It can be a terrifying moment when you realize your dog has blood in his urine. The sight alone can cause you to go into panic mode. But did you know that bladder stones might be the culprit? They’re more common than you may think,
Luckily, there are lots of treatment options you and your vet can discuss. Learn more about what you can do to help your pup get rid of them and keep them from coming back.
Bladder stones, also known as uroliths or cystic calculi, are mineral calcifications that form in the bladder. They look like rocks and can range from small grains of sand to larger than a golf ball.
The most common type of bladder stones found in dogs are struvite bladder stones. These stones have a mineral composure of magnesium ammonium phosphate and hexahydrate, known as struvite. They form when an infection is present. The other common type of stone is calcium oxalate bladder stones. These form when mineral levels in the urine are higher than usual. Struvite and calcium oxalate make up most stones, but you may also find dogs with urate, xanthine, and cystine bladder stones.
All dogs can be affected by this condition, but some smaller breeds, like Shih Tzus, Miniature Schnauzers, Bichon Frises, Lhasa Apsos, and Yorkshire Terriers, are more likely to get bladder stones.
Bladder stones form when there is an increase in crystals in the urine. These crystals can develop because of changes in the PH levels of the urine, an increase in water resorption by the kidneys, diet, dehydration, or even an infection. Combining some of these factors creates the perfect storm and makes the bladder an ideal environment for stone formation.
Elevated uric acid levels, or Hyperuricosuria, can change the PH levels in urine and cause bladder stones. This disease is an autosomal recessive disorder and is inherited. You can give your dog a simple inherited disease test from Easy DNA to see if he is genetically susceptible to Hyperuricosuria or even if he’s a carrier.
What happens most often is the urine is full of stone-forming crystalline compounds. When that compound exceeds a certain level, crystallization occurs. The crystals that form cause the lining of the bladder to be irritated. This irritation causes mucous production. When the mucous and crystals combine, they harden into stones and can grow.
Bladder stones can form in as little as two weeks or take up to several months to develop. Formation time depends on the environment in the bladder, the concentration of the urine, and the amount of infection present.
Here are some of the signs you may see if your dog has bladder stones.
- Blood in urine
- Straining to urinate
- Inflammation of the bladder and urethra
If you notice your dog has symptoms consistent with bladder stones, it’s time to visit the vet. They can give you a proper diagnosis and recommend the right treatment options.
It’s hard to diagnose bladder stones by just looking at your dog. Urinalysis is usually a part of this process, and although your vet may be able to feel large stones, they’ll likely need to do an x-ray or ultrasound to see what’s going on.
Treatment may vary depending on a few things: the type of stone, how big the stone(s) are, and how many there are in the bladder. You may have more options when the stones are smaller and not preventing the flow of urine.
If you don’t treat the bladder stones or obstruction occurs, the bladder can rupture. This situation is a life-threatening event and may require immediate emergency surgery.
Your vet will determine your dog’s needs and likely recommend one of the following three options.
When possible, the vet can prescribe a special diet to dissolve the stones. Changing your dog’s food and increasing water consumption is the most natural treatment option available. However, there are some issues with using diet as a treatment.
- You have to know which type of stone it is to determine the right diet.
- It takes at least six to eight weeks to see if it’s working.
- Some dogs won’t eat the special food.
- You can’t give your dog any supplements or treats during the diet.
There are three types of non-surgical treatments to remove bladder stones.
- Urohydropropulsion: During this procedure, a special catheter goes into the bladder, through the urethra, and water flushes out the stones.
- Cystoscopy: Vets use a tool called a cystoscope that they insert into the urethra and the bladder to view the stones. Sometimes, the vet can remove smaller stones with this tool.
- Ultrasonic Dissolution: This procedure uses ultrasonic sound waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces so they can be flushed out.
Sometimes one of these procedures is necessary to remove a stone for analysis before your vet can determine the right diet to use to dissolve stones. There’s also the possibility they won’t work, and the vet will recommend surgery.
When the vet can’t remove stones, another less invasive way or there is an obstruction; surgery may be the only option. The most common surgical procedure to remove the stones is Cystotomy. In this surgery, the dog is under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. The vet will open the abdomen to access the bladder then open the bladder to remove the stones.
Surgery can be expensive, but it’s a routine procedure commonly performed by vets, and recovery is relatively quick for most otherwise healthy dogs.
Keep in mind that there can be many costs associated with diagnosing and treating bladder stones. In fact, bladder/urinary tract disease is one of the top 10 most vet-treated conditions for dogs, and continued treatment can hit your finances.
You may want to consider signing up for pet insurance as a proactive measure to lower your financial risk for potential health threats during your dog’s lifetime. Why? Pet insurance is one of the best things you can do for your dog — not only for the health of your pup, but to save you from financial trouble should an accident, illness, or pet emergency arise.
Humans have health insurance, so our furry friends should too. That way you’ll never have to choose between an expensive treatment and your pet’s suffering or even his life. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind, so you can make better and less emotional decisions in the face of a crisis.
Check out our comparison of the top three pet insurance providers to learn more.
Depending on the type of bladder stones your dog has dealt with, you can make some dietary changes and do preventative screenings to prevent recurring stones. For stones that occur because of certain chemicals being present in the urine, your vet can recommend a special diet to avoid those chemicals building up again. If an infection is the culprit, periodic urinalysis can monitor for bacteria in your pup’s urine.
You can also use urine test strips at home to check for signs of bladder stones. Some test strips, like KIT4CAT CheckUp At Home Wellness Test, can tell you if there’s blood in our dog’s urine. You may also consider adding a supplement like Natura Petz Organics Break It Up! to help limit stone formation and maintain a healthy urinary tract.
Either way, it’s crucial to increase the amount of water your dog is drinking to dilute the chemicals or bacteria in their urine. It’s also essential to remember that once they have bladder stones, it’s likely they can occur again, so you need to take precautions.
In this four-minute video from NTV News, Dr. Larson talks about bladder stones and other urinary tract infections your dog may face.
Bladder stones can be an uncomfortable condition that can make your sweet pup feel pretty bad. The best you can do is be aware of treatments and prevention to make sure you can get them through it as smoothly as possible and keep those pesky stones from coming back. If you want to help your dog deal with bladder stones’ side effects, be sure to consider the benefits of CBD oil. Available as oil or treats, CBD may help keep your furry friend comfortable and calm while you weather this storm.
Has your dog had issues with bladder stones?