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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Struvite Crystals - A Very Common Case

You may have just been told that your cat has struvite crystals and you’re wanting to know a little bit more about what they are, how they’re formed and perhaps most importantly; how to get rid of them.

Struvite crystals whilst beautiful to look at under the microscope are not pleasant for our patients. They are formed of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate. They are usually discovered in the bladder, the urethra (the small tube taking urine out of the body) or the kidneys.

The median age at which we typically see these cases is around 7 years old and it is more common in females than males. It is thought that the stones develop after urinary tract infections as well as large quantity of minerals are bound to other foreign materials such as tissue, blood and other inflammatory reactants.
The symptoms you might have seen are: abnormal urine patterns, difficulty urinating (you may have seen them sitting in the litter tray repeatedly and unsuccessfully), frequent urination, bloody urine, cloudy urine, increased thirst, and a slightly enlarged tummy.

To diagnose it the Vet will have felt the abdomen and felt the size of the bladder and possibly expressed or attempted to express the bladder to get a urine sample. In our in-house lab we then do a dipstick to test for glucose, proteins and blood. We then check the specific gravity (how concentrated the urine is) and then we spin down a sample in the centrifuge. We would then stain the sample and place it on a slide and work through it on the microscope. Struvite show up pretty well under the microscope with their coffin like shapes.
In some cases the crystals stick together in the urethra to cause a plug and the patient is unable to pass urine at all. This usually requires sedation or an anaesthesia and a catheter has to be passed to remove the plug and allow the urine to flow from the bladder, this is more common in male cats. Increased water intake is important especially in cases where this repeatedly happens. Many of our patients like cat drinking fountains and it encourages them to drink more and dilute their urine. Sometimes we have to change their diet and we would repeat the urine tests again and can easily see the crystals start to dissolve when the diet is started. And usually cats do very well on the wide range of urinary diets that are available these days. If you would like any more information do call 01323 640011 and we would be happy to help.


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