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What Happens When Dogs Have Bladder Stones? (Vet Interview, Videos, Pictures)

Updated on November 7, 2016

Struvite Stones in Dogs

Struvite stones from dog's bladder
Struvite stones from dog's bladder | Source

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 lots of questions or concerns. about how your dog got bladder stones or what you can do to ease the suffering.

In the following interview, Dr. Cathy Alinovi of Hoofstock Veterinary Services answers some of the most commonly asked questions about canine bladder stones.

Question 1: What are bladder stones (urolithiasis)?

Dr. Cathy: A bladder stone is also called a urolith – uro = bladder, lith = stone. Urolithiasis is the condition of having a bladder stone – iasis = condition. Bladder stones start as tiny seed or crystals that get bigger with time.

Q2: 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.)

Q3: 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.

Oxalate Stones in Dogs

Oxalate stones from dog bladder
Oxalate stones from dog bladder | Source

Q4: How many types of bladder stones are there?

Dr. Cathy: There are six types of bladder stones: struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, cysteine, calcium phosphate, silicate. Struvite stones in dogs are the most common.

Q5: 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 forms first a crystal, then a stone.

Dr. Becker Discusses Dog Bladder Stones

Q6: 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.

Q7: 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 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.

X-ray Showing Dog Bladder Stone

X-ray of bladder stone (urolith) in dog
X-ray of bladder stone (urolith) in dog | Source

Q8: 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.

Q9: 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.

Q10: How can urinary stones be eliminated or prevented?

Dr. Cathy: The key is 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

Q11: 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.

Q12: 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.

Q13: 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.

Q14: How risky is the surgical procedure?

Dr. Cathy: Again, anesthesia is the biggest risk. Normally, it’s a very routine surgery with excellent outcome.

Q15: 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!

Q16: 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.

Q17: 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.

Q18: 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.

Q19: 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.

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Q20: 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.

Dr. Cathy Alinovi's Office Locations

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A markerHoofstock Clinic Pine Village, IN -
202 Church Street, Pine Village, IN 47975, USA
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B markerHoopeston Clinic Hoopeston, IL -
901 West Main Street, Hoopeston, IL 60942, USA
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Has your dog ever had bladder stones?

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    • profile image

      Linda Smith 2 weeks ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Wanell Bollinger 6 weeks ago

      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?

    • profile image

      J. Wolff 2 months ago

      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!

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      Sue 3 months ago

      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?

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      Tara 3 months ago

      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.

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      Ellen 4 months ago

      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

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      Stephanie 4 months ago

      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.

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      Mikki 5 months ago

      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.

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      Joy Gustin 6 months ago

      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

    • profile image

      Alexis 6 months ago

      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?

    • profile image

      teresa wood 6 months ago

      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

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      Jane 8 months ago

      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.

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      Patricia Perry 9 months ago

      Yes I found it very helpful I have a 7 year old shih tzu she has an op for struvite stones when she was 18 months, she had previously had an op putting a pin and plate in her knee. She was on natures menu. raw but I was told to put her science plan arthritic dry food after that. The struvite stones were analysed and vet then said the dry food caused the problem. I then put her back on natures.menu. I've regularly taken urine samples and requested and paid for a bladder scan. I've since changed vets who have discovered that she has oxtate stones and a problem with her liver. I have spent the last year giving her canin dried food to make her drink a lot more which is helping. She has become really aggressive towards other dogs her personality has completely changed. She has a spur on her hip, was born with shallow hip joints is on permanent special pain killers that don't go directly through the liver . I just don't know the best way forward she is absolutely adorable and I am desperate

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      gladysmay60@yahoo.com 9 months ago

      My dog has stones vet put her on medication and special dog food diet vet said in 2 months they will be desolated.

    • Debraw50 profile image

      Debraw50 4 years ago

      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

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks for commenting on this dog health article dogfond. I appreciate your time and interest in this topic.

    • profile image

      dogfond 4 years ago

      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.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      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.

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      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.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      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.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image
      Author

      Donna Cosmato 4 years ago from USA

      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 profile image

      Jennifer Bart 4 years ago from Texas

      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.

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