Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs

Updated on February 12, 2017
X-ray showing three large (3 centimeter) canine bladder stones
X-ray showing three large (3 centimeter) canine bladder stones | Source

What is a Bladder Stone?

Bladder stones are various combinations of minerals found in urine, most often as the result of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Struvite stones are the most common. These stones are formed by multiple crystals of the combined minerals of Magnesium, Ammonium and Phosphate. Since treatment and future prevention is based on the type of bladder stone, it is important to determine which type of stone your dog has. This is typically done by sending a specimen of the stone to a specialty lab for analysis.

Interesting Facts

  • Just like humans, female dogs are also more prone to getting UTIs because they have a shorter urethra.
  • 85% of dogs with struvite bladder stones are female
  • Dogs breeds more susceptible to struvite stones are the Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Labrador Retriever and the Dachshund.

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

Many dogs easily handle mild cases of UTIs and never give any indication to their owners of having one. This is why it is often not detected in the early stages. However, since struvite stones are rarely formed without the presence of a UTI, it is important to know the signs of a bladder infection so your dog can be treated by a veterinarian and placed on an appropriate antibiotic before struvite stones develop. One of the first noticeable signs of a UTI is excessive drinking. Is your dog drinking more water than normal? The second sign is rare or frequent urinating. If you dog is urinating less often or more often than normal, she may have a UTI. Try to observe your dog when urinating for any abnormal signs. If you witness several attempts before being able to void, take your dog to the vet for a definitive diagnosis via a urinalysis.

The signs can be easy to miss. In our case, my dog Bailey, a husky mix, did show signs, I just misinterpreted them. Bailey, though fully house-broken for several years, started having accidents in the house. She would go into areas of the house that we do not normally go into so I did not notice her accidents right away. We had also just boarded her at the kennel for 10 days while we were away on vacation. We suspected she was upset that we had left her so long or that maybe she had picked up some bad behaviors at the kennel. We were wrong. It was a routine checkup at the vet that picked up a UTI. My vet did a quick ultrasound and quickly saw three stones.

Some dogs with bladder stones show no symptoms
Some dogs with bladder stones show no symptoms | Source

Signs of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Symptoms of stones can include blood in the urine, frequent voiding of small amounts of urine, holding the position much longer than usual, excessively licking the genital area, painful urination (does your dog yelp?), foul-smelling urine that may contain blood, tenderness in the bladder area, pain in the lower back, fever, and lethargy. If a stone completely blocks the flow of urine and is left untreated, a dog can die.

Struvite Stones
Struvite Stones | Source

Diagnosis of Bladder Stones

If a urinalysis detects a UTI and bladder stones are suspected, an X-ray is done to determine the actual presence, quantity, size and location of the stones in the bladder. This is necessary to determine the proper course of treatment.

How Large are Struvites?

Struvite bladder stones range in size from the size of a pin head to more than an inch. My dog Bailey, a husky mix, had a total of six struvites with three of them measuring greater than three centimeters.

Canine Treatment of Bladder Stones

There are three main ways to treat bladder stones:

  1. Feed a special diet to dissolve the stones.
  2. Sometimes smaller stones in female dogs can be removed by a non surgical procedure in which the bladder is squeezed to expel the stones through the urethra.
  3. If the stones are large in size or quantity, surgery, called a cystotomy, may be needed.

Regardless of the method, an antibiotic will likely be used to get rid of the bacteria causing the UTI.

The Cost of Surgically Removing Bladder Stones in Dogs

X-rays (2)
Carprofen (anti-inflamatory)
Hospitalization (2 days)
Minnesota Lab Stone Analysis
Cystotomy Surgery
Post Op/Nursing Care
Surgical Catheter and Fluids
Anesthesia (inhalant)
Amoxicillan (antibiotic)
Tramadol (pain medication)
E-Collar EZ
Soft Pet Recovery Collar
Lactated Ringers Liter
Grand Total
The High Cost of Pet Care
Bailey's incision one week after surgery
Bailey's incision one week after surgery | Source

Recovery After Canine Bladder Stone Removal

Dogs are amazingly resilient creatures. A cystotomy surgery is the equivalent of a major human surgery requiring six weeks of recovery. Most dogs are back to their normal selves in two weeks or less. We were given the following restrictions for our dog:

Diet: A regular diet, no special recommendations.

Exercise: Limited activity. For the first couple days, the pain medication induces drowsiness. No stairs for the first couple days. Short leash walks were permitted after two days. Our vet wanted to make sure Bailey was on a leash when she went in the backyard so she wouldn't be tempted to chase a squirrel or quickly dash off if she saw something interesting.

Incision Care: We had to monitor the incision for swelling or drainage. Bailey had internal dis-solvable stitches and external glue holding her incision together. She could not get wet for three weeks. She also was not supposed to lick or scratch her stitches.

Medications: Bailey was sent home with a 10 day supply of antibiotics, pain medicine to use as needed and an anti-inflammatory medication to use for the first five days.

Followup: Our vet recommended Bailey to have a urinalysis done every three months to make sure she does not have another UTI.

Bailey resting in peace during recovery
Bailey resting in peace during recovery | Source

Surgery Recovery Collars

Most dogs are given the typical plastic cone collar to wear to prevent them from scratching or licking their incision. Most dogs, including mine, hate this device. Bailey hated it so bad she already chewed it to pieces before we picked her up the morning after her surgery. My vet recommended I buy her a soft collar from a pet store. I purchased an inflatable soft collar to fit around her neck. Although, she did not like it, Bailey tolerated it. The soft collars allow dogs to keep their peripheral vision and they are just more comfortable to wear.

Bailey with a "soft" recovery collar
Bailey with a "soft" recovery collar | Source

Pay Attention to Your Dog

Lesson learned for me. I should have been much more in tune with my dog. If I had I would have taken her to the vet much sooner. Bailey is such a good tempered dog, I never suspected she had any medical issue or was in pain. Any dog can get a urinary tract infection--they are very common. If your dog suddenly starts having accidents in the house, take her to the vet to make sure nothing is medically wrong. If only our beloved four-legged friends could talk!

Which pet do you think is more expensive, dogs or cats?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 15 months ago from Raleigh, NC

      Globaldogtraining, I am sure pet insurance would have been a good idea, but why is it, we never think of that when our dogs are healthy? Thanks for stopping by!

    • globaldogtraining profile image

      Tonya Wilhelm 19 months ago from Ohio

      So glad she pulled through a-ok. As others commented pet insurance is so helpful. Saves us a ton since my guy has a neurological condition. Bailey is super cute, too.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      bodylevive, you were likely wise to take Eragon to the vet for his nail. Had it gotten infected, that would have been painful for your pet and even more expensive! I buy heart worm pills from our vet, but I have seen them much cheaper on online sites.

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 5 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Pet care is very expensive. Every time I take one of mine for routine stuff, I want to cry. Preventive care I think is the best care that there is. One of my friend's pet died from heart worms. He was just laying around and she chalked it up to be lazy. I take mine every year to get tested for heart worms and they are put on a monthly regiment. One of my family members is a pit name Eragon, some how he broke a nail and I took him to the vet. My husband thought it would be okay, just let it heal on its own. Ohoooo, the look I gave him. I calmly said, his flesh is in that nail and he may get an infection, so I took him to the vet.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Natashalh, it truly is amazing how quickly pets can recover. You are correct, pet insurance can be a good purchase. Unfortunately, I never think about pet insurance until we need it!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow, that vet adventure cost almost as much as orthopedic surgery I got for one of my dogs! That's incredible. Pet care can cost a lot. I've frequently thought about pet health insurance! It does exist and, if your pup has a mishap, is more than worth it.

      Dogs do heal very quickly. My ortho surgery guy had a fractured pelvis and broken toes, but his bones completely fused and he was back to normal within 6 weeks. I know a person who had a fractured pelvis and orthopedic surgery who took a couple of years to fully recover.