Bladder stones are mineral formations that develop in the bladder. These mineral formations can be caused by a variety of factors including diet, genetics, and urinary tract infections. The time it takes for bladder stones to form can vary depending on the cat’s diet and other factors. Some cats may develop bladder stones within a few weeks or months while others may take years.
The most common signs of bladder stones in cats are blood in the urine (called hematuria) and straining to urinate (called dysuria). Hematuria is caused by the stones rubbing against the bladder wall, irritating, and damaging the tissues. Dysuria is caused by the stones obstructing the urethra, making it difficult for your cat to urinate. Small stones may flow with the urine into the narrow urethra, where they become lodged and cause an obstruction. This problem occurs more frequently in male cats, because their urethra is much longer and narrower than that of female cats. If an obstruction occurs, the bladder cannot be emptied fully. This condition is an emergency, and is very painful, especially when left untreated.
Diagnosis of bladder stones is usually done through radiographs and a microscopic exam of urine. Radiographs can help identify the size and location of the stones while a microscopic exam of urine can help identify any underlying infections or crystals that may be contributing to stone formation. Treatment options include surgery or a special diet that can help dissolve the stones. Surgery may be necessary if your cat has a large stone or if there is a complete obstruction of the urethra. A special diet that is low in minerals that can contribute to stone formation can help dissolve small stones and prevent new ones from forming.