Posts Categorized: Pet Care Advice

Urine Troubles

Why is my cat in and out of its litter box?

When a cat changes its litter box habits, it can be attributed to behavior.  This behavior change can be seen due to changes in routine.

For example:

  • 1 cat preventing another cat access to the litter box
  • Weather changes outside disrupting preferred places to void
  • Changes to layout of house
  • Moving to a new house
  • Addition of a family member or new pet in the house

These changes (and similar ones) all can create some stress or disruption in our feline friends. But that is not the most common cause for a cat to avoid voiding in the litter box.  It is not uncommon to hear of a cat urinating in inappropriate places or making frequent trips to the litter box due to medical issues occuring with their urinary tract.

FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) is the term used to describe a variety of health problems that can affect the cats lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra).

These health problems include:

  • inflammation of the bladder or urethra
  • bladder infection
  • polyps or growths in the bladder
  • crystal formation
  • stone (urolith) formation (crystals that join together to create a solid mass)

Often the tell tale signs that FLUTD is occuring are:

  • in and out of the litter box (frequent trips)
  • straining to urinate
  • urinating only small amounts at a time
  • crying out or vocalizing when urinating or tyring to urinate
  • licking genitals
  • inappropriate urinating (urinating in places other than the litter box)
  • blood in the urine

FLUTD can afflict cats of all ages, but is more commonly seen in cats above the age of 1, overweight or obese cats, decrease in activity and cats under stress.   Diet plays a very important role in the bladder health as well. It has the ability to affect the ph of the urine, increase certain minerals in the urine and also affects the spacific gravity.

Each type of crystal will start forming at certain ph levels. Struvite crystals prefer a more basic ph while oxalate crystals prefer a more acidic ph.

Struvite crystals

Calcium Oxalate Crystal






Minerals can solidify in the bladder making the start of a stone or urolith. Crystals joining together inthe bladder can also cause a urolith.

An inflammed bladder is at a decreased risk of fending off infection, and sloughs off cells easily. Crystals with their sharp edges will cause injury to the urethra as they are passed.

Cells that have clumped together, crystals that have joined together or stones (uroliths) can all cause blockage in the urethra as the cat tries to urinate.

Thankfully, there is often the tell tale signs listed above that inidicate a problem is occuring and ideally, can be addressed prior to a blockage occuring.

So what do you do if you think your cat is showing one or more of these signs?

It can not be stressed enough how important it is to seek veterinary care at the first signs of litter box trouble. Your veterinarian will do a full physical exam, take the history of your pet, and assess the best diagnostic treatment option for your pet. Often, the first diagnostic test is a urinalysis. This test evaluates the ph of the urine, spacific gravity, protein level, cellular content in the urine, and whether or not any crystals or bacteria are present in the urine. Based on the results of the urinaylsis, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, diet change and tips/suggestions on stress reduction in your feline friend.

Urine can be collected for this test in a number of different ways.

  • Free catch: cat urinates in a clean, disinfected pan often with a product like NoSorb
  • Cystocentesis: trained veterinarian or technician inserts needle into the bladder and collects a sample into a syringe
  • Manual expression: trained veterinarian or technician applys pressure to the bladder to encourage the cat to urinate in a dish

Often, a client will be offered to leave their cat at the vet clinic to have the urine collected, analyzed and treatment plan ready when you pick up your cat. But, we all know cats aren’t always the most cooperative or comfortable in a clinic setting. While most cats will relax after an hour or so of adjusting to the clinic setting, some take much longer. Similarily, if your cat is experiencing frequent urination due to pain or discomfort, often they arrive at the vet clinic with an empty bladder. If a cat is stressed, or filling their bladder slowly, your veterinarian may suggest taking your cat home where it will be more comfortable. If this is the case you’ll often be sent home with NoSorb and instructed to set your cat in a quiet room(often a bathroom is best to avoid your cat urinating on a substance you can not collect from like material) and providing a clean, disinfected pan with NoSorb granules in it, water and a food dish. Once urine is produced, simply pour it back into the container from the NoSorb and return it to your veterinarians office for analysis.

If you haven’t noticed your cat voiding urine, or if your cat is getting more aggitated, lethargic, vomiting or painful in the abdomen, it could be possible that your cat is suffering from a urethral blockage. This is certainly deemed a medical emergency. Unfortunately, if this is the case, your cats’ kidneys will continue to produce urine-filling its bladder more and more. Without a passage way out of the body, the pressure in the bladder will backflow into the kidneys, potentially creating kidney damage, but more importantly, may stretch the bladder beyond its capacity which results in a rupture in the bladder wall and ultimately-death.

If your cat is confirmed or found to have a urinary blockage, then an anesthetic is needed immediately for your veterinarian to attempt to dislodge the blockage. Bloodwork is needed to evaluate the potential harm done to the kidneys, IV fluids are placed to help control blood pressure but more importantly to help flush out the kidneys and bladder once the blockage is dislodged.  Often, a urinary catherter is placed for 12-24 hours to allow this ‘flushing out’ while minimizing the risk of immediately reblocking.  Antibiotics are often started to minimize infection risk (remember the tissues in the bladder and urethra will be greatly inflammed from all the pressure and possible crystal trauma) and medications prescribed to aid in relaxing the urethral sphincters, and of course pain control.

Unfortunately, once a cat has a urinary blockage, crystals or inflammation in the bladder, they are at risk of it reoccuring again at some point. Thankfully though, these risks can be greatly reduced by following veterinary recommendations on diet, exercise and environmental stress reduction.

If you:

  • notice any FLUTD signs
  • want diet recommendations for prevention of FLUTD
  • want tips/suggestions of feline stress reduction/management

Please give us a call or stop in at the office.

How to recognize dental disease in your dog and cat

Dental disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth adhering to the tooth surface creating a layer of plaque. Plaque then mineralizes and becomes tartar or calculi. Bacteria continue to increase in numbers, more plaque forms on the tooth and then hardens into a thicker layer of tartar. As the layer of tartar increases, the gum line reacts and becomes red and inflamed and starts to pull away from the tartar.  This is where the real dental disease occurs-below the gum line. As the gum becomes red and inflamed, bacteria continue to advance along the root of the tooth; damaging the supportive tissues of the tooth.

By three years of age, most animals have some sort of dental disease. Unfortunately, without a full mouth exam under general anesthetic, dental disease can not be adequately assessed. We now know that dental disease is the compromise of the supportive tissues of the tooth; in which the gum line, jaw bone, and root needs to be evaluated in order to fully assess dental disease.  This is achieved by probing the gum line to assess periodontal pockets, a thorough visual exam of the mouth, teeth and soft tissues, and dental radiographs.

Although a general anesthetic is needed for a full oral exam, there are a few telltale signs that can be present on a visual exam, while the pet is awake, to indicate dental disease may be brewing below the gum line.

First, make sure your pet is in a comfortable setting and is at ease with his or her mouth being handled. Next, gently lift up your pets upper lips. Do you notice any foul smell coming from the mouth?  How does the crown of the tooth look? How about the gum line? Ideally, the crown of teeth should be white, any brown staining indicates plaque build up where brown chunks indicate the plaque has mineralized to a layer of tartar.  Is the gum line a healthy pink color? Is the gum line straight and even across the teeth?

Image result for healthy dog mouth

If you see any of the following, there is cause for concern that dental disease is in the works below the gum line:

  • Build up on the crown surface
  • Foul smelling odor coming from the mouth
  • Red or inflamed gum line
  • Uneven build up from the left side of the mouth when compared to the right side of the mouth
  • Any swellings in the mouth
  • Uneven gum line
  • Any fractured or missing teeth

Let’s evaluate the pictures below.

Left side of mouth



Right side of mouth


The left side has a small amount of inflammation at the gum line and little plaque build up on the crown of the teeth. The right side has a moderate amount of gum inflammation and a moderate amount of tartar (especially on the premolars and molars near the back of the mouth). This right side also has an uneven gum line.  These are classic indicators that there is dental disease occurring in this mouth. This dog is most likely chewing predominately on her left side because one or more teeth on the right side of her mouth are painful.

The teeth circled in red, on the image below, are the ones that are of most concern and a likely source of pain and discomfort. If left untreated, dental disease will continue to progress and could possibly lead to abscessed teeth, bone loss, bone infection, oral-nasal fistula, bacteria entering the blood and causing a blood infection (sepsis) or settling in one or more of the organs (liver, kidneys, heart).

Did you know February is Dental Health month? For the month of February we are offering a complimentary oral health exam for your pet. If you have any concerns about what you are seeing in your pet’s mouth, or if you feel you are unable to fully visualize all the teeth.

Give us a call to book your pets’ complimentary oral assessment: 250-376-7208