By: Mel Adams, RVT
“Ask a Vet Tech” is an ongoing advice column written by our resident pet expert and registered vet technician, Mel Adams. You can find her online at: www.vettechmel.com.
I have a male cat that has a problem with crystals forming in his urine. The vet has him on a prescription urinary diet.
I am sure it works, but the cost of this product is high and he will not eat the wet food.
Also, the contents are from animal by-products which I do not like. My research shows that water is the number one item to keep this problem at bay.
I have found a less expensive alternative that can be bought at the grocery store.
If you were in my position: Would you try the less expensive item instead of staying with the vets urinary [medicine].
If not, would you know of a good alternative that contains real meat that would do the job?
I can answer this question because I answer it all the time. After taking part in many courses and seminars about nutrition I have learned so much about the pet food industry and the science that goes behind pet food formulation. Feline urinary crystals is one of my favorite topics and nutrition is right up there with it! You’ve brought up many important points that I would like to address, so here it goes:
First of all, some definitions:
Pet food labels can be very confusing and misleading. Without going into all of the details, because there are whole books written about this topic, it is most important to understand what each ingredient on the ingredients panel means. If you are interested in knowing more about how pet food labels can mislead consumers, check out some of my first blog postings here: Ask a Vet Tech | Kitty Needs a Diet. The words most people seem to be concerned with are with regards to meat. So here are a few to look out for:
“Chicken”, “Beef”, “Pork” = “Meat” – Refers to muscle meat of the animal of origin. For example, chicken breast. It does not contain any organ meat, bones, or fur/feathers.
“Meat By-Product” – The exact definition of by-product is: “something that is produced in the making of something else”. In other words, once the ‘meat’ is removed at the slaughter houses, the rest of the animal, which is not put into the human food industry, is considered by-product to be used in the making of other things such as pet food, cosmetics, etc. These include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, and stomach and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, or hooves. It is important to note, that cats, being carnivores, eat these parts and not only the “meat”. The organs are very important for cats to eat because they contain a lot of nutrients that muscle meat cannot supply on its own.
Poultry By Product Meal – The AAFCO definition of this is: “consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” This is basically the by-products of the by-products and, in my opinion, is not the highest quality of protein source that can be used and should not the the main source in the diet.
Here is a great link with all of the AAFCO definitions. You can print it out to take with you next time you are looking at pet food labels http://www.braypets.com/FRR/aafcodef.htm
Yes, good ol’ H2O is VERY important -
One very important thing to help cats clear their crystal issue is water consumption. Increased water intake obviously leads to increased urine output, which is what helps dilute the crystals out in the urine. Most people are able to accomplish this simply by feeding wet food or soaking the dry food in a little bit of water before feeding. However, if the pH (level of acidity) of the urine is not controlled as well, crystals will still form. This might not sound so bad since the cat is getting more water and benefitting from its effects, but if for some reason water intake decreased, the cat is at risk of developing a blockage due to the crystals that are still able to form.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure -
To answer your question, I would stick with a veterinary diet to keep your cat’s urinary system healthy. Male cats (usually around the age of 2), are the most at risk of having problems and it is generally cheaper to feed the appropriate diet rather than to risk hundreds of dollars and potentially a life threatening incident if he were to develop a urinary blockage.
However, if the cost of the diet is a concern, speak to your veterinarian about similar diets by the different food companies. Hill’s Prescription diets and Purina Veterinary diets, both offer formulas that will maintain your cat’s urinary health and may be of lower cost in comparison to the Royal Canin Urinary S/O. The canned diets will come in different flavours and textures that may be more appealing to your cat.
Also, price compare among the various vet clinics near you, some may, depending on their supplier, be able to offer the diet a little less expensive than another veterinary office. Many vet clinics, however, will not sell a special formula diet to a customer if they have not prescribed it themselves or have veterinary confirmation. So, be prepared to offer a phone call to your veterinarian for confirmation that your cat is on that diet and it is ok for them to sell it to you. The reasoning behind that, is that some diets can be contraindicated with other disease processes, an example would be giving a diabetic food, high in protein, to a kidney disease cat who requires a diet with low protein.
I really hope this helps, and that your kitty’s urinary tract stay healthy from here on out. Good luck!
Thanks for the questions,