Q: What causes bladder stones in dogs? My dog was recently diagnosed with them and surgery was recommended but I’m concerned about the risks. What can you tell me?
Bladder stones are quite common in dogs just as kidney stones are often seen in people. The most common signs that your dog may have bladder stones (also called calculi) are frequent urination, straining to urinate, and/or blood in the urine. In the extreme case, stones may become lodged in a dog’s urethra which can then cause a complete urinary obstruction which is a medical emergency. Diagnosis of this condition is usually through imaging studies such as abdominal X-Rays or ultrasound, although an analysis of the urine can sometimes reveal the presence of abnormal crystals which are the precursors to the development of whole stones. There are several types of stones in dogs although the two most common are called struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones. The formation of stones in the bladder is multifactorial, however, we know that diet plays a large part as it does in people. Struvite stones have also been linked to prior or concurrent urinary tract infections. The treatment of choice is generally removal of the stones through a surgical procedure called a cystotomy. Once they are removed, analysis of the type of stone and culture of the stone or urine are also recommended. Your veterinarian may discuss a specific diet change once the analysis of stone is performed. Alternatively, a newer procedure in veterinary medicine called lithotripsy to remove bladder stones called lithotripsy is becoming more popular. It still involves general anesthesia but instead of surgical removal, a catheter and specialized instruments are passed through the urethra into the bladder and the stones are blasted with sound waves to break them up and then flushed from the bladder with saline. Although few hospitals have the equipment to perform this procedure at this time it is considered a less invasive treatment because there are no incisions being made although few hospitals have the equipment to perform this procedure at this time.
Jamison Desantis, VMD