Bladder Stones in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Bladder Stones in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
2 months ago

Bladder stones are mineral compounds that build up in your dog’s bladder or urethra. These stones can look like rocks or crystals and can be as large as a piece of gravel.

Fortunately, bladder stones are highly treatable, but they can be extremely painful for your dog, and when left untreated, they might create a blockage in your dog’s urethra, which could be life-threatening.

In this article, we’ll cover what causes bladder stones, the symptoms to look out for, break down how they are treated, and what you can do to protect your dog from this condition.

Let’s dig in. 

What causes bladder stones?

There are two different types of bladder stones, and each has slightly different causes:

Struvite bladder stones

Struvite bladder stones occur when minerals in your dog’s urine become concentrated and stick together, forming crystals6. This often happens as a result of a urinary tract infection, which changes the acidity of your dog’s urine and prevents the minerals from being broken down properly. Struvite stones are the most common type of bladder stone in dogs.

Oxalate bladder stones

Oxalate bladder stones are a mineral compound of calcium, oxalates, and citrates7. There are a variety of theories about what ultimately causes these stones to occur. They are thought to be linked to metabolic diseases (such as liver disease), and some dogs may simply be genetically predisposed to oxalate bladder stones.

Symptoms of bladder stones in dogs

There is a variety of symptoms that could be indicative of both types of bladder stones, including:

  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Cloudy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Frequently licking the genitals

If your dog is experiencing bladder stones, he may exhibit one or many of these symptoms. Frustratingly, there is also a chance that he will not show any signs at all.

Sometimes bladder stones pass through your dog’s system without you even noticing that they occurred. However, if your dog is experiencing abdominal pain, further investigation is warranted. If your veterinarian suspects your dog is suffering from bladder stones, he or she will likely order an X-Ray to confirm the diagnosis. This will help the vet determine the size of your dog’s bladder stones and how best to treat them.

According to the VCA, it is common that bladder stones be various sizes. Additionally, it is common for some to have just a single bladder stone while some may have multiple8

Again, in some cases, your dog may be able to pass the stone or stones on his or her own. Your vet will determine whether or not further treatment is required for your pup.

How are bladder stones treated?

The exact treatment for bladder stones depends on the type of stone your dog has and its size.

Stones may be treated by changing your dog’s diet, administering antibiotics, or through surgery. Struvite bladder stones can often be dissolved using a special diet or medication, while oxalate bladder stones will not dissolve and must be physically removed.

Below we’ll break down some of the most common treatment methods and the circumstances in which they are used.

Special diet

According to Tuft’s University, struvite bladder stones can often be dissolved by feeding your dog a special, therapeutic diet formulated to control the levels of protein and minerals your dog consumes and maintain healthy pH levels in the urine9. This type of food typically makes your dog more inclined to drink water. 

Once your dog’s bladder stones have dissolved, he doesn’t need to continue eating the special food. However, if your dog suffers from frequent bladder or urinary tract infections, your veterinarian may suggest dietary changes that would prevent them. 

Antibiotics

Bladder infections are a common cause of struvite bladder stones. If your dog is suffering from struvite stones, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to treat his bladder infection. In the case of struvite stones, it’s essential to treat the underlying issue that caused them as well as the stones themselves. If the condition at fault is left untreated, your dog could develop struvite stones again.

Voiding Urohydropropulsion

Voiding Urohydropropulsion is a non-surgical procedure for removing bladder stones from dogs10. Your veterinarian will insert a catheter into your dog’s urethra and then flush the bladder with a fluid solution in order to expel the stones. Of course, for this technique to be successful, the bladder stones must be small enough to fit through the catheter tube. Usually, pets must be sedated during this procedure.

This technique is commonly used to remove small, oxalate bladder stones.

Surgery

Surgery is never ideal, as it is stressful for pets and their parents and requires a longer recovery time. Unfortunately, surgery is the only way to remove certain types of bladder stones. Large oxalate stones which cannot be expelled through Voiding Urohydropopulsion must be removed surgically, using a procedure called cystotomy11.

How to prevent canine bladder stones

Once your dog has experienced bladder stones, it’s natural that you would want to prevent him or her from suffering through this condition again. Fortunately, there are many foods on the market these days that are specifically formulated to prevent bladder stone formation.

In general, these therapeutic foods are designed to promote water consumption and control the levels of protein and minerals in your dog’s food. Helping your dog stay hydrated is a simple way that you can work to prevent bladder stones. After all, minerals can compound much more easily in concentrated urine.

Before you adjust your dog’s diet, speak to your vet about the best food choice for helping prevent bladder stones in your dog.

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.


1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

6VCA: Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs

7VCA: Calcium Oxalate Bladder Stones in Dogs

8VCA: Bladder Stones in Dogs

9Cummings Medical Center: Dietary treatment of bladder stones

10My Pet’s Doctor: Voiding Urohydropopulsion For Removal of Urinary Stones in Dogs and Cats

11My Pet’s Doctor: Voiding Urohydropopulsion For Removal of Urinary Stones in Dogs and Cats

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