Bladder stones are rock-like minerals that can form in your dogs urine and settle in the bladder. They can range in size from small gravel sized stones to larger ping-pong ball size. The stones in the bladder cause pain and discomfort. Some smaller size stones can also try to pass through the urethra and cause and obstruction, especially in male dogs because of the smaller size of their urethra.
Signs that your pet may be having a problem with their urinary tract can range from pain when urinating, straining to urinating, blood in the urine or increased frequency of urination. If you notice any changes in your dog’s urination habits, you will want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Some dogs can exhibit the same symptoms with just a bladder infection, so a urine specimen is collected first for analysis at the laboratory. Your dog’s bladder will also be palpated and sometimes the stones can be felt in the bladder. Other diagnostic tests such as radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound can help to reveal possible stones (uroliths) in the bladder.
If your dog has a bladder infection, a culture and sensitivity test may be done to insure the correct antibiotic is chosen for the treatment. If bladder stones are discovered, then surgery to remove the stones may be an option. Other blood work may also be done to check your dog’s overall health and kidney function prior to surgery. In some cases, dietary changes may dissolve the stones, however it takes several weeks for stones to dissolve and the pet will be in discomfort or risk a blockage as the stones decrease in size.
If you notice your pet straining and not producing any urine or just a drip or two, that could indicate a blockage. Take your pet to the emergency clinic immediately. If there is a blockage of the outflow of urine, your pet can become toxic very quickly which can lead to major organ failure and even death.
As your pet ages, your veterinarian may recommend annual blood and urine checks to catch bladder infections or other problems early when they can be treated easier. Long term bladder infections are more likely to result in bladder stones.
In some animals, their diet can also influence the development of bladder stones. Feeding a high quality diet that produces the proper urine pH may help reduce bladder stone formation. Prescription diets after surgery will also help to reduce the re-occurrence of bladder stones in your pet. A laboratory analysis of the stone will determine the mineral make-up of the stone and this will also help determine the proper diet your pet will need to be on so the stones do not come back.