Donna partners with Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a retired veterinarian, to create informative pet health articles.
Bladder stones are painful and cause your pet to suffer. While it is rare to see it occur in puppies, dogs of almost any age can develop bladder stones.
Consequently, as a pet owner who doesn't want your pet to be in pain, you may have questions and concerns about how your dog got bladder stones and what you can do to ease their suffering.
In the following interview, Dr. Cathy Alinovi of Hoofstock Veterinary Services answers some of the most commonly asked questions about canine bladder stones.
What Are Bladder Stones (Urolithiasis)?
Dr. Cathy: A bladder stone is also called a urolith—uro means bladder, lith means stone. Urolithiasis is the condition of having a bladder stone—iasis means condition. Bladder stones start as tiny seed or crystals that get bigger with time.
What Is the Difference Between Urolithiasis and Cystitis?
Dr. Cathy: Cystitis means inflammation (itis) of the bladder (cyst). Many things, including bladder stones, can cause cystitis. Other causes of cystitis include: bacterial infection, bladder cancer, and idiopathic cystitis, which is common in cats who eat too much dry food. (Idiopathic means it just happens and we don’t know why.)
What Are the Signs of Bladder Stones?
Dr. Cathy: The same symptoms that suggest bladder infection suggest bladder stones: straining to urinate and blood in the urine. The best red flag, though, is recurrent bladder infections. In patients that are treated for garden variety infection, if the infection comes back, I insist on a full bladder work-up because the risks of a urinary stone in dogs is too great and must be ruled out.
How Many Types of Bladder Stones Are There?
Dr. Cathy: There are six types of bladder stones: struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, cysteine, calcium phosphate, and silicate. Struvite stones in dogs are the most common.
What Causes a Dog to Develop Bladder Stones?
Dr. Cathy: In cases of struvite, usually, it starts with a bladder infection. The tiny little bacteria act as a starting point (a nidus) for minerals in the urine to form around the bacteria. It gets bigger and bigger, and then first forms a crystal, then a stone.
Dr. Becker Discusses Dog Bladder Stones
Are Bladder Stones Life-Threatening?
Dr. Cathy: Bladder stones can be painful, cause moderate to severe bleeding in the urine, and, if they are just the right size to get into the urethra, but too big to pass out the end, they can cause blockage, especially in males. If the blockage is not detected in time, the dog’s bladder can rupture, complications of which can be fatal. This is a very common problem in male cats.
How Are Bladder Stones Diagnosed?
Dr. Cathy: Any dog with recurrent bladder infections really should have a full bladder work-up to determine if there are stones and to determine the bacteria causing the infection. By knowing which bacteria are present, you know where they came from, and you know which antibiotic to use to treat them. However, imbalance in the bladder can lead to the formation of stones.
Stones can be seen on a radiograph (x-ray). Some stones are hard to see with a regular radiograph because they are the same “color” as the urine in the bladder.
Therefore, many vets place a urinary catheter into the bladder, inject air through the catheter into the bladder, and then the stone can be visualized. The air/fluid/stone differences are much easier to see on a radiograph than just fluid/stone. Some veterinarians will use ultrasound to find the stone.
How Are Bladder Stones Treated?
Dr. Cathy: Most commonly, stones are treated by surgical removal. Struvite stones can be dissolved with acidifying diets. However, the risk in male dogs is getting the stone just small enough to get into the urethra but not small enough to pass all the way out, so as to cause a blockage.
What Happens If the Treatment Does Not Dissolve the Urinary Stones?
Dr. Cathy: Persistent irritation. I once treated a Yorkie who had urinated blood for two years because she had been misdiagnosed. After the removal of a giant bladder stone, she was normal in three days.
How Can Urinary Stones Be Eliminated or Prevented?
Dr. Cathy: The key is a good diet. Dry foods make very concentrated urine. Food needs to be based on meat. Meat acidifies the urine. Real meat, like what we use in the kitchen, also has moisture. Urine pH should be slightly acidic—6.25–6.75. Too acid (pH<5) predisposes to urate crystals. Too alkaline (ph>8) predisposes to struvite formation.
These days, there are prescription diets meant to prevent stone formation. I’ve treated patients who formed stones on these diets. These diets are supposed to work by making the urine acid with chemicals.
What makes urine acidic? Meat—protein from the meat. This is why a meat-based diet is so important. Just because it’s a prescription diet doesn’t mean it isn’t made with inferior quality ingredients that can lead to other health issues.
Pet Bladder Stones (Urolithiasis) Informational Presentation
What Breeds Are Susceptible to Bladder Stones?
Dr. Cathy: Dalmatians and some Bulldogs are prone to urate stones because their livers do not break down protein as well as in other breeds. This leads to a buildup of urate in the urine. Calcium oxalate stones are common in several cute little breeds like Yorkies, Lhasa Apsos, Bichon Frise, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, and Shih Tzus.
What's the Prognosis for Dogs Undergoing Bladder Stone Removal?
Dr. Cathy: Prognosis is good; most patients do fabulously well. The biggest risks are associated with anesthesia. Once the stones are removed, they need to be identified to understand why they formed in the first place. With that knowledge, prevention of future problems is key to preventing future bladder stones.
What Does the Surgical Process Entail?
Dr. Cathy: The patient is anesthetized and placed on its back. A urinary catheter is placed through the urethra into the bladder. The surgery site is prepped—shaved, scrubbed, and draped. The surgery site is lower than the standard abdominal incision because the bladder is at the pubic rim.
In male dogs, the penis needs to be moved slightly to the side so the incision can still be made on mid-line, and you have to watch out for the blood vessel that runs alongside the penis. The incision is made long enough to get the bladder out of the hole—the bladder is basically a water balloon so it can move around and stretch a lot.
Once the bladder is out of the hole, a lot of dressings are packed around the bladder so no urine leaks into the abdominal cavity. An incision is made into the bladder in an area that doesn’t have a lot of blood vessels. This can be hard in some cases as the bladder is really irritated from the stone.
The incision needs to be big enough to get a sterile glove-encased pinky finger in the hole and/or a stone out of the hole. In some cases, there are many small stones, and they all need to be removed and counted to make sure they match what was on the x-ray.
When the stone(s) are removed, sterile saline is flushed through the catheter into the bladder to flush it out. The incision is closed with one of a few suture patterns that rolls the edge of the cut inside the bladder, and this helps it seal better.
Sterile saline is again flushed into the catheter, enough to distend the bladder and makes sure there are no leaks at the incision. When there are no leaks, the bladder is put back in the abdominal cavity and everything is sewn up.
I use a therapeutic laser after surgery to speed healing and decrease the pain associated with inflammation. The laser cuts healing time in half, in my experience. The catheter is left in place until the urine is no longer bloody, which usually occurs within a day.
How Risky Is the Surgical Procedure?
Dr. Cathy: Again, anesthesia is the biggest risk. Normally, it’s a very routine surgery with an excellent outcome.
What Are Some of the Common Complications?
Dr. Cathy: Honestly, the incision gets really itchy by day five when healing is the most active, and so this is when dogs try to chew out their incisions. That’s the most common complication I see. Since everything is going fine, the pet parents take off the donut or cone, and then when day five hits, out come the sutures. Frustrating. Scary. I’ve even seen dogs chew all the way through and have the intestines hanging out. Consequently, I harp at my clients to leave the donut on!
How Long After Surgery Before My Dog Can Urinate Normally?
Dr. Cathy: When the urine is no longer blood-tinged, the urinary catheter is removed. Fluids are given the whole time to flush out the kidneys and bladder and encourage hydration. In most cases, dogs will urinate normally within 24–48 hours, depending on when the catheter is removed.
How Long Will It Take My Dog to Recover From Surgery?
Dr. Cathy: Once your dog is able to urinate on his or her own, he or she is ready to go home. This usually takes about one to two days. Most dogs are back to normal activity within two to three days. Occasionally, they feel a little pull from the sutures and will have a little hitch in their giddy-up while moving around.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Loss of Appetite After Surgery?
Dr. Cathy: Call your vet because that is often a reaction to the medication (antibiotics or pain meds) that were sent home with your pet.
How Is Pain Controlled After the Surgery?
Dr. Cathy: Most commonly, non-steroidal pain relievers are given. Other things that help with pain include therapeutic laser (which also helps with healing time), B vitamin injections, and movement. Actually, getting up and moving around helps inhibit pain. So, the sooner we get your dog home, the better. A few other things to help with pain are Hypericum 200C right after surgery and Arnica 30C through the healing process.
What Are the Chances of a Re-Occurrence of the Bladder Stones?
Dr. Cathy: If the underlying reason for the bladder stones is not addressed, they may come back. This is the reason for finding out what type of stone it is and testing for infection. Then, by addressing the diet we can work hard to head off future problems.
I recommend checking urine samples a month after surgery, and then one to two times per year thereafter, just to be sure. Better to catch an early bladder infection than a late bladder stone.
While bladder stones in dogs are usually not life-threatening, they are extremely painful and require immediate treatment. If you notice any warning signs of urinary tract infections or the possible formation of bladder stones, be sure to take your dog to your veterinarian for a checkup as soon as possible.
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This veterinary medical information is based on information provided during a telephone interview with a professional, qualified, retired veterinarian. However, it is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Always seek your veterinarian’s advice about your pet’s health.
While this information is periodically researched and updated (under the guidance of veterinary input) in the attempt to be timely and factual, no guarantee is given the information is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date.
Recommendations as to therapeutics, diagnostics, and best standards of practice in the veterinary industry and/or opinions between professionals may differ or change as technologies and information changes. You should not use this article as your sole source of information on any matter of veterinary health or attempt to self-diagnose or treat your pets as the information herein may not be appropriate for your pet. The safest option for you and your pet is to rely on the advice of your veterinarian to diagnose and recommend the best treatment options.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the average cost of surgery for pets?
Answer: The cost of any surgical procedure for animals can vary widely from state to state or even locality to locality. The best choice for your pet is to get a quote from your personal vet.
Question: What happens if the dog doesn’t get bladder stone removal surgery?
Answer: This is a good question to ask the vet who is treating your dog. He or she can discuss all the pros and cons of this surgery, so you can make an informed decision.
Question: My dog had a large bladder stone removed a month ago. Now, she is leaking urine all over. What is wrong with her?
Answer: The vet who removed the bladder stone is your best informational source. He or she knows your pet's overall health record.
Question: My dog had surgery and had her bladder stones removed. Can I give her a little bit of chicken in her food now?
Answer: That is a good question for your vet as he or she knows the health history of your pet.
Question: can a catheder cause urinary incontinance?
Answer: Please consult your personal veterinarian for specific questions regarding your pet's health. He or she has access to your pet's complete health history, and can offer you qualified advice based on your pet's needs.
Question: Would a catheter laser break up bladder stones in a dog?
Answer: Your veterinarian is in a better position to answer this specific question as he or she is familiar with your pet's health history. If it isn't an appropriate treatment, there may be other options you can explore.
Question: Will a dog urinate less after bladder stones are removed?
Answer: A vet can answer this question best. He or she would be knowledgeable about any residual urinary tract issues post surgery. Additionally, your pet's personal health history would guide him or her in answering your question.
Question: My dog is an 11-pound Yorkie, and he is 12-years-old. My vet is suggesting an alternative surgery that would create a larger opening on his penis for stones to pass through. Have you heard of this option?
Answer: As stated in the article, treatment protocols vary widely from vet to vet. Additionally, technologies and information changes happen rapidly in today's Internet-connected world. Your vet knows your pet and its health history, and they are the best information source about treatment protocols for your pet.
© 2013 Donna Cosmato
Has Your Dog Ever Had Bladder Stones?
Maryam on July 03, 2020:
I took my Morkie for annual check up and it turned out he has sand-like particles and traces of blood in his urine. Vet recommended to change the diet completely from the raw food they have been on since the beginning. I am not a fan of replacing their food with prescription diet. What can I do as a hone remedy to hopefully bring their urine ph higher? Thank you!
Christy Hansen on February 27, 2019:
10 yr mini doxy had stone removal over a year ago- 2 HUGE stones- infamous at her clinic for the the size of them. Using Royal Canin Urinary SO dry sm breed since. Poor baby was just diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, MegaE and Aspiration pneumonia. Went for follow up X-rays for AP and what did they find??? A cluster of bladder stones. She’s really an anesthesia risk now so we want to hold off on surgery until the other is stabilized. Any medical methods for pain contr until she’s strong enough for surgery? Pain meds? Anything? She’s required feed totally upright, has zero tolerance for water- goats milk with “Thick it”, wet canned food and home hydration IV’s are keeping her moderately hydrated. No blood in urine but very frequentl attempts to urinate, in very short time span, urine is very concentrated- gold in color- and several nighttime accidents. Now recently regularly tucking tail and poor appetite - making me think she’s more uncomfortable. She has been thru absolute hell. Any suggestions would be SO appreciated. I’m embarrassed to say I’m not sure what type of stones but 1st experience was HUGE stones with blood, 2nd are quite small, no blood clustered near bladder exit.
Angelene on August 12, 2018:
my dog too is peeing all the time we are also adding water to his food cuz vet said he needed more water, so of course he will pee more
Sharyn Manns on June 13, 2018:
12yr, 11lb Yorkie...diet didn't work...vet wants to do alternative surgery..creating a larger opening higher up in penis. have you ever heard of this?
Robert on May 06, 2018:
Why is my yorkie having pee accidents around the house even after I’ve taken him outside. This after one month having stones removed.
Lozza on March 01, 2018:
Our 9 year old Jack Russell has just had a second operation within 15 months to remove 2 further stones. I want to prepare his food rather than a ready made variety which he really doesn't care for. I believe fish or chicken boiled and the liquid retained mixed with rice added would be a suitable option. He also has raw carrots as a snack, does he require anything more? I would also like to offer dog biscuits / food but what kind? Thank you
Adele on November 01, 2017:
After surgery, is it common for stones to come back once they get them and will surgery become a regular thing
pauline lanci on October 26, 2017:
my dog, Molly, is being treated for a stone in the bladder. the Hills prescp. diet food has made her very hyper, always hungry, constantly wanting something. is there anything that can be done? perhaps a different food.
Tommie Jean Kelly on August 26, 2017:
My 8 yr. old female shit-zuh just had surgery to remove bladder stones. I would not have known she had a problem had she started having accidents in the house so I could see there was blood in her urine. Immediately I had her vet exam her and he determined she had bladder stones. We immediately changed her diet to the Hills Urinary Tract c/d dry food. He said he hoped being a female that she would pass the stones. Up to this point no xrays were done. After about 3 weeks we returned to her vet and he decided she would have to have surgery. The afternoon of her surgery when we went to pick her up, Doc had a bottle filled with rocks I thought. He said that was what he removed. I had no idea. So thankful for our very concerned and caring vet, Doc David @ Vivian Animal Hospital in Vivian, Louisiana.
Linda Smith on July 10, 2017:
My Mastiff who has just turned 6 has been at the emergency vet this weekend for stone surgery. He had a bladder infection with a bunch of little stones and 1 marble sized. We were supposed to pick him today, but the vet called and said she missed a stone and has to re operate. Which did not make us happy. She went in got the stone, ran xrays and found even more stones, did another xray and more stones. She is confident she got them all. The stones need to be sent out to determine what kind they are. But the first doctor that saw him here on Friday said the were struvite and sent him home on a special diet and antibiotics but by the next day he wasn't peeing. I'm worried with all the stones he had they will keep coming back. I don't know where they all are coming from, he is otherwise very healthy. I'm very worried about what we need to do to prevent these.
Wanell Bollinger on June 15, 2017:
Can we give our shihzu treats after removal of bladder stones she will not eat the prescribed dog food. We have tried everything. We cook her chicken and is this ok?
J. Wolff on May 25, 2017:
My 4 year old female mini schnauzer just had her 2nd bladder stone removal surgery (10) days ago. Her first surgery was approximately 2 years ago. We switched vets approximately (6) months ago due to the reoccurring issue. Upon diagnosis of the bladder stone, our new vet suggested we start Lizzie on Prescription Hill wet CD dog food & maybe we might be able to dissolve the Struvite stone. After (5) weeks of this new diet the vet took another Xray and the stone had dissolved by 25-30 % . I was so excited that I continued this diet for another (4) months. After another Xray the stone had not dissolved as we had hoped,but had actually increased in size. ( bigger than original) . Lizzie just had her stitches removed today. The vet checked her ph balance today & it was (9). She is baffled & I am frustrated. Until (6) months ago I had always fed Lizzie Eukanuba " small bites". Now it's Prescription Hill CD WET & DRY for treats. Any advice or recommendations would be highly appreciated!
Sue on April 01, 2017:
Misty had a large stone removed on Thursday she came home same day. She isn't going out to pee... it's just coming out wherever she's laying. My questionsl is: Should she be controlling her bladder post surgery?
Tara on March 31, 2017:
My shih tzu just had the surgery 2 days ago. He is red around the incision. I looks like bruising. I'm not sure if this normal and I'm concerned.
Ellen on March 26, 2017:
My dog is a female 5 days ago she had an op on her bladder for bladder stone she had lots of them but now . her belly looks bloated like she pregnant but she not . plus she only dribble wee and fined it hard to poo I'm so worried there mite be some think else wrong with her can u help even my sister img law is a vet we took her to her over the weekend just to have a look at her even she say her tummy shouldn't be that big so I have another appointment for next Friday I'm not happy with it after paying a lot of money out in cash to put her Wright and they couldn't wait to send her home
Stephanie on March 21, 2017:
My 13 year old dachshund had a cysto surgery today. He had the kind of bladder stones that won't dissolve with diet. My poor little guy is very out of it right now. His urine is very bloody though, my vet said some blood is normal but I didn't realize it would be more blood than urine. He seems to be resting comfortably, bladder stones are awful, especially for a 13 yr old diabetic.
Mikki on February 18, 2017:
My dog, female boxer pug mix, has recurrent UTI's and blood in urine for 2 years since we adopted her from a shelter. She came home peeing blood and peeing all over my house, and very agitated. We ripped up out carpet, and made our home more dog friendly....as she pees all over all the time due to uti. We keep treating with antibiotics, they keep coming back. Blood work and diabetes tests say normal. Now vet said she has stones after x-ray. My olfer sick daughter born with disabilities has recently, and unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse, and her medical bills are strapping us. We absolutely cannot afford, and refuse to get surgery for this dog. We cannot even afford a payment plan, as we might be losing our home already. We already have major medical debt, and cannot add more because of a dog. This dog is 9 years old and has had a lot of issues since we got her. She has high anxiety, has obviously been abused, bites and nips us when scared, won't let you clip her nails without anesthesia, and we have her on Prozac. We have created a calm and trusting environment for her, but it's definitely been a lot of work and training. She cannot be around other dogs or small children. She is okay w us, but aggressive towards others. We have always had her on a high protein, no-filler dog food with Buffalo and venison and salmon. I'm willing to change her diet more, but that's all we can do. Plus keep her on antibiotics forever, which are like $15 a month. Is Surgery really the only option? Because that is completely out of the equation. What else can we expect? And when will we have to put her down? Now? Or is there a chance she'll pass them like a human? She has too many problems to keep dumping money into, and finding her a new home is out of the question due to her aggression. The shelter said she's unrehomeable and they won't take her back, as we were the 3rd family to try to adopt her. Vet told us to put her down the first time she bit my daughter 2 years ago. A dog refuge won't work because she attacks other dogs and tries to rip their throat out, like when we tried to visit friends and family with dogs. We'd love to keep her ourselves, because she's good with us and we love her. But we can't do this expensive surgery. I just don't want her to suffer. Please tell me what I can do, and offer some humane advice for us going foward. If anyone is willing to adopt her from us and get her the surgery we would agree, but all our friends and family who know her and what we've been through say NO WAY when we ask. They have all been trying to help financially in the past with my terminally ill daughter and cannot give us money for our dog now too :( Thank you.
Joy Gustin on January 22, 2017:
My Dee Dee is 11 she was on the vets urinary kidney food did well .but now is straining and I'm very worried I have started walking her and giving her chicken and carrots ,she does not poop or really pee a lot she strains she's nervous and snaps does not like anyone touching her I hold her close and she shakes and trembles please help what to do ? I love her she's my fur baby. I have 5 others but they are 5,4,3, two that are. A year Ty
Alexis on January 16, 2017:
Is it possible for a five month old puppy to have bladder stones? Does it only occur in dogs from a year old or older?
teresa wood on January 15, 2017:
You said bladder stones arent life threatening but they were in my dog they block off where she wasnt urinating her bladder was about to bust xray didnt show them only ultrasound surgery wad right away had to be opened up and removed amost lost her
Jane on November 09, 2016:
My 7 year old Pomeranian was found to have bladder stones during an x-ray for upset stomach when he was fed too many table scraps. I'm confused as to whether surgery is mandated or optional. The stones are of the variety that will not dissolve with diet. He did have a re-x-ray and was passing one, otherwise they were the same. I'm afraid if he has surgery he will end up with scarring and other issues, when he's showing no symptoms at all currently He doesn't seem to be in any pain and he continues to be able to urinate. The vet has him on special food.
email@example.com on October 05, 2016:
My dog has stones vet put her on medication and special dog food diet vet said in 2 months they will be desolated.
Debraw50 on July 27, 2013:
That you very much for the information. I have 2 shih Tzus, which I have written a hub on.It is called My Shih Tzus My Best Friends. And your information teaches me what to look for so that I can keep them healthy.I will recommend this also. I am glad that your dog is doing well. We all look for ways to keep our pets healthy, and they cannot tell us when they are in pain, so we have to keep an eye on them and notice things. Thank you so much for showing us ways. God Bless
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on April 25, 2013:
Thanks for commenting on this dog health article dogfond. I appreciate your time and interest in this topic.
dogfond on April 24, 2013:
I never thought that dogs can also have bladder stones. I have such a great time reading this one. I thought it could only happen to humans.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on April 24, 2013:
Thank you Mary615 and pinto2011 for your comments on this dog health hubs! Mary615, I'm so glad your fur baby Bailey is feeling better now, and I hope she never has a recurrence of such a painful condition. Pinto2011, thank you for sharing this with your friends.
Subhas from New Delhi, India on April 23, 2013:
You have touched a topic which most of us have never thought and you remedial measures are going to help a lot to all pet owners. I will definitely forward it to my friends who owns pet.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 23, 2013:
I see my Hub on bladder stones in our Shih Tzu is a related Hub to this one. Our little Bailey had to have surgery to remove hers two years ago, and has not had any problems since, thank goodness. The only way we knew she had them was she had trouble going pee. She would squat, but nothing came out! It was a scary time.
Until that happened, I never knew dogs could get stones.
Great informative Hub. Voted UP and shared.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on April 23, 2013:
Thanks Jennifer for reading and commenting on this article about dog bladder stones. It's amazing how many diseases and medical conditions are shared by humans and our canine buddies, isn't it?
Jennifer Bart from Texas on April 22, 2013:
Very informative! I have a dog and I knew people could get kidney stones but I didn't know dogs could! Glad I read this! I would recommend this to anyone who has pets.