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  • Writer's pictureClayton Watkins, DVM

Bladder Stones in Dogs: Painful but Treatable

As a dog owner, it's important to be aware of the common health issues that your furry friend may face. Bladder stones, also known as uroliths, are one such condition that can cause discomfort and health problems for your dog. In this article, we'll take a closer look at bladder stones in dogs, including the different types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures.

dog with bladder stones

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What Are Bladder Stones?

Bladder stones are mineralized formations that can develop in your dog's urinary tract. They are composed of various minerals and can vary in size and shape. The presence of bladder stones can cause irritation, inflammation, and even obstruction in your dog's urinary system, which can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections, bleeding, kidney damage, and even life-threatening blockages.

Types of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Bladder stones in dogs can be classified into different types based on their mineral composition. The most common types of bladder stones found in dogs are struvite and calcium oxalate stones.

Struvite Stones

Struvite stones, also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate stones, are the most common type of bladder stone in dogs. They are formed secondary to certain types of urease-producing bacterial infections in the urinary tract. Urease breaks down urea in the urine resulting in a pH elevation. High urine pH causes struvite crystals to precipitate out in the urine which can grow into larger stones. Because female dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections than males, struvite stones tend to occur more often in female dogs.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Calcium oxalate stones are another type of bladder stone that can form in dogs. These stones are composed of calcium and oxalate and can be more difficult to treat compared to struvite stones. Calcium oxalate stones are more common in male dogs and small breed dogs such as Miniature Poodles, Lhasa Apsos, and Yorkshire Terriers. There is likely a genetic cause for the formation of calcium oxalate stones.

Urate Stones

Urate stones are radiolucent (not visible on x-rays). Ultrasound is usually necessary to identify the stones. These stones can vary in size, ranging from tiny grains to larger calculi, and may cause urinary tract obstruction, discomfort, and blood in the urine. There are two common causes for urate stones: 1. a birth defect of the blood supply to the liver called a portosystemic shunt (blood supply diverted around the liver) and 2. a genetic disorder that results in urate stone formation more often seen in Dalmatians, English Bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers but can occur in any breed.

Cystine Stones

These stones are composed of cystine, an amino acid that is normally reabsorbed by the kidneys and should not be present in the urine. Cystine stones are radiolucent (not visible on x-rays) and are better visualized with ultrasound. Increased concentration of cystine in the urine, because of a genetic disorder, leads to the formation of cystine stones. Most dogs will form hundreds of stone of varying sizes. The stones cause discomfort, urethral obstruction and blood in the urine. Cystinuria is most commonly seen in Newfoundlands, Dachshunds, and English Bulldogs but can occur in any breed. There is an association between intact male dogs (not neutered) and formation of cystine stones. Neutering may prevent cystine stones from recurring in some dogs.

What Are the Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Dogs?

The symptoms can vary depending on the size, number, and location of the stones. Some of the most common symptoms of bladder stones include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Painful urination

  • Straining to urinate or dribbling urine

  • Blood in the urine

  • Foul smelling urine

  • Urinary accidents in the house

  • Abdominal pain

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately.

How Did My Dog Get Bladder Stones?

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of bladder stones in your dog. These include:

  • Diet: Feeding your dog a diet that is high in certain minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium can increase the risk of bladder stones.

  • Urinary tract infections: Bacterial infections in the urinary tract can create an environment that is conducive to the formation of bladder stones.

  • Genetics: Some breeds are more prone to developing bladder stones than others.

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can lead to concentrated urine, which can increase the risk of bladder stones.

  • Inactivity: Dogs that are sedentary or have limited mobility may be at a higher risk of developing bladder stones.

How Can You Prevent Bladder Stones in Dogs?

While some risk factors for bladder stones in dogs are beyond your control, there are several preventive measures you can take to reduce the risk of bladder stone formation. Here are some tips to help prevent bladder stones from forming:

Provide Plenty of Fresh Water

Make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Proper hydration can help prevent the concentration of minerals in the urine, which can contribute to bladder stone formation.

Monitor Your Dog's Urine

Regularly monitoring your dog's urine habits can help detect any changes that may indicate the presence of bladder stones. If you notice any changes in your dog's urine color, odor, or frequency, seek veterinary care immediately.

Treat Urinary Tract Infections Promptly

Urinary tract infections can increase the risk of bladder stone formation. If your dog has a urinary tract infection, seek prompt veterinary care to eliminate the infection and prevent struvite stones from forming.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups can help detect any underlying health issues that may increase the risk of bladder stone formation.

By following these preventive measures and working closely with your local veterinarian, you can help reduce the risk of bladder stone formation in your pet. Remember, prevention is always better than treatment, so it's essential to take proactive steps to keep your dog's urinary system healthy.

How Quickly Can Bladder Stones Form?

Bladder stones can form relatively quickly in some dogs, while in others, it may take months or even years for them to develop. The formation of bladder stones depends on several factors such as diet, hydration, and urinary tract health. It's essential to monitor your dog's urinary habits and watch for any signs of discomfort or abnormal urination, as early detection and treatment can prevent the progression of bladder stones.

How Bladder Stones Are Diagnosed in Dogs

If your dog is exhibiting any symptoms of bladder stones, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and recommend some diagnostic tests.

Step 1: Bring Your Dog to Your Local Vet

If you start noticing a change in your dog’s urine or urination habits, it’s always a good idea to bring them into your local veterinarian to get them checked out. If you’re located in Utah, visit our Partner Page for recommendations on where to take your pet.

Step 2: Conduct a Physical Examination and Routine Workup

Your local vet will conduct a physical examination of your dog. The typical workup may include a urinalysis, blood tests, and imaging studies such as X-rays, ultrasound or cystoscopy. These tests can help determine the presence, location, and type of bladder stones in your dog. Your veterinarian may also perform a urine culture to identify any bacterial infections that may be contributing to the formation of bladder stones.

Step 3: Receive Results & Recommendations for Treatment

Once your local vet has received the results from the physical examination and workup, they will recommend a course of action to further treat the bladder stones. If your dog has bladder or urethral stones, and you want a non-invasive alternative to open surgery, schedule an appointment with us!

What Treatment Options Are There For Bladder Stones in Dogs?

The treatment for bladder stones in dogs depends on the size, location, and type of stones. Small bladder stones may be able to pass with just flushing, while larger stones may require a non-invasive technique called Laser Lithotripsy. We strongly discourage surgery for bladder stones to ensure a safe and speedy recovery. Treatment options for bladder stones in dogs may include:

Treatment 1: Cystoscopic Bladder Flushing (Non Invasive)

Today, non-invasive removal of bladder stones is the standard of care. Under endoscopic visualization, small bladder stones, even hundreds of bladder stones, can be quickly and non-invasively flushed from the bladder through a urethral catheter or the cystoscope sheath. Direct visualization of the urinary bladder and urethra ensures all stones are removed.

Treatment 1: Laser Lithotripsy (Non Invasive)

Laser lithotripsy is the use of a laser to break large bladder and urethral stones into small fragments that can be removed non-invasively via flushing. Laser lithotripsy is performed under endoscopic guidance. This option is much less invasive than surgery, thus resulting in fewer complications, less pain and better outcomes than open surgery. Studies show that stones are left behind in 20-30% of dogs undergoing open surgery to remove stones. Schedule an appointment with us today to treat your furry friend!

Watch us perform this procedure on one of our cute clients!

Treatment 2: Percutaneous Cystolithotomy (PCCL)

Percutaneous Cystolithotomy involves accessing the bladder through a small incision made over the abdomen. The endoscope is placed directly into the bladder allowing clear visualization of the stones and the inside of the bladder. Through this minimally-invasive approach, we are able to remove the bladder stones and visualize that all stones have been removed from your dog. We recommend PCCL when there are numerous very large bladder stones.

Treatment 3: Diet Modification

Change your dog's diet to one that is formulated to dissolve stones or prevent stones from reforming. These diets work by altering urine pH and restricting minerals that form the stones.

Treatment 4: Medications

Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to clear urinary tract infection or other medications to help create an environment in the urine that reduces chances of stone recurrence.

After the treatment for bladder stones, we recommend regular follow-up appointments, repeat urinalyses and periodic imaging (ultrasound) to ensure that the stones do not return. If stones do recur, small urinary bladder stones can be flushed from the bladder before they become too large to pass.

VetMed Treats Bladder Stones in Dogs

Bladder stones in dogs can cause discomfort, pain, and complications if left untreated. Knowing the causes, symptoms, diagnostic tools, treatment options, and preventive measures can help you provide the best care for your furry friend. If you suspect that your dog has bladder stones, seek veterinary care immediately.

Early detection and treatment can prevent the progression of bladder stones and reduce the risk of complications. By working closely with us, you can help keep your dog's urinary system healthy and ensure that they enjoy a happy and active life. Schedule an appointment with us today to give your dog the best possible treatment!


Questions You've Asked Us About Bladder Stones in Dogs

Still have questions? Contact us here - we promise we'll answer them.

How do veterinarians define bladder stones?

Veterinarians define bladder stones as hard, mineral-based formations that can develop in the bladder or urinary tract of dogs.

Why do dogs develop bladder stones?

What symptoms and complications can bladder stones cause?

How will we treat your dog’s bladder stones?

What can you do to prevent your dog from getting bladder stones?


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