Feline bladder stones can develop due to the accumulation of various minerals. Most cats develop either struvite or calcium oxalate stones. A few have issues with urate stones, which are made from uric acid.
No matter what they’re made from, they can cause a variety of issues for cats. Their presence in the bladder can lead to inflammation of the walls as the stones rub up against them. In more serious cases, they will block the urethra. Your cat won’t be able to pass urine if this happens, which is a life-threatening emergency.
Various types of minerals are found in the urine. Usually, they’re dissolved with no problems. They will turn into crystals if they accumulate too much however. The accumulation of these crystals is what causes bladder stones in cats to develop.
Diet plays a role. The type of food that your cat eats as well as how much water he consumes may lead to issues. Also, there are various medical conditions that can cause the minerals to accumulate too much in the urine. Urinary tract infections, for example, can cause cats to develop these stones in the bladder.
Sometimes, feline bladder stones don’t cause signs of any problems. Many cats though will have difficulty urinating. Others will do so much more frequently than usual or go outside of their litter box. It is also common for there to be blood present in the urine. Males, due to their more narrow urinary tract, have an increased risk of having an obstruction of the urinary tract.
It’s possible for the vet to palpate your cat’s bladder and detect the stones. However, a much more definitive diagnosis can be made with the help of an x-ray or ultrasound of the abdomen. These tests will tell not only if there are any stones, but also tell how many and how big they are. Since bacterial infections are quite common with this condition, a test on the urine may be conducted to check for one.
It’s not enough to detect the presence of cat bladder stones. The vet will need to know exactly what mineral they’re made of in order to come up with an appropriate treatment plan. If the stones are small enough, your cat may be able to pass them out during urination. In many cases, the stones will need to be removed surgically to see what they’re made from.
Surgical removal of feline bladder stones isn’t usually the first option. If they’re made of struvite, then a diet change may be enough to dissolve them. The vet will give this a try over several weeks. In the meantime, he will conduct periodic abdominal x-rays and exams to monitor your cat’s condition. If the stones don’t dissolve after an appropriate period of time, then surgery to remove the struvite stones will be necessary.
Calcium oxalate stones won’t respond to a diet change. If they’re small enough, the vet may try to flush them out using a special procedure. Larger stones will need to be surgically removed however.
Some cats have issues with stones developing on a recurring basis. There are special diets on the market that aim to prevent the development of struvite stones. Vets sometimes prescribe medications that help control the pH of your cat’s urine. Cats that have these issues will need vet visits more often. Periodic exams and x-rays can help detect feline bladder stones early before they’ve caused more serious problems.