Q: Our 7-year-old cat was not using the litter box despite our implementing a whole list of things we were told to do. For awhile, it seemed like adding another litter box solved the problem, but after a week or so, the problem returned.
We took her to our vet and tried antibiotics and some pain medications but it didn't help. We took her back again and the vet took an X-ray that showed a bladder stone. We had no idea that cats could get bladder stones. She is on special food now but still having accidents.
Will she need to pass the stone before that stops happening? How likely is it that we are going to solve this problem with food?
A: In cats less than 10 years of age, bladder stones (uroliths) are the second-most common cause of urinary tract disease in cats (assuming they can still urinate and are not blocked). There are two common types of uroliths that cats get and they require drastically different treatments.
Your veterinarian is treating your cat for one of the stones that will hopefully remove it with medical or, in this case, dietary therapy. By feeding a prescription food, the urine concentration of the minerals that make up this stone goes down, the urine becomes more dilute and this, along with some other mechanisms, will allow the stone to dissolve.
If successful, noticeable changes in the stone and hopefully in the patient can occur within just a couple of weeks. While the stone may be passed when it gets small enough, in most cases it is never recovered. A follow-up X-ray will determine if the stone is responding.
Unfortunately, the other common type of urolith will never respond to dietary therapy. With this type of stone, surgical intervention — called a cystotomy — is necessary to physically remove the urolith. While this requires general anesthetic and an incision into the bladder, the procedure is very successful and can provide immediate relief.
Depending on how long and how compliant you have been with the prescription food — it should be fed exclusively with no treats or other food — it may now be time to check with your veterinarian regarding another X-ray for your friend. Your vet will be in a position to tell you if the food has had sufficient time to do its job or if patience is still necessary for adequate dissolution.
Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@ mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.