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***This is a review of both the wet and dry varieties of Royal Canin Urinary S/O Feline - the heading for this entry in the catalogue is very general, although the picture is for the dry food, and I don't want to review them separately***
In August this year my cat Snoopy was taken seriously ill. He had a blocked bladder, and had to have an emergency procedure to relieve it. This is a not uncommon condition in male neutered cats, and is potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, the procedure was a success - although I was a gibbering wreck until I knew he was fine. He had to stay at the vets for a couple of days, and then came home. (I have written a fuller account of the experience in a review of the insurance which I have yet to post)
Snoopy's bladder was blocked due to struvite crystals which had formed in his urine. In order to help prevent a recurrence of the condition, we had to change his diet immediately, to a special food designed to prevent this condition which he will be on for life. There are various brands available, but the one the vet gave me to use initially is Royal Canin Urinary S/O Feline, which dissolves the crystals.
As it is important to ensure Snoopy gets plenty of liquid/moisture, I chose to feed him 50/50 dry and wet food. Until now he has been on a mainly dry diet, but dry foods can contribute to the formation of crystals. As the Urinary S/O is designed to dissolve crystals, this was not a concern when we started on this food, but I did want to make sure he was getting plenty of moisture, although he has always been a good drinker.
The dry food is available in different sized bags, up to 6kg. I purchased a 1.5kg bag from the vet, but it can be purchased online at sites such as Medic Animal and VetUK. The online price for 1.5kg is around £11. The bag is rather plain, as are the biscuits - they are all identical, small round kibbles. I feed Snoopy around 30g a day of the dry food (I am trying to be particular about how much he gets as he is also supposed to lose a bit of weight - again this can help prevention). He enjoys the biscuits but doesn't scoff them quickly like he did with his old Hills food, rather he will eat a few and then come back later. The only time he eats them all in one go is if he eats them from my hand or off the sofa or bed - odd wee lad. He seems to like the biscuits, but I get the feeling they are maybe a bit dull for him.
The wet food is available in two flavours, chicken or beef. Unfortunately each twelve pouch pack only comes in one flavour. It is also available in foil trays but I haven't bought that version. The best value I have found for the pouches is on Medic Animal, where you can buy a 48 pack for £29.80 (working out at £7.45 for twelve instead of £8.66 at Vet UK, or over £10 at my vet!!). BUT the 48 pouches will all be the same flavour. As Snoopy had tried both chicken and beef at the vet and for the first week he was home, I ordered a 48 pack of the beef - which had seemed to be his preference.
Snoopy has a pouch and a half of the Urinary S/O each day. The meat is small chunks in gravy, and the gravy is a bit more liquid than your average cat food gravy. The food doesn't smell as much as other wet cat foods I've come across. He really enjoys the wet food, and eats it all up happily as soon I feed it to him - even for the first few days when he came home from the vet, when I was putting his anti-inflammatories on the food. I've ordered the chicken flavour for his next batch for a change, but it would definitely be more interesting for him if the twelve packs had mixed flavours - even just six each of beef and chicken would be an improvement.
Prior to his six week check up last week, I think I was seeing a change in Snoopy. Obviously I couldn't tell if the food was effective without a urine test which has now been done, but I think he was peeing more than he used to. This could of course be due to me watching his litter tray like a hawk, or a physical change after he spent two days with a catheter in, but whatever the reason it is certainly reassuring to see that he has had no problems peeing.
The result of the urine test six weeks after the initial blocked bladder was encouraging. There are still some fragments of crystals present, but the vet is not concerned about this - as they are only fragments, not whole crystals, the food is clearly working. As such we are not going to change him onto a different brand: he enjoys the Royal Canin, and it's working. The vet also advised that changing brands can actually cause the crystals to return, which obviously we need to prevent.
The Royal Canin Urinary S/O is a veterinary diet, meaning it will be recommended to you by your vet. It is freely available online, but generally you would be unlikely to purchase it without a medical reason. It can be used for prevention though - if we had had any other male cats the vet would have suggested we move them all onto this diet, but our other two cats are female and at considerably less risk of crystals and a blocked bladder.
All in all, Snoopy enjoys this food and it has given me peace of mind knowing that I am doing the best I can to keep him healthy. If you ever see your cat having trouble peeing, or growling at their back end after trying to pee, make sure you get them to the vet without delay.
When my cat was 4 years old he was diagnosed with crystals in his bladder. I took him to the vet following an hour or so where he had been crouching over the litter tray and not being able to wee anymore than a slight dribble. The vet advised that my poor lad had a small stone blocking his penis and he was catheterised to drain his bladder which was in danger of bursting before successfully flushing the stone through. I was advised that he would have to be on a special diet for the rest of his life as he was more than likely to suffer from this condition again - apparently some cats are more prone to it than others. So for the last 10 years he has been eating Royal Canin's biscuits for urinary tract problems.
**What does the food do?**
The food is designed to dissolve existing struvite stones that form in the bladder as well as provide an environment where it is difficult for new stones and crystals to form. It does this in two ways 1)by diluting the urine, as less concentrated urine decreases the concentration of struvites and calcium oxalates that form stones. The larger amount of urine also ensures that the bladder is washed out regularly so not giving the crystals time to form 2) by making urine more acidic so that it dissolves the stones and crystals and makes the environment more difficult for the stones to form in the first place. The food contains increased sodium chloride to encourage drinking in order to increase urine volume. As all you cat owners will know, cats generally don't drink a lot so when they have this particular medical problem they need to be encouraged to drink in order to help the condition and the added sodium helps achieve this. I have to make sure that Barnie's water bowl is always topped up and when he takes his annual vacation to the cattery he takes his own food and I make them aware of his condition and need for plenty of water to be available.
**What are Struvite Stones and Calcium Oxalates?**
I had not heard of struvite or oxalates before my cat was diagnosed with urinary stones but my vet explained the basics to me and I have since learned more about it from reading up on my lad's problem. Struvite is formed from a combination of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate and is the most common mineral found in urinary stones which are also known as uroliths. Calcium oxalate is the second most common crystal found in dogs and cats' urinary stones. Calcium Oxalate cannot be dissolved by diet and the stones usually have to be surgically removed but the diet can help to reduce their recurrence.
**Does Barnie Like The Food**
I have to say that he wasn't keen to start with and I had to persist and turn a deaf ear to his protests and pleas for his old Felix biscuits and tins of meat. My vet suggested that I introduce the new food gradually in order to help him accept it and also to reduce the possibility of a tummy upset. I must admit to giving in to him on occasions and letting him have some "normal" food but my vet advised me that I really wasn't helping the situation and it would be better for Barnie if I slowly but firmly increased the Royal Canin biscuits until that was all he was having. He assured me that despite Barnie's protests he wouldn't let himself starve and would eventually eat the new food. I have to say he was right and Barnie has now been on the Royal Canin Urinary diet for nearly 10 years.
**Amount to Feed**
The directions on the packet of biscuits says about 6/8 cupfuls a day for a cat of Barnie's weight, 4kg, but actually Barnie isn't a big eater and he probably has about 2 cupfuls a day plus some tinned urinary diet meat.
**Are there any other makes of food that do the same thing?**
Yes there are and we have tried other ones to ring the changes. Eukanuba do biscuits and tins for cats with urinary stones and so do Hills. There may well be others out there but these are the ones I have tried (or rather Barnie has). Royal Canin also do pouches of meat and gravy and little trays with minced smooth meat and I have bought these before but Barnie just licks the gravy off the meat in the pouches and leaves the chunks of meat so that proved to be a bit of waste of food and money! He does quite like the little trays but they are quite small and work out more expensive than the biscuits. Out of the 3 makes we have tried Royal Canin is definitely his favourite, especially the biscuits.
**To feed dry or moist food?**
I feed Barnie a bit of both. He has biscuits during the day and some wet urinary diet food at night but in fact my vet said that it is fine to give him just biscuits if I wanted to as they are a complete food for this condition and it is also better for keeping his teeth free of tartar. However, Barnie seems to like some wet food so we go for both dry and moist.
**Where to buy this food**
Originally I bought this food through my vet and he would order it in for me if I gave him a couple of days notice. This worked fine expect that my vet surgery is across town which although not far was a bit of a pain to get to due to traffic delays sometimes. I also learned from reading on the internet and talking to other people that although this food is a "vet food" and is supposedly bought on prescription that it is possible to buy it on the internet without a prescription. I started to do some research and found several websites that sold Royal Canin but plumped for www.petsupermarket.co.uk as I had read good reports on it (see my review on petsupermarket) The price of this food on the internet is considerably cheaper than from the vet, I save up to £7/8 on a 6k bag of biscuits and postage and packing is free over £29. Petsupermarket also give a 5% discount if you sign up to their newsletter.
This food doesn't come cheap but I couldn't risk Barnie getting a blockage again as it can be life threatening if the bladder bursts so hence I have tried to find the cheapest way of buying it. A 6k bag of biscuits costs £37.15 at petsupermarket. The recommended retail price according to the website is £47, so quite a saving.
This Urinary diet food from Royal Canin has definitely helped Barnie. He has, thankfully, had no further problems with his waterworks and is a healthy and happy cat. The dry food stays nice and fresh as the bags have a foil interior which if sealed effectively at the top keeps the biscuits from going stale. The smaller 3kg bags have one of those tops that can be pressed together to reseal but the 6kg bags don't have that which is slightly annoying, I don't know why they don't have it as well. However, I decant some of the biscuits into a Tupperware container and that lasts Barnie about a week and then I fold down the top of the bag to exclude the air and fasten with a couple of clothes pegs. There is no doubt in my mind that if Barnie hadn't been given this special food he wouldn't be as well as he is now. We now realise with hindsight that he had probably been passing some small crystals before the blockage because sometime he meowed when doing a wee but as he seemed happy and healthy in every other way we didn't pay much attention until the day he couldn't seem to pass hardly any urine and was really meowing pitifully and looking distressed. However, since being on the Royal Canin food there have been no further incidences of this.
Apart from the dietary benefits I also like Royal Canin because there is loads of information on the packet about urinary crystals and how much food to feed. There is also lots of information on the Royal Canin website to help owners care for pets who have this problem.
I would, therefore, thoroughly recommend Royal Canin urinary diet for keeping cats with urinary tract problems happy and healthy.