Cat with severe food allergies AND crystals

kittensJuly 29, 2010

My 2 year old Bengal cat has severe food allergies. I've tried just about every food on the market and finally found one that relieved her excessive diarrhea. (It's Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal). She has trouble with almost every meat/fish/foul or a combination of them and the additives that get added. I never was able to completely pinpoint it.

We've just come from the vets because she developed crystals and had a high PH. I don't know what all the lab results mean yet but this is what came up if its any help:

Specific Gravity 1.067

pH 8.5

WBC 4-10

Triple Phospate Crystals 11-20

Ca Oxalate Dihdrate Crystal 11-20

I discussed in detail the cats food problems but the vet wanted me to give the Hills C/D bladder health food a try. I'm expecting to have issues with the food but I'm going to give it a chance. He said he had a couple of others we could experiment with but the ingredients didn't look any better than the Hills C/D. Everything looked to have a high chicken base and she can't even tolerate chicken table scraps. He said he had a W/D we could try which is for sensitive cats but it didn't look like it addressed urinary health (just food sensitivities).

Does anyone have a similar problem as my cat? Are there any other ways I can control her symptoms other than changing her diet? The vet said he had a tube of stuff for acid control but didn't feel it was as reliable as the food.

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If you're feeding kibble, the most critical change to make for urinary tract health and to help minimize crystals is to switch to canned food. This is because the key to urinary tract health and to flushing crystals out of the urinary tract is water, water, water. Canned food contains nearly 80% water. Kibble contains 5-10% water. Cats have a low thirst drive and can not make up that deficit just through drinking alone.

If you are already feeding canned food, try mixing warm water into it to make it a thick soup that she can lap up. That will increase her water intake and help keep those crystals flushed out of her system.

BTW, was the urine sample for her urinalysis collected in the vet's office or at your home? If it was collected in the vet's office, was it tested immediately after collection? The reason I ask is because crystals can form in urine both inside and outside of the cat's body, so if the urine was collected at home or if it sat for a while at the vet's office before being tested, the crystals found in her urine may not even be present in her urinary tract.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 11:19PM
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Ohhh, you're giving me a little ray of hope for this poor kitty. My vets office sends samples out to a lab for diagnosis. I collected it at home Tuesday morning, placed it in the fridge until I could drop it off that afternoon. They didn't send it out until Wednesday night and we got the results Thursday morning. Now I'm leaning toward taking her for a second opinion.

She eats mainly kibble which I leave out for grazing. I have a 10 y/o that won't touch canned food. She does get canned (same brand) but isn't always interested in it. Sometimes she'll eat it and other times she'll ignore the offering. If there is any possible way I can correct this with water on the same brand of food, I could see about finding something I could add to the canned to entice her into eating it as her primary diet.

Thank you for your opinions on this. I never would have questioned that the freshness of the sample could possibly be flawed.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 9:21AM
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A vet should be able to collect a urine sample in the office (assuming the cat has any urine in her bladder at the time of the appt) and immediately put it under the microscope to check for crystals, so if you do opt for a second opinion, make sure the vet will do that when you make the appt.

You really should convert both of your cats to a canned diet and wean them off of kibble entirely. It is possible to do, believe me. I converted 16 lifelong kibbleheads to canned food and then to a raw diet. The link below is written by a vet and discusses the importance of diet in managing or eliminating urinary tract problems. The page also links to another page she's written on converting cats from kibble to canned. I'm sure you will find it a very enlightening read.


Here is a link that might be useful: Diet and urinary tract issues

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 10:01AM
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If you remove all kibble from the house, then the cats will begin to get used to it not being there. Kibble is made to be irresistible. It's sprayed with an array of animal fats-which give it the same sort of attraction that french fries might have for us-it's not the spuds, ma'am, but the fat on them that we like. Doesn't the Prairie food have a tinned version of the lamb?

Look for tinned foods that are grain-free. Cats do not need grains, in fact, are unable to metabolise them properly. Tinned food and meat are necessary, carbs are not. Most tinned foods contain some vegetables, these are acceptable as long as they're not more than 10% of the mass of the food. 5% carb is nearer prey. A good, balanced all WET diet will go farther toward resolving and preventing further instances of FLUTD than any prescription diet can, and without the side effects of feeding innapropriate ingredients. Also, a meat-based diet will normally control urine pH. We're beginning to see that playing with cats' pH isn't necessarily the right thing to do-but providing species appropriate food will naturally bring pH into range.

A urine sample extracted from the cat's bladder at the vet can still contain a misleading concentration of crystals. It's the same effect that some people have when at the doctor, their blood pressure rises above normal while there. I don't know why it happens with cystitis cats but it does, making this a hard thing to accurately diagnose. Perfectly normal urine contains crystals. It's the amount and type of crystals found that determines if the cat has a problem. So even taking a sample in the office isn't a guarantee, although it is fresher therefore fewer crystals have formed. If the vet is sending all samples out rather than examining them in the office, that's not at all acceptable.

Now, the diarrhea. Food ALLERGIES present in mostly dermal reactions, not diarrhea. A cat can consume foods to which it is SENSITIVE, which results in diarrhea. Overfeeding can also cause diarrhea. Prime suspect is kibbled foods. If you feed standard supermarket kibbles you're just giving your cat cattle feed, all grains with far too little meat. And the prescription kibbles are just as bad. Don't waste your money on this crap, feed appropriately as laurief recommended (and please examine the site she linked). Meghane will hopefully step in, she's a veterinarian who is very supportive of feeding appropriately.

Getting your cat off the grains altogether should help resolve the diarrhea too. I wonder if her vet has tried to find an actual cause for diarrhea-it could be something beside a sensitivity. If the vet won't listen to you it's time for a new vet. Period. Why throw money away on someone who can't be arsed to help your pets?

I have had three cystitis cats in the last decade. One was fed prescription dry food as the vet recommended. This food cost a ton. The cat gained weight (I believe that it's a high-fat food), then eventually developed various other illnesses, perhaps not totally caused by inappropriate feeding but certainly exacerbated by it. Controlled feedings did not bring about a weight loss. It was only after he got very very sick that the weight fell off of him. It never occurred to me that feeding dry food might have contributed to his decline. Vet never really tested, either. He threw a saddle thrombosis at 13 years age and was euthanised a few days later when it didn't spontaneously resolve as the vet thought it might. I was just beginning to read about species appropriate feeding then, and when the last two cats were diagnosed with FLUTD I quit the crap food altogether and started feeding a mix of grain-free, low carbohydrate tinned food augmented with raw heart and plain meat cooked in the crock pot (I have AI issues so am leery of excessive handling of raw food). Finding a good vitamin/mineral/enzyme supplement isn't easy and I have often settled for malt-based messes but at least I can ensure that my cats are getting sufficient of known nutrients. Neither of the cystitis cats has presented with symptoms in two years. They may still, as cystitis is thought to be as often stress-related as due to physical issues. I have to work hard to keep their home as peaceful as possible. My vet fought tooth and nail on the feeding but is now more comfortable with what I feed my cats. My cats are a pretty darn healthy lot for all that most of them are advanced middle age or seniors.

Good luck, changing a cat's diet isn't for the faint of heart but it can be done. Remember too that feeding properly may cost a little more than feeding conveniently, but you'll hand over a heckuva lot more $$$ for medical care down the line from feeding conveniently.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 12:56PM
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I'm reading that article and just shaking my head in disbelief. Everything the author is saying is wrong to do was exactly what my vet was telling me to do! $250 later and I still don't even know if my cat has a problem at all. That makes so much sense about the canned food. It seems to always be a debatable topic. We always fed dry and had a cat live to 19+ years, another to 18 and my old girl now is 10. They were indoor/outdoor though so no telling how much they caught and ate to supplement. I haven't read the conversion to canned food article yet. I want to re-read the urinary information. She's even saying that its normal for cats to have some crystals in their urine. That was an excellent, excellent link, thank you very much. It seems to cover everything and its written in layman's terms.

I have a question harebell about the allergies vs. sensitivity. By your definition, she has sensitivities b/c she only showed signs of diarrhea. It was bad, bad, bad where it would just drip out of her. Is there any chance that the sensitivities would ever go away on their own? I tried grain free at some point but ingredients in it bothered her. This Prairie Lamb and Oatmeal has been the ONLY thing I've had success with, even the Lamb by Acana triggered her diarrhea almost immediately. The Prairie makes the same food in canned which she does get small helpings of. (When I first bought her, I had to keep medicating her for months and used to try to hide it in her canned food. So, she still associates the canned with me trying to trick her). I'd like to have different choices for her but trying to get to the bottom of what bothers her is mind boggling. For instance, she could eat cooked rabbit but the rx rabbit food for sensitive cats didn't work (nor did store bought rabbit food). Cooked chicken bothered her too and that seems to be the main ingredient in raw feeding. The butcher charges about $8 a bunny so that's not very practical and she wouldn't eat lamb chops.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 5:08PM
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kittens, did your vet do fecal exams on her? If a normal fecal doesn't turn up anything, they could do a fecal spin-down which may reveal another problem. Anything else would indicate proper laboratory testing, which is pretty difficult if the sample is not spanking fresh and the lab is a distance away. A biopsy might be indicated too.

Yes, everything I've read indicates that allergies tend to show up in a skin reaction and sensitivities trigger diarrhea. I don't know if sensitivities go away or not, I never would dare to chance it.

That she can eat cooked rabbit but NOT the rabbit px food is because of something else in the pxn food. There may also be other animal proteins in it. As stated before, pxn food is generally crap. It often includes fish which is a fairly common suspect in sensitivities and allergies, or chicken, which is increasingly reported to trigger sensitivities. Read the label. See if you can find a limited ingredient food, with nothing but rabbit and a carb (preferably a non-grain carb), maybe similar to the lamb and oatmeal that she's tolerated. I've added a link below to a site that sells pet foods, NOT because I endorse it but because it provides full label information on everything it sells. It's much simpler to read labels on the computer monitor than it is to squint at the microscopic print on tins at market. This might help you to find something else that works for your cat.

I often hear from cat owners whose cats lived to be 20+ years old eating kibble. That doesn't mean that kibble is good for them. It's the same as the centenarian who attributes his long life to booze, cigars and loose women.
Nice that he lived so long like that but it doesn't mean that his lifestyle is good for him or for anyone else.

Please keep us posted. I have to say that laurie is on-target with the information provided, and glad to hear that you're studying it. Dr. Pierson's site is where I began my long road to learning feline nutrition (I'm not a doctor, but now one of our vets takes notes of what I learn & share-he's a canine nutrition specialist so this is a sweet topic for him).

Here is a link that might be useful: Tinned Cat Foods

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 9:56PM
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We never got to the point of any extensive testing about food as I was dealing with an enormous amount of very serious issues when I got the kittens (there were 2 at one time). For fecal, she tested positive for Giardia which we did 2 rounds of meds for. Then a treatment for TriTrich.

Someone familiar with my situation said they were on a prescription food. Her vet (different vet that tested for the crystals) recommended trying rabbit food since the rabbit isn't a common protein. It didn't work. In my frustration, I just bought rabbit meat and was able to determine from there it was an ingredients issue. I tried a canned rabbit food for dogs (I believe it was close to 100% rabbit). I know it's deficient for cats but I was going to supplement the meat if it worked. I can't remember now if she wouldn't eat it or if it gave her the runs. (I got sidetracked on that web page link and see canned will give loose stools when converting so I could try that food again). I did the trial and error after the rabbit food and ended up having success with the Lamb and Oatmeal. I stopped there and breathed a little sigh of relief that she was on a road to recovery.

I haven't done a lot of research on food other than reading ingredients. Everyone recommended to stay away from grains but the grain free ones seem to have things (what, I don't know) that trigger her problems. Oatmeal vs. chronic diarrhea was the lesser of two evils. I don't want to have to prepare raw but if I could find something prepared that was better I would certainly switch. If she could eat chicken that would open up a world of options.

I will definitely keep you posted. I'm making an appointment for her with the vet I used before. I want to get to the bottom of this crystal issue. The other vet gave her antibiotics and I'm not comfortable treating her with them after what I've been reading. After spending her whole kittenhood having to be medicated, the stress for her to have to take pills is astronomical.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 12:03PM
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I just wanted to update and let you know the earliest I could get her an appointment was tomorrow night for a second opinion. While impatiently waiting, out of curiosity, I bought some 'Health Meter' cat litter. Anyone ever use the stuff? The package says the litter should stay yellow for normal, or turn up to 4 other colors which indicate a problem. She registered green but the package doesn't give any indication what that might mean. I guess we'll be finding out tomorrow - lol.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 1:32PM
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My cat just came back from the new vet this evening. He agreed with what I had read in that write-up and the test results were not accurate. Thank you so much again for posting up that information. It saved my cat (and myself) from a lot of unnecessary grief.

He said I can keep her on the food I am feeding, just try to switch her over to the canned version for additional water. (He did tell me that food sensitivities can go away over time so I can try some new things eventually). He was most concerned with the density of the urine because that wouldn't have changed while the urine sat for 2 days. They have some kind of do-at-home drip I might have to do but for right now he thought that was overkill.

I'm going to monitor her and see how she is doing and we can decide from there if anything more needs to be done. The only symptom I've noticed is an ammonia smell in the litter box. He said if she starts tinkling around the house then that would be an indicator she's having difficulties.

My 10 year old kitty is not going to be happy at all about having kibble withdrawal but I'm going to start making the switch over for them :).

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 8:34PM
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Thank you for the update! It's great to see that you've got some definite information from the vet.

I wonder if the ammonia smell may be due to the urine density. The urine density is best addressed by--you guessed it!--feeding wet food. Maybe you can cut her kibble back by a tablespoonful or so per meal and offer cooked rabbit instead. That little bit of meat holds more water than the equivalent amount of kibble. Over time she might be able to consume more or be able to take in a tinned food without the reactions. There is a supplier of whole-carcass raw ground rabbit, ships frozen to you but I don't know the name-my cats don't care for rabbit so I haven't used them. This could be an option for your cats.

You mentioned that grain-free foods have so far triggered reactions in her. It's got to be one of the carbs used to make the kibbles stay together (without carbs there would be no kibble, it'd be powder, the carbs are the 'glue' that hold the nuggets together). Grain-free tend to use potatoes or sweet potatoes ad the 'glue' carb. They also have a tendency to mix in interesting stuff like blueberries, cranberries, spinach, green beans, whatever. She could be reacting to one of those. It wouldn't take much to trigger a reaction. Maybe even peas, which are often used in limited ingredient foods because they seem to cause problems in fewer cats.

I hope that things improve quickly. Please continue your updates if you can.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 10:10PM
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Before jumping to treatments, what exactly are your cat's clinical signs? Because without clinical problems, and given the way the urine was collected and the time passed before it was analyzed, I wouldn't worry a bit about those results.

I expect a cat's USG to be very high. That's just being a cat. Crystals tend to form over time, so the fact that a sample stored for *how long again?* has crystals doesn't surprise me at all. I *never* use a catch sample of urine for anything because you always get contamination, then you have to wonder what's real and what's just crap. High protein food, such as that which is appropriate to feed a cat, will produce a high pH.

So the question is, what condition are we trying to treat? Some dubious lab results or a problem with the cat? Because you can't treat lab results...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:22PM
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The only symptom she has is a high ammonia smell in the litter box. Her urine never smelled so potent before. She hasn't been tinkling in the house or exhibited any unusual behaviors. But then I noticed she was going outside (in her pen) so just wanted peace of mind that she was healthy and not peeing too frequently. Other than that, the Health Meter cat litter turned green, too (should stay yellow). The package doesn't say what green means...

I can't believe the first vet gave me all of that incorrect information and was trying to put my cat through dietary changes that weren't in her best interest. I don't believe her second opinion vet thinks she's going to have problems. The only thing that stood out for him was the USG levels. He said that there was an at-home treatment for hydrating a cat but didn't even feel it was necessary at this point. He said she was okay to stay on the Prairie food (I don't really have any easy options) but canned would get more fluids in her system. That is all that we are doing right now. I was going to fill up her pool this weekend to see if she'll play in it and drink some extra water, too.

I would like to do some more research on food and see if she can eat something even better than the Prairie. The foods cause immediate diarrhea so I need to wait on that.

Right now she appears to be battling the darn herpes virus again from the stress of going to the vets. So, I'm really trying to get as much canned in her as possible because that's how I can get the Lysine into her. It took me months to get her respiratory problems resolved, I thought she was home free.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 11:30PM
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Sounds like kitty has been through a lot but you've done a great job taking care of her. Stupid herpes virus...

The high ammonia smell was because the USG was so high. It just means the urine was very concentrated, so the smell is too. I'm not familiar with Health Meter litter so I'm not sure what the color means either.

I prefer all cats to be on canned food to help them stay hydrated. Being desert creatures, they aren't born with a very good thirst reflex, as they would normally be getting all their required water from their fresh-killed prey. Providing adequate water in the food is the natural way for cats to stay hydrated.

I'm with your second opinion vet- sounds more up to date on kitty health issues. My boss could have easily been your first vet; he isn't interested in learning about that kind of stuff. He is more interested in surgery especially orthopedics. Nobody can know everything about everything, so second opinions are definitely a good idea. Glad you got a good one!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 6:25PM
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This all makes sense to me. It's been extremely hot/humid here this summer. When the weather changed was when I started noticing the smell in the litter box. She was going outside to play in her pen despite the high, high humidity. I put water bowls out for her but I doubt she was hydrating herself if they don't get thirsty like us.

Her virus has subsided and other than the smelly pee, she seems fine. She's been eating canned food more but not entirely yet. I haven't had to fill up the crunchy bowl so she's cut down on them on her own. I'm hoping she'll just ween herself off them if I can keep her interested in the canned.

I tried 2 new canned foods so far with no success. One she just wouldn't eat. The other she loved (tuna) but my other cat got sick from it. I picked up some Evo 95% beef today to see how that one works.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 6:44PM
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