When minerals accumulate in your cat's body, they can compound into bladder stones, causing discomfort, blood in the urine, or preventing urination altogether.
Here’s what to know about how bladder stones are caused, what the symptoms are, and how to help your cat if you suspect they’re suffering from this condition.
What are bladder stones?
Bladder stones are concentrations of minerals that develop within your cat’s body. They start as crystals that may then clump together to form stones (clinically known as uroliths). Crystals are typically asymptomatic; they often pass through a cat’s urinary tract undetected. If they become stones, they may cause pain and obstruction.
Causes of bladder stones
There are several different types of bladder stones that cats may experience, and their causes vary. Some common causes include:
· Dehydration - Always make sure your cat has access to fresh water.
· Poor nutrition - If your cat’s diet contains too many minerals, they may build up and cause bladder stones. This is primarily a concern if your cat is a new rescue and you’re unfamiliar with what their diet was previously.
· Imbalance in urine pH - This can happen if your cat takes medications or supplements that affect their urine or if they are experiencing an illness.
Additionally, some cats are genetically predisposed to developing crystals in their urine which then evolve into bladder stones. These breeds include the Ragdoll, Domestic Shorthair, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair cats. If your cat belongs to one of these breeds, be mindful of their diet to ensure it isn’t too high in minerals.
Bladder stones are also more common in male cats, senior cats, and cats that are overweight.
Symptoms of bladder stones in cats
The most common symptoms of bladder stones are:
· Discolouration of a cat’s urine
· Blood in the urine
· Straining to urinate
· Inability to urinate
Swelling of the bladder and urinary tract can make it difficult or painful for urine to pass through the urethra, and large stones may block the tract altogether.
Either condition is an emergency as it is painful for your cat and, in extreme cases, can cause the bladder to rupture. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, contact your veterinarian for guidance.
How are bladder stones treated?
Your veterinarian will examine your cat and run tests or X-rays to confirm a bladder stone diagnosis. The treatment plan will depend on the severity of the stones and whether your cat is fully obstructed.
In some cases, it may be possible to dissolve the stones by prescribing your cat a special diet that alters the pH of their urine to break down the minerals. If your cat’s symptoms are more severe, the vet may try passing a catheter through the urethra to remove any obstruction more quickly. In extreme cases, surgery is required to remove the stones.
The Bottom Line
Bladder stones are a scary prospect, but most cats won’t ever experience them in any severity. However, it’s still good to be aware of the possibility and to note any irregularities in your cat’s behaviour.
To prevent bladder stones, help your cat stay hydrated by ensuring they always have access to plenty of fresh water. Be mindful of your cat’s diet to ensure it is well-balanced. Incorporating wet food (we recommend Snappy Tom Naturals!) into your cat’s diet will help encourage hydration.