Do you really need a special diet to manage your cat's bladder stones? - Dr. Marty Becker


Do you really need a special diet to manage your cat’s bladder stones?

Thursday, Dec 2nd, 2021 | By Dr. Marty Becker

A reader’s male cat has been suffering from bladder stones and wrote asking if that special diet is really necessary. Here’s what I had to say.

Q: My male cat has bladder stones, and the vet is recommending a special diet. It’s expensive! Is there some natural way to treat or prevent the stones?

A: Some conditions and diseases in pets are best managed through diet, and one of them is bladder stones. Peer-reviewed studies have shown the benefit of veterinary therapeutic diets for dissolving these stones.

Urinary stones are seen in 10% to 20% of cats with lower urinary tract disease. In male cats, stones can block the urethra — the tube that carries urine out of the body. That’s a serious medical emergency! Cats unable to urinate can die within 72 hours if the blockage isn’t relieved.

Changing a cat’s diet helps in several ways. Switching to canned food, which is approximately 70% water, helps the cat take in more fluid. And some diets are formulated to produce acidic urine, which is more likely to dissolve struvite stones. Therapeutic diets also tend to be higher in sodium, encouraging the cat to drink more water. That, in turn, dilutes the urine, making it less likely that crystals will form into stones.

Using diet to dissolve stones is less invasive than surgery — the other option for stone removal — but the drawback is that it can take several months to work. Be patient, and don’t undermine it by giving your cat other types of food or treats.

To help the food do its work, scoop the litter box at least a couple of times a day so your cat will want to use it, and make sure he always has plenty of fresh water. Consider getting a pet fountain to increase his interest in drinking more often; lots of cats prefer running water.

Catching this problem early and treating it effectively with an appropriate diet is the best way to prevent it from becoming worse.

There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.