Kidney stones in cats

When cats develop kidney stones — small crystals or stones made up of calcium oxalate — it becomes a condition called nephrolithiasis. Those stones then move through your cat’s urinary tract, which can cause some painful issues. It’s important to note that kidney stones and bladder stones are not the same thing. The two types of stones have different chemical makeups, and bladder stones are more often diagnosed and treated than kidney stones.

What are the potential symptoms of kidney stones in cats?

Many kidney stones in cats are small and go unnoticed. The problems begin when the stones block the ureter, or the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder. When that happens, you might see these signs:

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Lethargy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Potential decrease in urine production. You may or may not notice a decrease in urine — sometimes the other kidney continues to produce it.
  • Pain while urinating, usually presenting as howling or frantic meows.

What tests are used to confirm kidney stones in cats?

Since kidney stones don’t cause any issues for cats until they get really big, they’re often diagnosed by accident when your cat is getting an X-ray or ultrasound for something else, like a broken bone. But if kidney stones are suspected in general, your vet will likely do these tests, all with contrast to see how much of your cat’s system might be blocked:

  • CT scan
  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • Bloodwork to check for kidney failure

What is the treatment for kidney stones in cats?

For small kidney stones in cats, clinical treatment isn’t necessary. You will likely have to give your cat special food, try to increase their water intake, and give them an antibiotic to prevent infection. When the kidney stones are causing a major issue, there are two options: surgery, or breaking up the stone. Surgery to remove the stones can be difficult because cat ureters are so small. The treatment to break up the stone is called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. It allows the stone to shatter into smaller pieces that will easily pass through your cat’s system. But the treatment is expensive and not all vets are able to do it.

What is the typical cost of treatment for kidney stones in cats?

It depends on your clinic and location, but for treatment to remove kidney stones, expect to spend about $700 to $1,000.

Hours at the vet: As little as 8 hours, as long as 10 hours.

What are the recovery steps for kidney stones in cats?

  • Kidney stones do tend to come back, unfortunately. Once your pet has been treated, you’ll likely need to bring them back to the vet every three to six months for testing to make sure they haven’t returned.
  • For cats that went into kidney failure as a result of the stones, a urinalysis and blood test will likely be done at each visit as well.

How do I prevent kidney stones in cats?

Preventing kidney stones in cats comes down to preventing the formation of extra calcium oxalate that causes the stones. You’ll want to make sure your cat gets enough fluid, either by encouraging them to drink more water or by switching them to an all wet food diet. A prescription wet food and supplements may be available from your vet, as well. Exercise is also very important: active cats are less likely to develop kidney stones.

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