top of page
  • Writer's pictureVetMed Team

Laser Lithotripsy for Pets: A Gentle Approach to Treating Bladder Stones

The world of veterinary medicine continues to evolve with advancements in technology, bringing forth procedures that significantly elevate the standard of care for our pets. One such procedure is Laser Lithotripsy, a minimally invasive technique aimed at managing urolithiasis, a condition characterized by the formation of stones within the urinary tract. This procedure not only promises a higher level of safety but also ensures a quicker recovery for our furry companions. The following sections delve into what Laser Lithotripsy entails for pets and the scenarios where it proves to be the most beneficial.

dog with nasal tumor

Looking for a specific answer? Use our guide below to quickly navigate to your desired section:

What is Laser Lithotripsy for Pets?

Laser Lithotripsy is a modern veterinary procedure that utilizes laser energy to disintegrate urinary stones into smaller, more manageable fragments, which can then be naturally expelled or easily removed. Unlike conventional surgery, this procedure is less invasive and does not require extensive incisions. The laser fiber is introduced into the urinary tract via an endoscope, a thin, flexible tube equipped with a camera and light source, which guides the veterinarian to the precise location of the stones.

The laser energy is then delivered to the stones, breaking them down into smaller pieces. This technique provides a high level of precision, minimizing the risk of damage to surrounding tissues. The reduced invasiveness of Laser Lithotripsy significantly lowers the risk of infection, promotes quicker healing, and ensures a shorter hospital stay. Moreover, the procedure is typically conducted on an outpatient basis, which is more convenient and cost-effective for pet parents.

Laser Lithotripsy is a testimony to the advancements in veterinary medicine that seek to emulate the same high standards of care seen in human medicine, transitioning towards procedures that prioritize both efficacy and the well-being of the patient.

When is Laser Lithotripsy Used?

Laser Lithotripsy, a minimally invasive procedure, is utilized in veterinary medicine to effectively manage urolithiasis, a condition associated with stone formation within the urinary tract of pets. The presence of these stones can cause various complications, ranging from discomfort to severe urinary tract infections and even life-threatening obstructions. Below are the primary scenarios where Laser Lithotripsy proves to be a valuable intervention:

  • Treatment of Bladder Stones: This is the cornerstone application of Laser Lithotripsy, where it's used to break down stones that have formed in the urinary tract, including the bladder and urethra.

    • Large Stone Disintegration: Particularly beneficial for disintegrating stones that are too large to pass naturally or to be removed through conventional surgical methods.

    • Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: In cases where urinary stones are the underlying cause of recurrent urinary tract infections, Laser Lithotripsy can be employed to eliminate the stones and alleviate the infection.

    • Urinary Obstruction: In scenarios where a stone is causing a urinary obstruction, this procedure can swiftly alleviate the obstruction by fragmenting the problematic stone.

    • Minimally Invasive Preference: Ideal for situations where a minimally invasive procedure is preferred either due to the health status of the pet or the preference of the pet parent for a less invasive, quicker recovery option.

The utilization of Laser Lithotripsy showcases a proactive approach in modern veterinary medicine towards ensuring the comfort and quick recovery of pets facing urolithiasis. This technique not only resolves the immediate issue but also significantly reduces the risks associated with traditional surgical interventions, thus promoting a safer and more comfortable recovery journey for our furry companions.

Risks Associated With Laser Lithotripsy

Laser Lithotripsy, while minimally invasive and highly effective, does entail certain risks as with any medical procedure. It's pivotal for pet parents and veterinarians to be cognizant of these risks to make informed decisions and prepare adequately. Here are some potential risks associated with Laser Lithotripsy in pets:

  • Anesthetic Risks: As with any procedure requiring anesthesia, there is always a risk, albeit minimal, associated with anesthetic administration, particularly in older or health-compromised pets.

  • Infection: Although minimally invasive, there's a risk of urinary tract infection post-procedure which could necessitate antibiotic treatment.

  • Incomplete Stone Removal: There's a possibility that not all stone fragments are removed or flushed out, which may require additional procedures or management.

  • Urinary Tract Irritation: The procedure can cause irritation to the urinary tract which might result in temporary discomfort, blood in the urine, or an increased urge to urinate.

  • Urethral Damage: Although rare, there’s a potential risk of damage to the urethral wall due to the passage of the scope or laser energy.

  • Stone Recurrence: Without appropriate dietary and medical management, there's a risk of stone recurrence post-procedure.

  • Laser-Induced Tissue Injury: Misdirection or excessive use of laser energy could potentially cause injury to surrounding urinary tract tissues.

  • Hematuria (Blood in Urine): It's common to observe blood in the urine post-procedure, which usually resolves within a few days but should be monitored.

  • Delayed Healing: In some cases, healing of the urinary tract might take longer than anticipated, requiring extended post-operative care and monitoring.

Understanding these risks enables a well-rounded approach towards Laser Lithotripsy, ensuring that the benefits decisively outweigh the potential drawbacks, and that comprehensive measures are in place to mitigate these risks and promote a safe and swift recovery for the pet.

Preoperative Diagnostics and Tests

Prior to proceeding with Laser Lithotripsy, a thorough evaluation is essential to ensure the safety and success of the procedure. Here are the key diagnostic tests and assessments typically carried out:

  • Urinalysis: To check for the presence of blood, bacteria, or crystals which may indicate urinary stones or infection.

  • Urine Culture: Identifies any bacterial infections in the urinary tract which may need to be addressed prior to the procedure.

  • Blood Tests: Including a complete blood count and biochemistry profile to assess the overall health and kidney function of the pet.

  • Radiographs (X-rays): To visualize the size, number, and location of the stones within the urinary tract.

  • Ultrasound: Provides a more detailed imaging of the urinary tract and helps in assessing the structure and condition of the bladder and kidneys.

  • Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP): A special dye is injected into the bloodstream and then x-rays are taken to provide a detailed view of the urinary system, aiding in identifying the exact location of stones.

  • Urinary Cytology: Examination of urinary cells under a microscope to check for signs of infection, inflammation, or cancer.

  • Antibiotic Sensitivity Testing: Especially if a urinary tract infection is present, to determine the most effective antibiotic for treatment.

  • Bacteriological Culture and Sensitivity: To identify and provide effective treatment options for urinary tract infections.

These preoperative diagnostics are pivotal in planning a safe and effective Laser Lithotripsy procedure, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the pet's urinary tract health. They also enable the veterinary team to prepare adequately for any additional challenges that may be encountered during the procedure, ensuring the utmost care and precision in delivering this minimally invasive treatment.

How To Prepare Your Pet For Laser Lithotripsy

Ensuring a smooth procedure and quick recovery begins with adequate preparation. Here are the steps to prepare your pet for Laser Lithotripsy:

Consultation with Veterinarian

Have a detailed consultation with your veterinarian to understand the procedure, its risks, benefits, and the expected outcomes.

Discuss your pet’s medical history and any ongoing medications.

Preoperative Diagnostics

Ensure all recommended preoperative diagnostics and tests are completed to assess the suitability of the procedure for your pet.


Usually, pets are required to fast for about 12 hours before the procedure to ensure an empty stomach, which is safer for anesthesia.


Administer any preoperative medications as directed by your veterinarian. Discuss with your veterinarian about the management of your pet's regular medications leading up to the procedure.

Maintain a Calm Environment

Keep your pet calm and comfortable leading up to the procedure to minimize anxiety.

Arrival Time

Arrive at the veterinary clinic/hospital at the scheduled time to allow ample time for preoperative preparations.

Preoperative Assessment

Your pet will undergo a preoperative assessment to ensure they are in good health for the procedure. This may include a physical examination and review of the preoperative diagnostic results.


Your pet will be administered anesthesia to ensure they are comfortable and pain-free during the procedure.

Postoperative Instructions

Before the procedure, understand the postoperative care instructions including medication administration, activity restrictions, and follow-up appointments.

Emergency Contact

Ensure the veterinary clinic has your correct contact information in case of any emergencies during the procedure.

Postoperative Care Arrangements

Arrange for a comfortable and quiet space for your pet to recover post-procedure. Ensure you have the time to monitor your pet’s recovery and administer postoperative care as instructed.

Proper preparation is a collaborative effort between pet parents and the veterinary team, aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of the pet throughout the Laser Lithotripsy procedure. By following these steps, pet parents can significantly contribute to the successful outcome of the procedure and a smooth recovery for their cherished companion.

General Instructions for the Day of the Procedure

Through meticulous preparation and adherence to the outlined schedule, you contribute significantly to the groundwork that paves the way for a successful procedure and a swift transition into the recovery phase.

1. Morning Preparations

  • Ensure your pet has fasted as instructed, usually for about 12 hours, but provide access to water unless otherwise directed.

  • Administer any morning medications as directed by your veterinarian, and if any regular medications are to be withheld, confirm this with your vet.

  • Take your pet for a gentle walk to allow them to relieve themselves.

2. Arrival at the Veterinary Clinic

  • Arrive on time to ensure there's ample time for preoperative preparations.

  • Bring any necessary paperwork and your pet's medical records if requested.

  • Ensure the veterinary team has an accurate contact number to reach you.

3. Preoperative Consultation

  • You may have a brief consultation with the veterinarian or veterinary technician to review the procedure and discuss any last-minute concerns.

  • Confirm the estimated duration of the procedure and the time you should return to pick up your pet, or if you will be called once the procedure is completed.

4. Pre-Anesthetic Preparations

  • Your pet will be prepared for anesthesia which may include placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter, administration of pre-anesthetic medications, and shaving a small area for surgical site preparation if necessary.

5. Anesthesia Administration

  • The veterinary team will administer anesthesia to your pet to ensure they remain comfortable and immobile during the procedure.

6. During the Procedure

  • It's a good time to step away, attend to personal tasks, or wait in the designated area if provided by the clinic.

7. Postoperative Recovery

  • Once the procedure is completed, the veterinary team will monitor your pet as they recover from anesthesia.

  • You will be notified once your pet is ready for discharge.

8. Discharge Instructions

  • Pay careful attention to the postoperative care instructions provided by the veterinary team.

  • Ensure you understand the medication schedule, any necessary follow-up appointments, and the signs that would warrant a call to the veterinarian.

9. Transporting Your Pet Home

  • Transport your pet home in a secure, comfortable, and calm manner to promote a stress-free experience.

  • Once home, provide a quiet and comfortable area for your pet to continue recovering.

The day of the procedure is a structured journey aimed at ensuring the safety, comfort, and well-being of your pet as they undergo Laser Lithotripsy. Adhering to the outlined schedule and maintaining open communication with the veterinary team contributes significantly to a successful procedure and a smooth transition to the recovery phase.

What Happens During a Laser Lithotripsy Procedure

This step-by-step breakdown elaborates on what transpires during the procedure, offering insight into the meticulous process aimed at alleviating the discomfort and potential health risks associated with urinary stones in pets.


On arrival at the veterinary clinic, the pet is prepared for the procedure. This includes a final review of the preoperative diagnostics and a pre-anesthetic examination to ensure the pet is in good health for anesthesia and the procedure.

Anesthesia Administration

Anesthesia is administered to the pet to ensure they remain calm, pain-free, and immobile throughout the procedure.

Sterilization and Positioning

The area around the urinary tract opening is cleaned and sterilized to prevent infection. The pet is positioned in a way that allows optimal access to the urinary tract.

Endoscope Insertion

A cystoscope (a type of endoscope) is carefully inserted into the urinary tract. The cystoscope is equipped with a camera and light source, enabling the veterinarian to visually navigate to the location of the stones.

Laser Fiber Insertion

Once the stones are located, a laser fiber is introduced through the cystoscope to the site of the stones.

Laser Lithotripsy

Laser energy is delivered through the laser fiber to the stones, fragmenting them into smaller, more manageable pieces. The process is monitored in real-time through the cystoscope, allowing for precise targeting and fragmentation of the stones while preserving the surrounding tissues.

Stone Removal or Flushing

The fragmented stone pieces are either removed using specialized retrieval baskets or flushed out using a sterile saline solution.

Final Inspection

A final inspection of the urinary tract is performed to ensure all significant stone fragments have been removed and to assess the condition of the urinary tract post-procedure.

Withdrawal of Equipment

The cystoscope and any other equipment are carefully withdrawn from the urinary tract.

Recovery from Anesthesia

The pet is moved to a recovery area where they are monitored as they wake up from anesthesia.

Postoperative Assessment

Once awake, a postoperative assessment is conducted to ensure the pet is recovering as expected before preparing them for discharge.

The Laser Lithotripsy procedure embodies a blend of meticulous preparation, advanced technological intervention, and post-procedural care, all orchestrated to ensure the well-being and quick recovery of the pet. This detailed procedural outline underscores the commitment of modern veterinary medicine to provide minimally invasive solutions, ensuring both efficacy and comfort for our cherished animal companions.

Recovery and Management After a Laser Lithotripsy Procedure

The post-procedural phase is a crucial time that demands meticulous care and attention to ensure a smooth recovery following a Laser Lithotripsy procedure. The recovery and management plan is typically tailored to the individual needs of the pet, taking into account the pet's age, health status, and the complexity of the procedure. Below is a guideline detailing the essential steps and considerations for managing your pet's recovery after undergoing Laser Lithotripsy.

Immediate Postoperative Period

Your pet will be closely monitored by the veterinary team as they recover from anesthesia. Vital signs including heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature will be checked regularly to ensure they are within normal limits. Pain management is a priority, and appropriate pain medications will be administered to keep your pet comfortable.

Discharge Instructions

Upon discharge, you will be provided with detailed instructions regarding postoperative care, medication administration, dietary recommendations, and activity restrictions. It's essential to understand and adhere to the medication schedule, as well as the guidelines for monitoring the surgical site and your pet's urination habits.

Medication Administration

Administer all prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian. This may include pain relievers, antibiotics to prevent infection, and any other medications deemed necessary for your pet’s recovery.

Dietary Management

Follow your veterinarian’s dietary recommendations, which may include a special diet to prevent future stone formation. Ensure your pet has access to fresh water to promote hydration and urinary tract health.

Activity Restriction

Limit your pet’s activity as instructed, usually by avoiding strenuous exercise and keeping them on a leash during bathroom breaks. Create a calm and quiet environment for your pet to rest and recuperate.

Urination Monitoring

Monitor your pet’s urination for any signs of difficulty, blood, or changes in frequency. Report any concerns to your veterinarian promptly.

Follow-up Appointments

Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments to allow your veterinarian to assess your pet’s recovery and the success of the procedure. Additional imaging like x-rays or ultrasound may be performed to ensure all stone fragments have been eliminated and to check the health of the urinary tract.

Long-term Management

Discuss long-term management strategies with your veterinarian to prevent the recurrence of urinary stones. This may include dietary modifications, increased water intake, and regular check-ups to monitor your pet’s urinary health.

Emotional Support

Provide plenty of affection and reassurance to help your pet cope with the recovery process.Ensure they have a comfortable and secure space to rest.

Adhering to the veterinary guidelines and maintaining a conducive environment for recovery significantly contribute to the positive outcome of the procedure. Moreover, the continuation of preventative measures and regular veterinary check-ups play a vital role in securing a healthy and comfortable life for your pet post-recovery.

Results & Follow-Up After a Laser Lithotripsy Procedure

The aftermath of a Laser Lithotripsy procedure signifies a transition towards normalcy for pets who have been grappling with the discomfort and health challenges associated with urinary stones. The results and follow-up care are integral to confirming the success of the procedure and to ensuring the long-term well-being of the pet. Here’s a detailed insight into the expected results and the importance of follow-up care post-procedure.

Immediate Results

  • Relief from symptoms associated with urinary stones is often immediate or occurs within a few days post-procedure. This includes reduced straining during urination, decreased frequency of urination, and alleviation of pain.

  • The removal or significant reduction in size of urinary stones should be confirmed through postoperative imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound.

Postoperative Follow-Up Appointments

  • The first follow-up appointment is usually scheduled within a week or two post-procedure to assess the recovery progress and the urinary tract's condition.

  • Subsequent follow-up appointments may be scheduled over the next few months to monitor for any recurrence of stones and to ensure the urinary tract is healing well.

Imaging and Diagnostics

  • Regular imaging like X-rays or ultrasound may be recommended to ensure there is no recurrence of stone formation.

  • Urinalysis and urine culture tests may also be conducted to monitor the urinary tract's health and to detect any underlying issues early.

Long-Term Results

  • The long-term success of the procedure hinges on the complete removal of stones and the implementation of preventative measures to inhibit recurrent stone formation.

  • Positive long-term results include the absence of urinary stone recurrence, improved urination, and a better quality of life for the pet.

Preventative Measures

  • Based on the type of stones and the underlying cause, your veterinarian may recommend a specialized diet, increased water intake, and urinary acidifiers to prevent stone recurrence.

  • Regular check-ups and urinalysis are crucial for early detection and management of any urinary issues.

Owner Vigilance

  • Pet owners play a critical role in monitoring their pets for any signs of urinary discomfort or changes in urination habits.

  • Prompt communication with the veterinarian regarding any concerns is essential for timely intervention.

Education and Awareness

  • Understanding the underlying factors contributing to urinary stone formation and being aware of the preventative measures can significantly impact the pet’s long-term urinary health.

  • Engaging in educational sessions or discussions with your veterinarian can provide valuable insights into managing your pet’s urinary health post-procedure.

The journey towards complete recovery and long-term urinary health post-Laser Lithotripsy is a collaborative endeavor between the veterinary team and pet owners. The follow-up care, coupled with a commitment to preventative measures, paves the way for a successful outcome and a comfortable, stone-free existence for pets.

VetMed Performs Laser Lithotripsy for Pets

At VetMed, pioneering the realm of minimally invasive veterinary procedures, the incorporation of Laser Lithotripsy marks a significant stride in offering advanced care for pets grappling with urolithiasis. Situated in Holladay, Utah, VetMed's adept team of veterinarians employs Laser Lithotripsy to proficiently fragment urinary stones, providing a highly effective and less invasive alternative to traditional surgical interventions. This procedure, characterized by no incisions and often conducted on an outpatient basis, epitomizes VetMed's unwavering commitment to elevating the standard of pet care.


Questions You've Asked Us About Laser Lithotripsy for Pets

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

What is Laser Lithotripsy for pets and how does it work?

Laser Lithotripsy is a minimally invasive procedure used to break down urinary stones into smaller fragments, which can then be naturally expelled or easily removed. This is achieved by delivering laser energy through a fiber optic cable inserted via an endoscope to precisely target and fragment the stones.

How long will it take for my pet to recover after Laser Lithotripsy?

Are there any long-term dietary changes needed post-procedure?

Will my pet experience pain during or after the procedure?

Is Laser Lithotripsy a one-time solution for urinary stones?


bottom of page