Bladder Stones in Cats

Our Pico Rivera veterinarians frequently see cats with uncomfortable symptoms related to bladder stones, but how do they form and how can they be treated? Today we'll look at the different types of bladder stones in cats, as well as their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

What causes bladder stones in cats?

Bladder stones can form when excess amounts of certain minerals in your cat's urine clump together with other substances in the bladder. Bladder stones can be caused by a variety of conditions, 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 several different types of bladder stones seen in cats, the 2 most common are calcium oxalate and struvite stones.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Calcium oxalate stones are most commonly found in cats with highly acidic urine. Calcium oxalate stones are also common in cats with high urine and blood calcium levels, as well as in cats with chronic kidney disease.

These stones are most often seen in cats that are between  5 and 14 years of age.

Struvite stones

Struvite stones are most common in cats who have highly alkaline urine, which can be caused by a urinary tract infection but is not always the case. These bladder stones are common in cats who eat a lot 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 infections in cats?

The symptoms of bladder stones in cats are similar to those of a bladder infection, which is due in part to the irritation caused within the bladder by the stones. If your cat has bladder stones, you might 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 cats, bladder stones can cause a urinary obstruction, which is a medical emergency! A urinary obstruction occurs when your cat's urethra becomes clogged with a stone and he or she is unable to pass urine. The following are symptoms of urinary obstruction:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Repeated trips to the litter box
  • Yowling or crying while in the litter box
  • Straining to urinate without producing urine
If you notice your cat straining to urinate or any of the other symptoms associated with urinary obstruction, contact your veterinarian right away or go to your nearest emergency animal hospital for immediate care.

How are bladder stones in cats treated?

The best treatment for your cat's bladder stones will be determined by the type of stones. Some bladder stones, such as struvite stones, can often be dissolved with a therapeutic diet and medications.

Calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved and must be removed through cystotomy surgery, which opens the bladder and removes the stones. This surgery has a high success rate, and the majority of cats recover 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 to recommend a food 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 exercises.
  • 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.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of a bladder infection or bladder stones, please contact our Pico Rivera veterinarians to schedule an examination.