Bladder stones may cause urination issues in your dog and can potentially become life-threatening when they fully obstruct the bladder. In this post, our veterinarians from Lisle will provide you with essential information about bladder stones in dogs.
What are bladder stones in dogs?
Bladder stones, also known as cystic calculi or uroliths, commonly form rock-like structures in a dog's urinary bladder. They can result from the accumulation of numerous small particles or the presence of a single, larger stone, ranging in size from a grain of sand to a piece of gravel. Both small and large stones can obstruct the bladder.
What are the symptoms of bladder stones?
Common symptoms of bladder stones in dogs include:
- Dysuria (straining to urinate)
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
Stones in the bladder can rub against its walls, leading to irritation, tissue damage, and bleeding. Swelling or inflammation of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) or the bladder wall may cause a physical blockage in the urine flow or muscle spasms, resulting in dysuria.
What causes bladder stones in dogs?
The Precipitation-Crystallization Theory offers a widely accepted explanation for the formation of bladder stones. In your dog's urine, one or more crystalline compounds can exist in elevated concentrations. Stones develop over time, influenced by factors like dietary choices and previous bladder conditions, such as bacterial infections. Occasionally, the body's metabolism can also play a role.
When the acidity (pH) or specific minerals in the urine lead to the saturation of the crystalline compound, tiny crystals can emerge. These crystals can irritate the bladder lining, prompting the production of mucous that adheres to the crystals. Over time, these clusters solidify into stones.
The formation of bladder stones can vary in duration, ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the amount of crystalline material present and the extent of infection.
Diagnosis of 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, an ultrasound, or a radiographic contrast study.
How to Get Rid of Bladder Stones in Dogs
If your pooch is found to have bladder stones, your next question may be to ask, “What dissolves bladder stones in dogs?”
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 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 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 form in the bladder and contain bile salts, whereas kidney stones are mineral formations that develop in the kidney. Bladder stones are not directly related to either of these. Although the urinary bladder and kidneys are both components of the urinary system, bladder stones are typically not associated with kidney stones. Inflammation or disease leads to the formation of these stones in either of these structures.
The prognosis is usually good after bladder stones have been eliminated. Your vet 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.
If your dog is having difficulty urinating, our veterinarians can help. We are experienced in diagnosing and effectively treating many conditions and illnesses.
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.