12 Jan LOWER URINARY TRACT DISEASE IN CARNIVORES
LOWER URINARY TRACT DISEASE IN CARNIVORES
Much has been learned from research about lower urinary tract disease in dogs, cats and ferrets. Collectively, it is referred to as AFUS@ (Feline Urologic Syndrome)1. FUS has been known since 1952 and was considered to be dietarily related to ash content of the diet, magnesium and ingredients that effect acid base balance.3
Very little is known however, about lower urinary tract disease in ferrets,4 but Fox has described it in his book as being similar to that found in cats.5 He also describes similar treatment as recommended in cats.
Many of the lower urinary tract diseases, as well as struvite urolithiasis, have overlapping symptoms and can only be accurately diagnosed by a veterinarian. Though these FUS symptoms can occur in both male and female dogs, cats and ferrets, they seem to be more prevalent in males due partially to the small size of the urethra. Lower urinary tract diseases may exhibit one or more of these symptoms:
1. Frequent urination or attempts to urinate
2. Lower abdominal pain
3. Blood in urine
4. Painful urination
5. Excessive licking of genitalia
6. Urethral obstruction or
7. Abdominal swelling
If any of these signs are seen in your pet you should see your veterinarian immediately.
Though there are many causes of lower urinary tract disease, only about 25% of the cases reported in a large feline study were actually related to diet.6
Evaluating Your Pets Food
To minimize the risk of lower urinary track diseases, you should evaluate your diet in this manner:
1. Choose a high quality species specific food with high levels of animal protein. This includes chicken, chicken meal, chicken by-product meal, poultry meal, eggs, egg product, liver, catfish, fish meal to list the most frequently used and generally the highest quality animal protein sources. These protein sources contain higher levels of sulfur amino acids ( methionine and cystine) that as they are metabolized will lower the urinary pH, which in turn helps prevent the formation of the struvites (calcium, phosphorous and magnesium) crystals.
2. Select a food that is made specifically for your pet and do not feed cross species foods as is often done with ferrets. On the current market, dry, expanded kitten foods are frequently fed to ferrets.
3. Look for a food that has been tested through animal feeding test. Some of the cheaper, lower quality foods often state they meet a â€œNutrientâ€ standard rather than conducting actual feeding test.
Many foods contain protein from vegetable sources like soybean meal, soy flour, as well as corn gluten meal all of which are cheaper and lower protein quality ingredients. These vegetable proteins tend to create the conditions in the urine that will enhance the formulation of the struvite crystals. In contrast, foods high in animal proteins generally decreases the incidence of struvite crystals. Though diet alone cannot control the incidence of lower urinary tract disease or FUS in general, it should be a consideration in your pets total health care management.
1) Obsaldiston G.W., Taussig R.A.: Clinical Report of 46 Cases of the Feline Urological Syndrome. Vet Med/Small Animal Clinic 65::461, 1970.
2) Kirk H: Urino-genital diseases. P 261. The Diseases of the Cat. Edgar, Chicago, 1925.
3) Buffington C.A.T.: Nutritional Aspects of Struvite Urolithiasis P 51. Proc Kal-Kan Symposium for Treatment of Dog and Cat Diseases. Kal-Kan Foods, Inc., Vernon, CA 1992
4) Nguyen, H.T., Moreland, A.F., Shields, R.P.: Urolithiasis in Ferrets (Mustela Putorius), Lab Animal Sci, 29:243, 1979
5) Fox, James C., Biology and Diseases of the Ferret, P 261-262. Lea & Febiger, Phila 1988
6) Kruger, J.M., Osborne C.A., Goyal S.M.: Clinical Evaluation of Cats with Lower Urinary Tract Disease J Amer Vet Med Assoc 199:211, 1991