Bladder stones form from minerals excreted into the urinary bladder. They range in size from grains of sand or tiny pebbles to a large, single stone.
The main signs of bladder stones are blood in the urine (hæmaturia) and straining to urinate (dysuria). Urinary tract infections also cause hæmaturia and dysuria.
Hæmaturia occurs because the stones mechanically irritate the bladder wall and make it bleed.
Dysuria occurs when stones obstruct the passage of urine out of the bladder. Large stones sometimes cause a valve-like obstruction at the neck of the bladder. The dog passes some urine and then despite straining cannot pass more. Small stones flow with the urine and obstruct the urethra, especially of male dogs.
Stones form from a high concentration of crystals in the urine. The crystals form because of abnormalities in the diet or because of disease in the bladder, especially bacterial infection. Sometimes they form because of a fault in body chemistry.
We suspect bladder stones if the bladder is painful or when there are recurrent infections. We can feel some bladder stones through the abdominal wall but most bladder stones are diagnosed with x-rays or ultrasound.
The fastest treatment is surgery to open the abdomen and bladder and pick out the stones.
Alternatively, if the dog has passed a stone in the urine we analyse it and prescribe the specific diet that dissolves that type of stone. Diet is not successful in dissolving some kinds of stone and is not fast enough if the pet is already toxic from a back up of urine in the urinary tract.
Some types of stone can be prevented. Regular tests for urinary tract infections and appropriate antimicrobial treatment prevent stones formed as a result of bacterial infection.
Specially formulated diets help prevent the formation of some other types of stone. We determine the chemical composition of stones removed at surgery and prescribe the best preventative diet for that particular type of stone.
Indoor cats straining to urinate and not producing much but bloody urine have bladder problems. Some exhibit their frustration and pain all over the house.
The urinary passage of male or desexed male cats can block up with crystals and mucous. If your cat is tense and restless then he may have a blockage and you must contact a vet immediately before the bladder bursts.
Stress causes bladder inflammation or cystitis in some cats.
Kidney or bladder infections and bladder stones cause similar signs.
When you come to the vet surgery we examine your cat for urinary blockage and shock. Then we analyse your cat’s urine for infection, crystals and mucous plugs. We might order an X ray or ultrasound to rule out bladder stones.
If we find no sign of blockage, infection or stones then we conclude that your cat has Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) or Interstitial Cystitis (FIC).
No single cause of FIC has been identified. However, several factors have been shown to increase the risk of FIC. These include:
- Indoor confinement
- Dry food
- Low water consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Frequent meals
How can you prevent further episodes of FIC?
- Introduce a predominantly wet food diet such as food in sachets or cans, or raw meat. If your cat prefers dry food you may have to introduce the new foods gradually. Add a little of the wet food to the biscuits and gradually increase the amount of wet food. Alternatively sprinkle the biscuits with water and increase the amount of water added over a few weeks until the biscuits are soft and wet.
- Increase your cat’s water intake. You might try adding more water to the food or offering water flavoured with chicken stock. Some cats like running water. Pet fountains are available in many pet stores. Cats often like drinking water from the shower recess or basin. Provide water in a variety of bowls in different shapes, sizes and textures to identify your cat’s preference. If rain water or filtered water is available your cat may prefer it to tap water.
- Encourage frequent urination. Provide at least one litter tray per cat plus one more filled with the preferred litter and in private locations.
- Reduce stress in your cat’s life. Some cats are very sensitive to their environment and may respond to any changes by becoming nervous or fearful and developing problems such as cystitis. A comfortable quiet hideout for resting, such as a cupboard, quiet bed or sofa, or on top of the refrigerator, is essential for all felines. Some nervous individuals may require a refuge in a quiet, sheltered part of the house away from other pets and people, and furnished with the necessities of life.
- Minimise interaction with other cats for fearful individuals. Check out the Indoor Cat website for signals that your cat is on edge. You may have to provide a feeding point, litter tray and hideout for each cat to minimise the tension.
- A Feliway diffuser may help to reduce stress in many situations.
- Enrich your cat’s environment. When we confine our cats indoors they become dependent on us not only for their physical needs and environment but for their emotional and intellectual needs as well. Cat scratching posts, toys that mimic prey, tunnels, outside runs and a variety of high spots and hideouts will keep your cat happy and stimulated. Your company is important. Even an old cat will appreciate a game with a ribbon on a stick or a glittery ball. Make your cat work for food by hiding it in various locations around the house or in food puzzles such as plastic containers with holes cut in the sides. The Indoor Pet website has lots of suggestions.