Q. Both my indoor cats — a neutered male and a spayed female — get occasional urinary tract infections. A vet once told me there was a product made from cranberry that might prevent this. Any advice?
Clinical trials in humans have had mixed results, with some showing that cranberry can be of benefit for urinary-tract issues. Alas, no veterinary studies found it fruitful for preventing or treating bacterial infections of the urinary tract in domesticated pets.
Past thinking held that cranberries acidified the urine, thereby making it less hospitable for bacteria. Current thinking, however, holds that chemicals in cranberries called proanthocyanidins interfere with the attachment of bacteria to the bladder wall.
Unfortunately, these proanthocyanidins only seem to affect the bacterium E. coli. No evidence exists that other bacteria might be similarly inhibited.
That said, studies show that fewer than 5 percent of cats who experience uncomfortable urinary-tract symptoms (straining to urinate, blood in the urine) are suffering from bacterial infections. In most cases, these common problems are the result of a painful inflammatory condition called idiopathic cystitis.
Only two measures have been proven effective in preventing further episodes of this painful and potentially life-threatening condition:
• Feeding primarily canned food and increasing water consumption.
• Offering a stimulating environment, as relieving environmental stress seems crucial for these cats.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.