Q: Could you review trends in feline urolithiasis in cats?
A: Dr. Jodi L. Westropp and colleagues at the 2006 American College of Veterinary Medical Forum in Louisville, Ky., gave a lecture
on trends in feline urolithiasis. Some relevant points in this lecture are provided below.
This article presents trends for feline struvite and calcium oxalate (CaOx) containing uroliths during the past 23 years,
which were compiled using data from the Dr. Gerald V. Ling Urinary Stone Analysis Laboratory.
Struvite and calcium oxalate urolithiasis
Struvite- and CaOx-containing uroliths are still the most common stones analyzed by this laboratory. Struvite, also referred
to as magnesium ammonium phosphate (MAP), was the predominant stone type evaluated at the laboratory until 1993. About 90
percent of struvite-containing uroliths were removed from the urinary bladder and less than 0.35 percent of the samples were
submitted from the upper urinary tract. Breed predilections for feline struvite urolithiasis from the Minnesota Urolith Center
include the Foreign Shorthair, Ragdoll, Chartreux, Oriental Shorthair, Domestic Shorthair and Himalayan. The Rex, Burmese,
Abyssinian, Russian Blue, Birman, Siamese and mixed-breed cats had a significantly lower risk of developing struvite uroliths.
At the California laboratory, Himalayan and Persian cats had a higher risk for struvite stones compared with their expected
breed frequency. In cats, struvite stones usually form in sterile urine, whereas more than 90 percent of dogs, struvite stones
are usually associated with a urease-producing bacterial infection. Struvite solubility is reduced in urine of pH greater
There has been a change in feline urolithiasis trends beginning in 1993, when 53 percent of the stones contained CaOx, while
only 47 percent contained struvite. CaOx-containing uroliths continued to increase over the next eight years, while the struvite-containing
uroliths decreased during that same time. It is theorized that diets used to promote urine acidification may have contributed
to the increase in CaOx urolithiasis. Previous studies in cats evaluating this change suggested that breed, age, sex or reproductive
status did not contribute to the apparent reciprocal relationship between the prevalence of CaOx and struvite uroliths in
cats during the past 17 years. When evaluating the most recent data at University of California- Davis, it appears that another
change in the urolithiasis trend may be taking place. When evaluating the past three years of data, struvite-containing stones
were increasing slightly and CaOx-containing stones were decreasing slightly.
While there are several factors that could be contributing to this observed increase in struvite-containing stones, it is
possible that the changes in formulation of adult maintenance feline diets to minimize the occurrence CaOx uroliths and/or
a decreased use of highly acidifying diets may be influencing the composition of the stones recently submitted from cats.
Further data collection will determine whether this trend continues.
In addition to struvite urolith formation, Himalayan and Persian cats also have a higher risk for CaOx as compared with their
expected breed frequency. In regard to gender, more CaOx-containing stones than struvite containing stones are from male cats.
The Minnesota Urolith Center reports that male cats are 1.5 times more likely to develop CaOx uroliths than female cats. CaOx
urolithiasis occurs more often in older cats compared wih struvite urolithiasis, which occurs in younger cats. As CaOx-containing
uroliths increased in the mid-1990s, an increasing number of CaOx-containing stones submitted to the laboratory were removed
from the upper urinary tract. Ureterolithiasis in cats has become an emerging and oftentimes difficult disease for veterinarians
The pathogenesis of CaOx urolithiasis in cats is poorly understood. Animal-related factors should be addressed initially to
ascertain that no intrinsic predisposing problems are present. If serum calcium concentration is elevated, a search should
be initiated for underlying causes such as primary hyperparathyroidism, neoplastic processes, renal secondary hyperparathyroidism
and idiopathic hypercalcemia in cats. The primary site of CaOx urolithiasis may be unrelated to urinary stasis, infection
or other secondary causes for urinary stones. No studies investigating these disorders or hypotheses have been published in
cats and dogs and what, if any, relationships can be made between these species remains to be seen.