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Bladder Stones in Cats

At our Charlotte vet office, we often see cats suffering from uncomfortable symptoms related to bladder stones. In today's post, our veterinarians explain how bladder stones develop, along with the symptoms and treatment for bladder stones in cats.

Bladder Stones in Cats

Bladder stones can begin to form when excessive amounts of certain minerals in your cat's urine begin to clump together with other substances found in the bladder.

Bladder stones can cause your feline friend significant amounts of pain and have the potential to create a full urinary blockage, a medical emergency in which your cat is unable to urinate at all. 

If you notice your cat straining to urinate or suspect they cannot urinate at all, please bring them to the nearest emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. Untreated, a urinary blockage can result in a bladder rupture and even death. 

Mostly white cat standing in litter box looking out

What causes bladder stones in cats?

Bladder stones may be caused by a number of factors including:

  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Bladder or urinary tract infection
  • Bladder inflammation caused by crystals
  • Extremes in urine pH levels (too alkaline or acidic)
  • Breed predisposition
  • Congenital liver shunt
  • Medications or supplements

It is believed that overweight male cats may face an increased risk of developing stones. 

Are there different types of bladder stones in cats?

Yes, there are a number of different types of bladder stones seen in cats. The two types of stones we most commonly see are calcium oxalate stones and struvite stones. 

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Calcium oxalate stones typically develop in cats with urine that is highly acidic. It is also common to see calcium oxalate stones in cats with high urine and blood calcium levels and in cats suffering from chronic kidney disease.

These stones are most often seen in cats that are older than 5 years of age. 

Struvite stones

Struvite stones are most common in cats with highly alkaline urine. This can be the result of a urinary tract infection but this is not always the case. These bladder stones are often seen in cats who consume high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, chloride, and fiber.

A genetic factor may also influence a cat's risk of developing struvite stones since Siamese cats appear to be predisposed to developing struvite stones.

What are the signs of bladder stones in cats?

Symptoms of bladder stones are much the same as the symptoms of a bladder infection in cats, this is due in part to the irritation caused within the bladder caused by the stones. If your cat is suffering from bladder stones you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination in small amounts of urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Straining to urinate without producing urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of energy

In some cases, bladder stones can lead to a full urinary obstruction in which your cat is unable to urinate at all. This is a medical emergency and must be treated by a veterinarian immediately. Signs of urinary obstruction include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Repeated trips to the litter box
  • Yowling or crying while in the litter box
  • Straining to urinate without producing urine

How are bladder stones in cats treated?

Treatment for your feline friend's bladder stones will depend on the type and underlying cause of the stones. Some types of bladder stones, including struvite stones, can often be dissolved with the help of a therapeutic diet and medications.

Calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved and are typically treated with cystotomy surgery to open the bladder and remove the stones. This veterinary surgery has an excellent success rate and most cats recover from surgery very quickly. 

Can bladder stones be prevented?

It may be possible to prevent your cat from developing bladder stones. If your cat is a breed that faces a higher risk of developing bladder stones you may want to try the following:

  • Feed your cat wet food to help ensure that they are adequately hydrated. Good hydration can help to continually flush crystals out of your cat's bladder and prevent a buildup.
  • Speak to your vet before giving your cat any nutritional supplements, particularly supplements containing calcium, vitamin C, or vitamin D.
  • Ask your vet for a prescription urinary tract diet to help minimize your cat's likelihood of developing crystals that could lead to bladder stones.
  • Ensure that your cat always has easy access to fresh clean water.
  • Make sure that your cat gets plenty of exercise.
  • Keep your cat's litter box clean to encourage your cat to urinate when they need to and not wait.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

At Providence Animal Hospital, we offer emergency services during our regular business hours. If you believe your cat is experiencing a urinary obstruction contact us or bring your pet to the nearest emergency vet for immediate care. 

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