Treating and preventing bladder stones in cats
“My cat never bites!” is what my friend Joe kept telling me right after his twenty-something pound cat sunk his teeth into my hand. My main concern at that time had nothing to do with diagnosing the emotional health of his cat but rather I was mostly concerned about possibly getting a serious infection or not being able to play my guitar again. After I was able to stop the bleeding, cleaned the wound with peroxide, put antibiotic ointment on it, and wrapped it up, my hand was still throbbing. With a regular pulse like a drummer hitting a snare drum to the beat of a Michael Jackson tune, I could feel my hand through the bandages; I really thought I was in trouble this time. I also realized that in a day or so, if my hand didn’t improve considerably I would have to go visit the emergency room since cat bites can cause serious infections if not treated properly.
A day or so later Joe called me up to check on my hand (which was mostly healed by then) and to let me know that the reason his lovely cat bit me was because apparently he was in extreme pain and discomfort which was caused by several struvite stones. Apparently when I touched the irritated cat, who hadn’t urinated in several days and was in pain, he had a momentary lapse in judgment. Since I’ve have those lapses myself at times, I had to forgive the cat.
One of the main jobs of urine is to collect dissolved solids and send them out of the body. Unfortunately, sometimes these solids do not dissolve completely and result in the formation of what we call kidney stones. In cats these stones are usually made up of struvite or less commonly (but still very common) oxalate crystals. Very often females get more struvite and males the oxalate, although this is not always the case. Struvite stones are possible to dissolve if the environment is made more favorable; however, oxalate stones do not dissolve as easily in such a way. Excessive protein intake may cause the development of urate stones and cysteine (an amino acid) may increase the development of cysteine stones.
Some stones can be dissolved and cleared out by simple modification of diet while other ones such as the oxalate stones may require surgery since they don’t dissolve easily. Emergency surgery is sometimes required when there is an obstruction. In most cases, surgery is the quickest and most efficient way to get rid of the stones but there is a definite increase in risk involved with any surgery such as infection, allergy to anesthesia, sensitivity to administered medication, or other similar complications during or after the surgery. Ultrasound is also another method that can remove the stones in pets (similar to humans); however for whatever reason, I don’t believe it’s available or easy to get done in pets.
Now to my favorite topic and one that I know well: medications are often used to help treat and eradicate stones. Antibiotic medications are often used to treat stones caused by bacterial byproducts and may also be beneficial in the treatment, or the prevention or treatment of urinary tract infection. Another important medication that is used to treat uric acid stones is called allopurinol. Cysteine stones can be treated with a medication called 2-MPG which lowers cysteine levels and provides other benefits.
Changing the acidity or alkalinity of the urine is also a method used in the treatment of stones. Struvite stones do better in an alkaline environment, so acidifying the urine helps get them dissolved and excreted. In the case of oxalate stones (since they don’t readily dissolve) increasing the pH (ie. making the urine more basic) can be used to prevent their formation or further accumulation. Potassium citrate can be used to make the urine more basic and ascorbic acid can be used to acidify the urine.
Stones can cause blockages, injury, extreme pain, and a variety of other dangers. If you suspect your cat or dog has stones or is suffering in any way please contact the veterinarian. Something that may be simple and inexpensive to treat may turn into a dangerous situation requiring surgery at great risk and expense. A veterinarian can diagnose the type of stone, suggest the proper diet, the proper medication, and come up with the best course of action for your pet’s particular situation.
If you have any medication related questions, your 1800PetMeds pharmacist is always available to answer those for you so please feel free to call us.