Information Brochures

UROLITHIASIS IN CATS

A guide for owners which deals with the common problem of urinary tract blockage in cats

Urolithiasis usually occurs in male cats when there is a blockage at the end of the urinary tract. The cause of the blockage is normally gravel and mucus material that has accumulated in a narrow portion of the urinary tract. This obstruction inhibits the normal passage of urine. Consequently, the cat is unable to excrete the body's waste products that are normally passed through the kidneys. Instead, these waste products accumulate in the cat's bloodstream and can cause internal poisoning and death. 

Signs of disease 
  1. Frequent unsuccessful attempts to urinate, with the passage of little or no urine; this may be mistaken for constipation 
  2. Blood in the urine 
  3. Frequent licking of the penis, often accompanied by an erection 
  4. Frequent crying, as if in pain 
  5. Restlessness

Take the cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The longer the delay, the greater the possibility of severe complications for your pet. 

Consequences 
  1. Uraemic poisoning due to inability to excrete metabolic waste products
  2. Possible rupture of the urinary bladder 
  3. Severe kidney damage 
  4. Loss of urinary bladder tone 
  5. Death 
Treatment 
Under anaesthesia the plug is removed by gently flushing the urethra, where after a catheter may be left in the bladder so that flushing can be done at regular intervals. Hospitalisation is essential. In severe cases where the obstruction cannot be relieved or where narrowing of the urethra has occurred, surgery may be necessary. 

Prognosis 

Experience has shown that once a cat has had a urinary tract obstruction, the syndrome is likely to occur again. The owner, therefore, constantly needs to be alert to the possibility and present the cat for medical attention as soon as symptoms are seen. 

Possible complications 

  1. Recurrent formation of plugs causing a blockage.
  2. Loss of bladder muscle tone.
  3. Secondary kidney degeneration and urinary bladder infection.

Home treatment 

Medication for the cat will vary, depending on the animal's condition upon presentation. The cat will usually be placed on urinary antibiotics and acidifiers. Increased water consumption is also important. This can be encouraged by adding a little table salt to the cat's food thereby stimulating thirst. Selecting foods that have a low mineral content is also advisable. Special diets, as recommended by your veterinarian, are also commercially available.

The above information has been supplied by the South African Veterinary Foundation as a service to the general public. For more information on the activities of the Foundation visit its website at www.savf.org.za