Bladder stones can result in your dog having problems urinating and may even become life-threatening if they completely obstruct the bladder. In this post, our Oakland vets explain what you need to know about bladder stones in dogs.
What Are Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Bladder stones are also referred to as uroliths or cystic calculi. These minerals clump together to form a solid mass in a dog’s urinary bladder. They can be a collection of small stones or a single larger stone from the size of a grain of sand to gravel. Both small and large stones may be present.
Symptoms of Bladder Stones
The most common signs of bladder stones in dogs include:
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Dysuria (straining to urinate)
Irritation and tissue damage can result from stones rubbing against the bladder wall and causing bleeding. Swelling and inflammation of the urethra (the tube which transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) or bladder wall, physical obstruction of urine flow, or muscle spasms can cause dysuria.
Causes of Bladder Stones in Dogs
Precipitation-Crystallization Theory is currently the most commonly accepted explanation when it comes to how bladder stones form. One or more crystalline compounds may be present in elevated levels in your dog’s urine, eventually forming stones due to dietary factors or previous bladder disease such as a bacterial infection. Sometimes, the body’s metabolism may cause an issue.
If the urine becomes saturated with the crystalline compound due to the acidity (pH) or specific minerals in the urine, tiny crystals can form and irritate the lining of the bladder, causing the production of mucous that sticks to the crystals. Clusters then form and harden into stones.
Bladder stones can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to form, depending on how much crystalline material is present, and on the degree of infection.
Diagnosing Bladder Stones in Dogs
Though symptoms of bladder stones are similar to those of cystitis or uncomplicated bladder infection, the two are different - most dogs who have bladder stones do not have a bladder infection. Therefore, your vet may need to do more investigation before diagnosing.
Some stones will be too small to be felt with the fingers by palpating them through the bladder wall, or the bladder may be too inflamed. Other options include X-rays or an ultrasonic bladder examination, an ultrasound, or a radiographic contrast study.
How to Get Rid of Bladder Stones in Dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with bladder stones, the next step is treatment.
Bladder stones will typically have three potential treatments:
- Surgical removal
- Non-surgical removal by urohydropropulsion
- Prescription diet and antibiotics
Left untreated, these stones become painful and can obstruct the bladder or urethra, resulting in your dog not being able to fully empty their bladder and only producing small squirts of urine.
Complete obstructions can lead to urine being totally blocked. If the obstruction is not relieved, this can cause a potentially life-threatening condition and lead to a ruptured bladder. This would be classified as a veterinary medical emergency, which would need your veterinarian's immediate attention.
Other Types of Stones
Gallstones also form in the bladder but contain bile salts, while kidney stones are mineral formations that develop in the kidney. Neither of these is directly related to bladder stones. Though the urinary bladder and kidneys are part of the urinary system, kidney stones are not usually associated with bladder stones. Inflammation or disease causes these stones to form in either of these structures.
After bladder stones are removed, the prognosis is usually good. Preventive measures should be taken to help prevent stones from returning. Ultrasounds or X-rays of the bladder should be taken regularly (every few months) by your primary care veterinarian to see if stones are recurring. If these stones are small enough, nonsurgical urohydropulsion can be used to eliminate them.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.