining to urinate. Sometimes when you check the litter box, there will be blood in the urine, at other times there may be just tiny spots of urine even though they were in the litter box for a long time. Sometimes, they will associate the litter box with pain and actually urinate elsewhere. Sometimes you will here them cry, moan or move about uncomfortably in the litter box due to pain and discomfort. Sometimes, you will not see any urine and this can be very serious and life threatening because they may be blocked and unable to urinate and become toxic. This is an emergency and you should take your cat to your veterinarian immediately. Any of these signs warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination. Sometimes they may palpate a greatly enlarged bladder if they are blocked; sometimes a tiny thick walled bladder from irritation and straining. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may perform some laboratory tests including a urinalysis, blood chemistry profile and perhaps some x-rays. Thorough evaluation of the urinalysis may reveal evidence of either bacteria, crystals or inflammatory cells suggestive of a possible cause. Though sometimes, no obvious cause is revealed and one must be suspicious of a viral or unknown origin.

If your kitty is not completely blocked and is still urinating, they may go home with appropriate medications and dietary changes, but must be closely observed for a while to make sure they do not become blocked. If your cat is blocked, they must be hospitalized, anaesthetized and the blockage removed in order that they may urinate freely. If crystals are the cause, dietary changes such as special prescription diets are in order. If bacteria are the cause, antibiotics are your initial approach of choice. However, sometimes there appear to be chronic reoccurring problems. This is when a more natural approach is very appropriate, combining nutritional supplements, herbal remedies or homeopathy. The first step is to try to find a cause if this is possible and remove the cause or treat it appropriately.

Let us now look at what you can do at home to help prevent reoccurrences. My cat had a bout of cystitis a few years ago. After a comprehensive physical examination and evaluating the urinalysis, I decided to treat him conservatively since he was still urinating well. We just treated him at home with herbs, supplements and added water to his canned cat food and he has not had another reoccurrence since. First of all, you want to make sure you are feeding your kitty a quality, natural as possible, diet with minimum ash content. I prefer canned cat foods in cats that are prone to cystitis and I always like to make them a bit mushier, adding some water to increase their water intake. I also make sure that they have plenty of fresh clean water easily available. Make sure to keep the litter box clean so that they do not associate the litter box with pain associated with urinating while they have the condition. Some cats appear to be more particular as well when they have a urinary tract problem and do not like a dirty litter box.

Some nutritional supplements may be helpful in prevention. Some holistic practitioners recommend vitamin C at 125 up to 500 mg. of vitamin c per day along with 100 I.U. of Vitamin E. I find that a super concentrated cranberry juice capsules have been very beneficial in preventing reoccurrences in many cases. There is one made specifically for cats called “carpon” which is available through holistic veterinarians. If your cat has been on antibiotics for an infection, you may want to give them some acidophilus to reinstall normal bacteria into their digestive tract. Sometimes the healthy bacteria may be killed off from antibiotic use and then it is important to reinstill those bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

Different herbs may also be helpful for urinary problems in cats. Dr. Cheryl Schwartz in her book “Chinese Medicine for Dogs and Cats” suggests actually a western herbal combination of tinctures of Plantain (6 drops), agrimony (2 drops) and Cleavers (4 drops) dissolved in one ounce of distilled water and given 1 droppers three times daily. My favorite herbal formula for bladder problems in cats is actually a chinese herbal formula known as polyporous combination. I have had great success in resolving chronic reoccurring bladder problems with this formula as well as with carpon. I had one cat that belonged to one of my horse clients who was a physician and somewhat skeptical of chinese herbal formulas. However, his cat had chronic reoccurring cystitis and their regular small animal veterinarian had recommended surgery. We administered the chinese herbal formula, polyporous combination, and it resolved immediately and never reoccurred. I discuss this formula in my book “Love, Miracles and Animal Healing”. My results with this formula over the last fifteen years has been just great! It has herbs in it to treat for both infections and crystals. You must consult with your veterinarian before considering the use of a Chinese herb or any other complementary therapy.

Acupuncture can also be beneficial for chronic reoccurring bladder problems, though most patients respond well to either supplements, herbs or homeopathy. Though Homeopathy is more controversial and lacks the scientific research that other complementary therapies have, sometimes, it can work quite well for certain patients with cystitis. One should consult with a veterinarian trained in homeopathy to figure out the appropriate remedy. In acute cases, if one is familiar with homeopathy, one may consider using homeopathic Apis mellifica, Causticum or Cantharis, depending upon the symptoms , in a 30C potency, 3 granules every three hours if it is not an acute emergency. If your cat is blocked, cannot urinate or is straining excessively, do not hesitate, go directly to your veterinarian to have your cat examined! This is an emergency!

If your cat is unable to urinate due to a traumatic injury with damage to the nerves that innervate the bladder, acupuncture may be beneficial. In addition, acupuncture may be helpful for chronic cystitis as well. Make sure to see your veterinarian and explore all conventional therapeutic approaches before considering complementary therapies. Bladder problems in cats can be an acute emergency. Give them quality foods with low ash count, plenty of fresh water and lots of love, hugs and purrs and Enjoy each other till our next column where we will discuss some more interesting natural options! Be well till then!

No article can replace the services of a trained veterinarian. This article is not intended to encourage treatment of illness, disease, or other medical problems by the layman. Any application of the recommendations set forth in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion and risk. You should consult a veterinarian concerning any veterinary medical or surgical problem. If a veterinarian is caring for your pet, for any condition, he or she can advise you about information described in this article.