Bladder stones can cause urination problems for your dog, and can even become life-threatening if they cause a total obstruction of the bladder. Here, our Albany vets explain some signs of bladder stones in dogs and how they are treated.
What are bladder stones in dogs?
Bladder stones - also known as cystic calculi or uroliths - are minerals that develop into rock-like formations in a dog’s urinary bladder.
Bladder stones can either be a buildup of multiple small stones or a single larger stone, and can range in size from the equivalent of a grain of sand to the size of a piece of gravel. Both small and large stones may be present and create an obstruction.
Causes Of Bladder Stones in Dogs
There are a number of theories regarding what causes bladder stones in dogs but the most commonly accepted theory is the Precipitation-Crystallization Theory. This theory states that one or more crystalline compounds may be present in elevated levels in your dog’s urine, and eventually form 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.
Signs of Bladder Stones in Dogs
If your dog has bladder stones you may notice that they are straining to urinate or that there is blood in the urine.
Blood is caused by the stones rubbing against the wall of the bladder causing irritation and tissue damage. If the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) or bladder wall is swollen or inflamed, this may result in urine flow becoming physically obstructed, or muscle spasms. This can lead to dysuria.
How Bladder Stones Are Diagnosed 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 ultrasound or radiographic contrast study.
Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
If your pup is diagnosed with bladder stones, your next question may be “What dissolves bladder stones in dogs?” When it comes to bladder stones there are three potential treatments:
- Surgical removal
- Non-surgical removal by urohydropropulsion
- Prescription diet and antibiotics
Left untreated, these stones become painful and can obstruct the neck of 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.
The Prognosis For Dogs With Bladder Stones
The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with bladder stones is usually good after bladder stones have been eliminated. Your veterinarian should take preventive measures to help keep the stones from recurring.
Your dog should see your primary care veterinarian regularly (every few months) for x-rays or ultrasounds to determine whether stones are returning. If the stones are small enough in size, the vet may use nonsurgical hydropulsion to remove 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.