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ESWL: A Non-Invasive Treatment for Urological Stones in Cats

Ureterolithiasis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Management

Cats are adorable creatures that can quickly become part of our families. Just like humans, they too can suffer various health conditions.

One of the most common but often overlooked problems cats encounter is ureterolithiasis, commonly known as kidney stones. This disease can cause severe discomfort and, if left untreated, can lead to kidney damage and failure.

As a cat owner, it is essential to learn about ureterolithiasis, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management.

Causes of Ureterolithiasis in Cats

Ureterolithiasis is typically caused by the buildup of crystals that form in the kidneys and bladder. These crystals can clump together and form stones, which may be found in the ureter or urinary tract, causing blockage and pain to the cat.

Various factors can cause the formation of stones, including genetic factors, urinary tract infections, an adverse drug reaction, cancer, diet, and sometimes a specific species of bacteria. Age also plays a critical role in the formation of stones, with older cats more susceptible to ureterolithiasis than younger ones.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Ureterolithiasis in Cats

The first sign of ureterolithiasis in cats is discomfort and pain. Cats may display some of these symptoms:

– Frequent urination,

– Change in urination patterns,

– Painful urination,

– Inability to urinate,

– Blood in urine,

– Licking their genital area frequently,

– Hunched posture, and

– Repeated attempts at urination.

In severe cases, blocking of the flow of urine can lead to kidney failure. The diagnosis of ureterolithiasis starts with the medical history of the cat, a physical examination, and laboratory tests.

The vet may conduct some X-rays using radiography, which can identify the location, size, and shape of the stone. A contrast dye can be injected to visualize the urine flow and see any blockages.

The ultrasound scan also helps detect any abnormalities in the urinary tract.

Treatment and Management of Ureterolithiasis in Cats

The treatment of ureterolithiasis in cats aims to remove the stones, re-establish the flow of urine, and prevent re-occurrences. Depending on the severity, the vet may consider surgical procedures, such as the removal of the stones.

Shock wave lithotripsy, where ultrasound waves are directed at the stones to break them, may also be an option. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics are administered to reduce uremia and prevent further infections.

Furthermore, dietary changes may also help manage this condition by preventing the recurrence of urinary stones. Vets may recommend feeding the cat a diet high in moisture, with reduced protein and mineral content.

This can reduce the concentration of minerals in the urine that form the crystals and stones. The cat’s water intake is also monitored to ensure adequate hydration levels.

The vet may also provide supplements to promote urine acidity, which can prevent the formation of stones for certain types of crystals. Follow-up evaluation is essential in managing ureterolithiasis in cats; the cat will go for regular checkups to monitor the progress of their healing process.

Newer stones may form due to the cat’s underlying condition and predisposition to urinary stone formation. The vet will advise on the best course of action if a relapse occurs.

Prognosis of Ureterolithiasis in Cats

The prognosis of ureterolithiasis depends on the severity of the condition and its underlying cause. Cats that receive prompt and effective treatment, including an appropriate diet, IV fluids, and antibiotics, have a higher chance of full recovery.

In contrast, cats with severe kidney damage may experience long-term complications despite treatment.

Types of Stones in Cats

Various types of stones can form in cats, depending on their breeds, age, and sex. Some common types include:


Struvite Stones

Struvite stones are the most common type of stones, affecting adult cats between one and ten years of age. They form due to an excess of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate in the cat’s urine.

These types of stones often form due to bacterial infections in the urinary tract, which cause the urine to become more alkaline-like, thus promoting the formation of these stones. 2.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

These stones occur in older cats and can affect both sexes. Unlike struvite stones, calcium oxalate stones form due to dietary and nutritional deficiencies.

This type of stone is challenging to treat and often requires surgery.


Ureterolithiasis is a prevalent health problem in cats and can cause severe complications if left untreated. Prompt veterinary treatment, including proper diagnosis and management, can help the cat recover fully and prevent relapses.

However, prevention is better than cure. As a cat owner, ensure regular check-ups, and feed your cat a healthy, balanced diet to lower their chances of developing ureterolithiasis.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy: A Non-Surgical Method for Treating Urolithiasis

Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a non-invasive procedure used to break apart stones in the kidney, ureter, or bladder using shock waves. It is a modern technology that has proven to be an effective alternative to surgery in the treatment of urolithiasis in animals.

This article seeks to provide an overview of the ESWL procedure, its advantages and limitations, and its appropriateness for different animals.

Definition and Procedure of ESWL

ESWL involves using shock waves outside the body to break up stones into smaller pieces that can be passed through the urine. The procedure is done under anesthesia and usually takes between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the size and location of the stones.

A monitoring device is used to assess the cat’s response to the shockwaves, and the energy and frequency are adjusted accordingly. The shock waves are delivered via a machine that sends waves through a water cushion to the cat’s affected area.

The waves pass harmlessly through the surrounding tissues and focus on the stone, breaking it into small fragments. These fragments are then passed out of the body through the urine.

Advantages and Limitations of ESWL

The primary advantage of ESWL over surgery is that it is a non-invasive procedure that does not involve any incisions or stitches, leading to less discomfort and a shorter recovery time. Additionally, ESWL is less invasive than other procedures and has a high success rate in the treatment of urolithiasis in cats.

Furthermore, because the procedure does not involve incisions, there is little to no risk of complications, such as infection. However, ESWL is not suitable for all animals.

Before recommending ESWL, the vet will consider the type, size, and location of the stone, as well as the animal’s overall health status. ESWL may not be an appropriate option for animals with large or hard stones or those that have stones in hard-to-reach areas.

Furthermore, animals with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, may not be able to tolerate the shock waves.

Alternative Options to ESWL

If ESWL is not suitable for a cat, the vet will recommend alternative treatments such as surgery, medication, or dietary changes. Surgery may be required for larger or harder stones that cannot be treated with ESWL.

Medication may be prescribed to dissolve the stones, but this option can take several weeks to be effective and may not be suitable for all stones. Dietary changes may be suggested to reduce the formation of stones in the first place.

A diet high in moisture with reduced protein and mineral content can reduce the concentration of minerals in the urine that form the crystals and stones.

Living and Management

After the ESWL procedure, the cat will require continuous monitoring to ensure that they recover well. The vet will schedule follow-up evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the procedure and monitor for any complications.

Additionally, the cat may be required to take pain medication to help manage any discomfort that they may experience. Dietary changes may be recommended, as certain types of stones can be diet-related.

The cat’s water intake will also be monitored to ensure adequate hydration levels. If the cat experiences relapses, the vet will recommend an alternative course of action.

Prognosis of ESWL

The overall prognosis for ESWL in cats is good, with a high success rate in the treatment of urolithiasis. However, the outcome may depend on several factors, such as the size and location of the stones and the underlying cause of urolithiasis.

Cats that receive prompt and effective treatment often recover fully and go on to live healthy lives. However, some cats may be predisposed to forming stones, and dietary changes may be required to prevent relapses.

In conclusion, ESWL offers a non-invasive and effective treatment for urolithiasis in cats. However, the appropriateness of the procedure may depend on several factors, and owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

With proper management, including follow-up evaluations and dietary changes, most cats can recover fully and enjoy a healthy life. Ureterolithiasis and urolithiasis are common health problems in cats that can lead to significant discomfort, pain, and kidney damage.

ESWL is a non-invasive procedure that uses shock waves to break apart stones, making it an effective alternative to surgery. However, ESWL may not be suitable for all animals, and the appropriate course of treatment depends on several factors.

Regardless of the treatment, follow-up evaluations, and dietary changes are essential to ensure the cat’s full recovery and prevent relapses. As a cat owner, understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management of ureterolithiasis and urolithiasis is critical to maintaining your cat’s health and well-being.

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