Bladder stones are a common problem with dogs. Bladder stones are solid mineral deposits that form in the bladder. Tiny crystals form in the urine and over time they bond together to form bladder stones. Some bladder stones are tiny grit like sand, while others form into large stones larger than 2 inches in diameter. The two most common types of stones are struvite and oxalate stones. Here is some basic information on bladder stones.

While bladder stones can form in any pet, certain breeds have an increased risk of developing stones. For example, miniature schnauzers, shih tzu, Yorkshire terriers, Labrador retrievers, dachshunds and cocker spaniels are at a higher risk than other breeds to develop stones. Additionally, there are a few other contributing risk factors.

Pets that are overweight are more susceptible. The additional fat folds cause an environment for bacteria to grow around the vulva in females, which causes an increase in bladder infections. These infections cause a change in the Ph of the pet’s urine which allows the struvite crystals to form.

Poor quality diets are another contributing factor. Low priced dog foods, table scraps, or unbalanced homemade diets are not nutritionally balanced and can increase your pet’s risk. Bladder stones in dogs fed high quality such as Hills or Purina Pro Plan are rare.

If your dog has bladder stones, you may notice straining when urinating, dribbling urine, crying when urinating, frequent urination, blood-tinged urine, or even urinating in inappropriate places. If you have a housebroken dog that is suddenly having accidents, there may be a medical cause.

If you suspect you dog has bladder stones, go to your veterinarian immediately. A urine sample will be taken to look for infection. Additionally, X-rays will be needed to confirm if stones are present.

Treatment for bladder stones will depend on size. If crystals are present in urine and small stones are present on X-ray, a prescription food may be given to assist in dissolving tiny stones. Antibiotics will also be given to treat the bladder infection. Antibiotics should be used carefully because it can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can make infection harder to control.

Large bladder stones cannot dissolve with a diet, so these will need to be surgically removed. This surgery is called a cystotomy. In the procedure, an incision is made in the abdomen and in the bladder and then the stones are removed. The recovery for a cystotomy is 2-4 weeks. Your dog will need to be on crate rest. It will be given pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and antibiotics. It will not be allowed outdoors, and it will wear the dreaded cone collar. You may observe blood in urine and straining several days following surgery. This should resolve during the recovery period.

Following surgery, your veterinarian will send the stones off to a lab for evaluation. The lab will identify the type of stone your pet has. This information will help your veterinarian choose the appropriate prescription diet. A prescription diet will be recommended for life to assist in the prevention of future stones. Though prescription diets are more costly, they are less expensive that additional surgeries. This is often an area that owners fail to follow through on. Sadly, when owners do not continue feeding prescription diets, stones often re-occur.

Since many dogs with bladder stones have been feasting off their human’s plate, disciple with food adjustments can be a challenge. If owners enjoy giving dog treats, pieces of their prescription dog food should be used. It is important to refrain from giving table scraps, as they are strictly forbidden. Though difficult, owners must realize that these dietary restrictions are in the interest of their pet’s long-term health.

Bladder stones are often a life-long concern, rather than an isolated occurrence. Once recovered from surgery, the dog should be seen bi-annually by a veterinarian.  Urine will be evaluated for bladder infections, urinary tract infections, and to check for crystals. If the pet is overweight, your veterinarian can assist you in weight loss goals.  As with any chronic condition, a good partnership between dog owner and a veterinarian is important, with proper management, a pet with bladder stones can live a long and happy life.

The photos shown are of two patients who recently underwent cystotomies. I am happy to report that Ginger and Ember are both doing well. You also may get an unexpected surprise with a cystotomy at Karing for Kreatures, since I have some very crafty staff! RVT student Hannah Rodrigues crafted matching bladder stone necklaces for Ember’s owner and I. Now we have “friendship” necklaces of sorts!

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. An alumni of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University,  she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her doctorate of veterinary medicine and her business certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices out of Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as K+K.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore.    To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121. 

Her column runs every other Thursday. 

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