Bladder crystals form from minerals in your cat’s diet and can grow big enough to develop stones. It’s important to understand the signs that your cat may have urinary crystals to prevent unnecessary suffering. Diagnosis and treatment are straight-forward. Working with your veterinarian, you can provide your cat with a high quality of life. Surgery may not be necessary.
Depending on the kind of crystals your cat has developed, your cat’s diet can be manipulated to dissolve the stones. Changes to diet and water intake are key to preventing crystals and stones from forming again.
Table of Contents
Recognizing the signs of bladder crystals is important to get your cat the help he needs. Your cat may have bladder stones or crystals if he has the following symptoms:
- Straining while urinating
- Urinating often, but in small quantities
- Urinating anywhere other than their litter box
- Distressed behavior while urinating
- Licking their genitals
- Discolored urine, especially if it appears bloody
Some cats don’t show any signs of bladder crystals. This is just one reason why an annual exam is important.
If you suspect your cat may have bladder crystals, take her to your veterinarian for proper diagnosis right away. Stones that have grown large enough may be felt through the abdominal wall. For proper diagnosis, your cat’s veterinarian will probably use a combination of urinalysis, ultrasound, or x-rays.
Diagnosis should include determining what kind of crystals have formed as treatment is different for the different types.
There are a variety of ways to help your cat at home with the direction of your veterinarian. Diet adjustments can be made depending on what kind of crystals your cat has. The crystals may be dissolved by changing the pH levels of your cat’s urine.
For larger crystals, or in the case of an obstruction, surgery may be necessary to remove the crystals. With any kind of crystals, it is important to increase your cat’s water intake. You can encourage this by providing fresh water at all times and switching to canned food instead of dry food.
Struvite crystals are formed in more alkaline urine and are made up of ammonium, phosphate and magnesium. It is possible to dissolve the crystals through diet.
Your veterinarian may prescribe a diet to make your cat’s urine more acidic. Do not give your cat urine acidifiers if your cat is on a prescription diet.
You will also need to increase your cat’s water intake to help make the urine more dilute. This will help dissolve or flush the crystals and help prevent the formation of new ones.
Calcium Oxalate Crystals
Calcium oxalate crystals tend to form in more acidic urine. Unfortunately, there is no way to dissolve the stones through diet, so surgery or hydro propulsion may be necessary to remove the stones.
A diet designed to make your cat’s urine more alkaline can help to prevent the crystals from forming.
Like with struvite crystals, increasing your cat’s water intake is essential to treat and prevent crystals and stones from forming.
Urate crystals are more common in dogs but have been found in cats as well. A diet lower in protein may be prescribed by your veterinarian to balance the pH of your cat’s urine.
Due to its rarity, no formulated diet exists for cats with urate crystals. A diet lower in protein, and especially purines may be prescribed.
Again, increase your cat’s water intake to both help treat the crystals and prevent them from forming again.
If there are no complications requiring surgery, treatment for urinary crystals is easy and simple. Increase your cat’s water intake. And your veterinarian may prescribe a diet to balance the pH levels of your cat’s urine.
Working with your veterinarian to know which diet to feed your cat is crucial. Depending on the crystals your cat has, your cat may need adjustments to protein, calcium, magnesium, or phosphorus.
Increasing your cat’s water intake is also important. Switching your cat to a canned food diet instead of dry is an easy way to do this.
Dry food formulas for urinary crystals are available. If your cat refuses to eat wet food, dry food can be. Mixed with water to increase his water intake.
A dry food version is available, but remember to mix with water to increase your cat’s water intake.
If you choose to use dry cat food, mix it with water to increase your cat’s water intake
Encouraging your cat to drink more may be difficult due to your cat’s natural thirst tolerance. There are a few tricks you can use to increase your cat’s water intake.
Switching from dry cat food to canned cat food will increase your cat’s water intake drastically. You can increase it even more by mixing more water in with the canned food.
Your cat may need a prescribed diet specially formulated for acidifying his urine.
Your cat’s veterinarian may prescribe a diet lower in minerals to help prevent the repeat formation of calcium oxalate stones.
A diet lower in proteins may be prescribed by your veterinarian.
The links provided are for your convenience and are not meant to replace the advice of your cat’s veterinarian.
If your cat objects to the taste of the water where you live, add some of the juice from a can of tuna or chicken packed in water. You can also try a water filter for your cat’s water.
Some cats love drinking from running water. But you don’t want to leave a tap running all the time. Investing in a water fountain for your cat is an excellent solution.
Look for a fountain with different drinking options as some cats like to drink from a pool of water, while others like to drink from a falling stream.
Exercise is important for any cat’s health. If your cat tends to be lazier than most, you can try enticing him with new and interesting toys.
A cat tree for him to climb on is also an excellent way to encourage some exercise. Most cats love to watch over their territory from a high perch.
There are complications that can arise from bladder crystals. Any obstruction caused by a stone in the urinary tract is life-threatening for your cat.
Male cats are at greater risk of having an obstruction as the urethra is more narrow in males than in females.
The signs of obstruction are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- A distended abdomen
If your cat exhibits symptoms of obstruction, seek medical help right away.
Recurrence and Prevention
The best thing you can do to prevent bladder crystals from forming is to make sure your cat gets enough water in his diet. This makes the urine more dilute. It also decreases the amount of time urine stays in the bladder. This decreases the chances of crystals forming, regardless of pH levels.
Your cat may need to have checkups in addition to his annual exam to ensure that crystals are not forming again. Check with your veterinarian if you need to continue any prescribed diet.
Hard water may be linked to the formation of crystals as well. If you live in an area with hard water, investing in a pet fountain with a filter may be another method of prevention. Remember to change the filter regularly.
Recognizing the signs of cat bladder crystals is crucial to ensuring that your cat lives a long and happy life. Working with your veterinarian you can help your cat through treatment and establish the changes needed to help prevent reoccurrence.
This information is provided for education and convenience. It is not meant to take the place of the advice of your cat’s veterinarian. If you suspect your cat has bladder crystals, please take him to his veterinarian right away.