Bladder stones can cause your dog to have problems urinating and even lead to life-threatening complications. Today, our Vancouver vets discuss bladder stones in dogs, including the causes, signs, and treatment options.
What Are Bladder Stones?
Also called uroliths or cystic calculi, bladder stones are minerals that are often rock-like formations in a dog's urinary bladder. They may 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 exist.
Signs of Bladder Stones in Dogs
These are the most common signs of bladder stones in dogs:
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Dysuria (straining to urinate)
When stones rub against the bladder wall, they may cause irritation, tissue damage, and subsequent bleeding. Swelling and inflammation of the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) or bladder wall, physical obstruction or urine flow, or muscle spasms can cause dysuria.
Possible Causes of Bladder Stones in Dogs
The most commonly accepted explanation for how bladder stones are formed is called Precipitation-Crystallization Theory. One or more crystalline compounds can be present in elevated levels in your dog's urine. Stones eventually form due to dietary factors of previous bladder disease such as a bacterial infection. The body's metabolism may also sometimes cause an issue.
If acidity (pH) or specific minerals in the urine cause the urine to become saturated with the crystalline compound, tiny crystals can form. The lining of the bladder then becomes irritated, resulting in 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 diagnostic tests such as X-rays or an ultrasonic bladder examination, ultrasound, or radiographic contrast study.
Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
If your pooch is found to have bladder stones, your next question may be, “What dissolves bladder stones in dogs?”
Bladder stones will typically have three potential treatments:
- Surgical removal
- Non-surgical removal by voiding 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 his or her bladder and only producing small squirts of urine.
Complete obstructions can lead to urine being completely 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 both parts 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 typically 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, a non-surgical procedure can be used to eliminate them.
Is your dog having problems urinating? Our vets are experienced in treating many conditions and illnesses and can diagnose the problem, then provide effective treatment.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.