Kidney stone disease (urolithiasis) in cats and dogs

 Kidney stone disease in cats and dogs is a scary diagnosis, frightening all pets’ owners. These words sound like a death sentence, because urolithiasis is a dangerous enemy to your pet indeed. However, it can be beaten with the right and timely treatment.

 What does this diagnosis mean?

 Urolithiasis or kidney stone disease in cats is a chronic condition characterized by salt deposits formations in kidneys, bladder and urinary ducts. Movements of stones in the urine flow lead to the obstruction, i.e. blockage of urinary ducts. Accumulation of fluid in the bladder leads to total toxicity. If one won’t be able to give first aid, the death is almost inevitable.


Uroliths (so-called “stones” and “sand grains”) differ in chemical composition. In about 80% of cases the struvite uroliths are formed in cats (phosphate / ammonium / magnesium). Among other uroliths there are ammonium urate, calcium oxalate and cystine. In order to assign effective treatment, the vet should identify the type of deposits.

Causes of urolithiasis

 It is believed that female cats are less susceptible to urolithiasis than male cats. Unsterilized cats may get sick with urolithiasis with the same frequency as the sterilized animals. Urolithiasis in castrated male cats doesn’t occur more frequently than in non-castrated animals. However, castration at an early age (less than 6 months) may lead to underdevelopment of the urethra. If a cat gets sick with urolithiasis, the disease will be more severe, as narrow urethra can be quickly clogged with deposits.


There are a number of factors, which serve as catalysts for occurrence of the disease:

  • Improper diet, particularly overabundance of minerals in the diet. Frequent feeding with fish, greasy or cheap food (no matter with dry or wet food) is a direct path urolithiasis. High quality dry food with balanced composition is safe though;
  • Mixed feeding (mixing natural products with dry or wet canned food for cats). Feeding schedules that imply mixing natural products with industrial feed in one feeding leads to metabolic disorders. Urolithiasis in cats usually occurs because of metabolic disorders;
  • Inadequate fluid intake, or use of raw water (from the tap);
  • Genetic predisposition;
  • Inactivity, obesity;
  • Congenital disorders of genitourinary system;
  • Infectious diseases, streptococci, staphylococci;
  • Digestive tract dysfunction.


 The first signs of urolithiasis in cats are barely noticeable for the owner: the pet becomes less active, may feel discomfort during urination and decreased appetite. At this stage urolithiasis can be diagnosed only via urinalysis.

 As the disease aggravates the condition of the pet gets worse, the number of stones increase, they move through the urinary ducts, eventually closing the lumen partially or completely. During this period, the symptoms of urolithiasis in cats become apparent:

  • Tight painful stomach;
  • Obsession (cat is persistently rubbing against the owner’s legs and constantly meowing, trying to draw owner’s attention);
  • Sharp pain when urinating (sitting on the litter the pet is meowing);
  • Frequent urge (the cat is urinating up to 10 times a day, scratching the toilet door etc.);
  • Urinating in the wrong place, sometimes demonstrative (perfectly mannered pet may climb on the table and urinate there, it is another way to draw owner’s attention);
  • Blood in the urine (the litter becomes pinkish, not yellowish, as usual).


Urolithiasis treatment in cats is only possible at the veterinarian. It is forbidden to give any diuretics and other drugs hoping to stop an attack without professional help. Remember, when urinary tract obstruction occurs, every hour plays an important role!

Depending on the severity of the condition, the vet will either perform a catheterization (removing stones using a catheter) or will remove large stones surgically (through abdominal surgery under general anesthesia). To remove the pain spasmolytic drugs are used. For the destruction and removal the remaining small stones you can use anti-inflammatory drugs and diuretics,  but get a consultation at a veterinary clinic anyway. If the condition of the cat is critical, the vet usually prescribes nutritional and supporting drips, painkillers, antibiotics.

Lifestyle of pets suffering from urolithiasis

 Urolithiasis in cats is a chronic disease that requires constant monitoring. To take care of your pet, you must:

  • find a competent veterinarian, who will oversee the development of the disease. Thousands of animals, which could have been saved, were euthanized because of inexperienced doctors or lack of treatment;
  • to pick up high-quality feed for animals suffering from urolithiasis. Or to compile a make a special diet together with a dietitian;
  • make sure the cat drinks filtered water only;
  • avoid passive lifestyle of your cat – active games is an excellent prevention measure;
  • bring your cat for passing urine tests every 4 months; and every six months – for carrying out ultrasound of cat’s kidneys and bladder;
  • in the case of relapse, when the signs of urolithiasis appear again, you should immediately go to the clinic.

 These conditions allow the cat to long life with quite an active lifestyle. The only thing required from the owner is attention to their four-legged friend.


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