Bladder stones occur in dogs when excess minerals and other waste products crystallize or solidify in your dog’s bladder area.
Most bladder stones in dogs are developed from either cystine crystals, calcium oxalate, struvite or urine crystals.
Also called uroliths, bladder stones are most common in dogs between four and six years of age, although older dogs can also be affected.
While bladder stones are not life-threatening, they can make your dog very uncomfortable without the proper treatment.
Symptoms of Bladder Stones
When a dog has bladder stones, there are not always symptoms particularly when they are very small.
However, as the bladders stones grow, the most common symptoms are the following:
Since most of these symptoms can occur with other urinary tract infections or diseases, it’s important for your vet to determine what the cause is.
Causes of Bladder Stones in Dogs
Some of the most common causes of bladder stones are the following:
Breeds That Are Pre-Disposed to Bladder Stones
There are certain dog breeds that are more likely to develop bladder stones.
If you do have one of these breeds, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog will develop kidney stones. However, it’s important to watch for the symptoms.
Diagnosis of Bladder Stones
Your vet will need to conduct a complete physical exam to find out the cause of the bladder stones.
A urinalysis will be conducted to observe if there is blood in the urine, crystals or an abnormal PH balance.
Abdominal X-rays or even an ultrasound can help diagnose the bladder stones because your vet should be able to see it.
The most definitive analysis is, however, to observe the make-up of the urine to see if there is a stone or even stone fragment present.
In many cases, the specific type of crystal involved can be seen in a sample of urine viewed under the microscope.
Treatment of Bladder Stones
The treatment of the bladder stones depends on the severity of the condition as well as the symptoms.
In milder cases, your vet will usually recommend a specific therapeutic diet as well as lots of water with the hope that the stone passes through on its own.
A new diet will help in these mild cases but it can take a few months to be effective. Your vet will usually prescribe a therapeutic type of dog food which has less protein.
The most important thing that your vet will be mindful of is to prevent a urinary tract infection which will worsen the condition of the bladder stones.
Antibacterial medication can help ward off the infection.
In more extreme cases, surgery is another option of treatment.
There is a procedure, called a cystotomy that will remove the dog’s stones from the bladder.
The bladder is then flushed with a form of saline solution to prevent any more crystals to form new bladder stones.
The stones are then sent to a lab to be analyzed and the best course of follow-up treatment.
Laser lithotripsy is a newer, less invasive type of surgery to remove the bladder stone.
The laser point to the urinary tract via an endoscope and can break up the stones so they will naturally pass through the dog.
This procedure is not only less invasive than a cystotomy but the recovery time is faster. However, it only available in certain, specialized veterinary hospitals.
Prevention of Bladder Stones
While there is no real way to prevent bladder stones in dogs, a good, well-balanced diet can certainly help them from developing.
If your dog has already developed bladder stones than your vet will usually prescribe a diet that is intended for the duration of your dog’s life to prevent the bladder stones from reoccurring.
Water intake is especially important so if your dog does not like to drink water (most do), make sure that the food which is prescribed is wet food so your dog is getting extra moisture from the food.
Can Pet Insurance Help with Bladder Stones?
Pet insurance can help covers the costs of the testing and the treatment of the bladder stones.
It can really help if surgery is required and pay up to 90% of the costs depending on the pet insurance you choose.
Prescribed or therapeutic food can get expensive and most pet insurance plans, like Healthy Paws, will cover prescribed food or at least a portion of the cost.
Depending on the treatment needed, the cost to cure bladder stones can range from $60 a month to $1,500 if surgery is necessary.
Recovery and Management from Bladder Stones
Your dog can fully recover from bladder stones once they have been removed or fully dissolved.
Talk to your vet about the best course of treatment to make sure the bladder stones stay away for good including a balanced diet, exercise, and enough daily water.
Your dog can live a happy fulfilled life and never have a bladder stone again if the right course of treatment is followed consistently.
If you are wondering about some other dog health issues that might occur with your pup, our dog health glossary is a great place to start!