Cats can develop bladder stones at any age and left untreated can cause your feline friend severe discomfort. Today, our vets explain what causes bladder stones in cats, what symptoms to watch for, and how bladder stones can be treated. 

What are bladder stones?

Bladder stones are made of minerals that develop into rock-like formations in your cat's bladder. There may be one large stone or a collection of stones that range in size. Most often, there is a mixture of both large and small stones present. 

What causes bladder stones in cats?

Bladder stones form due to disease or inflammation in the bladder. 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

Overweight male cats tend to 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 2 most common are calcium oxalate 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 between  5 and 14 years of age.

Struvite stones

Struvite stones are most common in cats with highly alkaline urine. This is often, but not always, the result of a urinary tract infection. 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—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 due to 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

Bladder stones can lead to a urinary obstruction in cats which is considered a medical emergency.  A urinary obstruction occurs when your cat's urethra becomes blocked with a stone and your cat is unable to pass urine. 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
If you notice your cat straining to urinate or any of the other symptoms associated with a urinary obstruction contact your vet immediately or visit your nearest emergency animals hospital for urgent care. 

How are bladder stones in cats treated?

The best treatment for your cat's bladder stones will depend upon the type of stones that your cat has. 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 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. As a general rule, all cats should have access to fresh water, get plenty of exercise, and have easy access to a clean litter box. If your cat is at high risk for bladder stones or has a history of bladder stones, you may also want to speak with your vet about the following:

  • Feeding 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.
  • Giving your cat any nutritional supplements, particularly supplements containing calcium, vitamin C, or vitamin D.
  • Switching to a prescription diet that is recommended for cats with urinary health issues.  

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 you think your cat is suffering from bladder stones or showing signs of a bladder infection, contact our Las Vegas vets today to book an appointment.