Newton would really like it if he could stop showing you photos of him going to vet.
But this time, it was for a followup. He spent about a month on a prescription diet from the vet for his urinary tract. He didn’t get any crunchy treats when Pierre did. There were no unauthorized table scraps when he begged. He didn’t even get anything special for Thanksgiving because we didn’t want to risk altering his test results.
Newton is not a fan of the prescription food. He’s a good eater who always finishes his food, and he didn’t finish his meals. So in a way, he was ready for this vet trip, because he was crossing his paws he could go back to a diet he liked more.
When the test results came back, there was some good news and some OK news. The good news was that his urinary crystals were gone.
The OK news is that his urinary pH was 7.5. This is down from the 8.5 reading that he started with in October, so it is progress in the right direction, but it’s nowhere near the 6.0 to 6.5 pH he should have.
I talked to the vet about putting him back on a raw diet, but this time, I was going to not rely on raw produced by anyone but me. That way I could control everything that went into it, all the way down to the water.
Water is Important
I started thinking about our water supply after reading a study by Trupanion pet insurance where they noticed that parts of the country that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)says have hard water also had submitted more claims for cats with urinary issues, including urinary crystals like Newton’s.
It turns out that Florida, where we live, is one of the places with hard water and a high number of cases of feline urinary issues.
Most of the water in public water systems here in Florida comes from groundwater in the Floridian aquifer, which runs through the limestone underneath the whole state. Rainwater seeps deep intothe ground through hundreds of feet of sand and rock. While this process filters the water, it also adds small amounts of calcium to the water.
If your house uses water from a water utility company, they probably publish a water quality report annually. The report from our county doesn’t disclose whether your water is soft or hard, but if you call your water company, they will know. A call to the county water utility here found that in our part of our county, the water measures 7.8 grains per gallon or 133.2 ppm.
|Classification||mg/l or ppm||grains/gal|
|Soft||0 – 17.1||0 – 1|
|Slightly hard||17.1 – 60||1 – 3.5|
|Moderately hard||60 – 120||3.5 – 7.0|
|Hard||120 – 180||7.0 – 10.5|
|Very Hard||180 & over||10.5 & over|
We have hard water!
The high concentration of calcium and other minerals in hard water acts as a buffer that makes the water more resistant to changing pH. It acts like an invisible sponge in the water, preventing things from happening too fast.
Hard Water and Newton’s pH
This started me wondering what kind of pH Newton was taking in. His food is made primarily of chicken which has a pH of 6.5-6.7. But food is only part of his intake. There’s also water.
I bought some pH test strips (affiliate link) to have a look at the water. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to test Newton’s urine between vet visits, but even if I can’t, the test strips are really cheap. I tested our tap water, which goes through a filter pitcher before going into the cat fountain and bowls, and I also tested distilled water for comparison.
The results surprised me.
The dark green strip is the one testing the tap water. The pH looks like it is about 8! I had no idea until I did this test and then did research that it isn’t unusual for water in a treated water supply to have a pH between 7 and 8. Harder water usually has high pH, and our water is at the high end of that.
The second strip tested the distilled water, which tested at about 7, which is the expected neutral pH for water.
Water with a high pH and a high calcium load is going to resist changing to a more acid pH. Maybe that’s what is going on with Newton’s urine!
This is all a theory until we try it out on him, of course. But for now, Newton is thrilled to be back eating a raw diet, happily cleaning his bowl at every meal and drinking distilled water. He has another vet visit in his future to see if we have finally figured out how to keep his urinary tract just as happy. We’ll let you know if this finally solved the mystery for him once we have more test results.
References and further reading:
Trupanion Trends: Study finds Link between Pet Health and Drinking Water
United Utilities, The pH of drinking water
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Importance of General Chemistry Relationships in Water Treatment
Hospital for Special Surgery Journal, How Much Calcium Is in Your Drinking Water? A Survey of Calcium Concentrations in Bottled and Tap Water and Their Significance for Medical Treatment and Drug Administration
US Food & Drug Administration, Importance of General Chemistry Relationships in Water Treatment
US Geological Survey, Water Hardness and Alkalinity
Image credit: Public domain image from US Geological Survey
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