Bladder stones are fairly known health concerns in humans as well as in dogs. Their most common symptoms are blood in urine and painful urination, or hematuria and dysuria.
Despite “bladder stones” being easy to pronounce and recognizable in name, suspecting your dog might have bladder stones thanks to these clear symptoms isn’t enough to figure out the right treatment method. There are multiple types of bladder stones, with distinct causes and corresponding treatment.
In this article, join us as we discuss two common types of bladder stones, their causes, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.
Table of Contents
- Types and Causes of Bladder Stones
- Symptoms of Bladder Stones
- Complications from Bladder Stones
- Treatment Methods for Bladder Stones
- Bladder Stones Cases
- Bladder Stones FAQs
As mentioned, hematuria (blood in urine) and dysuria (painful urination) are the main symptoms of bladder stones.
Secondary symptoms may be urination in unusual places and unusually frequent urination.
Types and Causes
There are several types of bladder stones. Why is it important to mention the type of bladder stone?
This is because, in order to know the right treatment and prevention methods for your pet, proper identification of the type of bladder stone is a must.
For the purpose of this article, two common types of bladder stones will be discussed: struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones.
At low levels, struvites and struvite crystals are not a major cause for concern. What becomes a problem is when they form larger struvite stones and risk urinary obstruction.
Struvites are formed when urine becomes alkaline. Dog urine is usually slightly acidic. Since urine turns alkaline when there is urinary tract infection or UTI, struvite stones are regarded as infection stones.
Calcium oxalate stones
Calcium oxalate stones, on the other hand, form regardless of UTI. They have less to do with bacterial infection and more to do with genetic risk factors.
Unlike struvite stones, existing calcium oxalate stones are not dissolved by changing your pet’s diet to a less alkaline one at the last minute. When it comes to calcium oxalate stones, the goal is to prevent their formation.
Apart from painful urination, leaving bladder stones untreated may cause further complications. It leads to urinary obstruction, especially in male dogs. This has the potential to be life-threatening; if neglected, the bladder may rupture.
Dietary dissolution is a treatment method wherein a dog’s diet is changed to be less alkaline. It is used for struvite stones, which again, are formed due to bacterial infections.
Because it only changes the acidity of urine, this treatment method does not work for calcium oxalate stones.
Dietary dissolution is a good choice, however, for struvite stones. The duration of treatment is proportional to the size and number of struvite stones present.
Surgical removal of bladder stones is an option for both struvite and calcium oxalate stones.
It is a straightforward procedure where the bladder stones are manually taken out. This removal of the bladder stones is called cystotomy.
Urethrostomy, a distinct surgical procedure, is meant to address future formation of bladder stones. It involves creating a passageway for bladder stones to exit the body. This treatment method is chosen when eventual formation of new bladder stones is probable, such as in the case of calcium oxalate stones in dogs with genetic risk factors.
In some countries, lithotripsy may be used to treat bladder stones. Lithotripsy uses ultrasound waves to dissolve the bladder stones. It is a non-invasive treatment method using advanced technology and is not widely available in all countries.
Prevention methods are crucial when it comes to preventing the formation of bladder stones and addressing them in time if they do form. These measures are great for different types of bladder stones, but especially with calcium oxalate stones that are genetic.
These prevention measures include:
- Maintaining a diet with a balanced pH level (more acidic than alkaline)
- Encouraging your dogs to drink plenty of water
- Feeding dogs with wet canned food if they dislike drinking water often
- Booking regular check-up for dogs with risk factors
We have cases for both struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones. Both cases are documented in this video. For the purpose of this article, however, we’ll be discussing the calcium oxalate case.
What’s interesting about our patient dog who had calcium oxalate bladder stones is that he was brought in due to skin problems.
It was definitely a separate issue from his bladder stones. We learned of the bladder stones when we noticed that the dog experienced hematuria.
We conducted tests including ultrasound to determine the type of bladder stone, as some types may not be detected by an x-ray machine and we wanted to provide the appropriate treatment.
Upon confirming that the stones inside the bladder of the patient bulldog were calcium oxalates, it was deduced that cystotomy was needed to remove the existing stones before they formed into larger ones, as well as urethrostomy in preparation for the likely formation of newer stones.
Bladder Stones FAQs
“I don’t want to have my dog undergo surgery. What can I feed my dog?”
Food that are more acidic may help balance the pH level of dogs with alkaline urine and prevent the formation of struvite-type bladder stones.
However, if you suspect that your dog already has bladder stones, please consult a vet for dietary recommendations.
“My dog has bladder stones again. What should I do?”
Have the type of bladder stone determined by a vet, as different types of bladder stones have different causes and thus, different treatment methods.
Calcium oxalate bladder stones, for example, are not dissolved by changing the diet, which works for struvite bladder stones.
It is also possible for one dog to form more than one type of bladder stone in their lifespan.