Bladder stones are given the scientific name of uroliths or urolithiasis, and can be found in all sorts of animals including cats and people as well as dogs. They form in the urinary bladder, and can vary in size from almost invisible to large enough that they require surgical removal, as they cannot always be passed naturally. They can form in any area of the urinary tract of the dog, and come in a variety of different forms, depending on the chemical elements contained within them. Some common forms of bladder stones include urate, calcium phosphate, struvite, calcium oxalate, and cysteine stones.
If your dog has suffered with bladder stones or has a recurrent issue with them, you will need to work closely with your vet to decide on the most appropriate form of action to resolve the problem. Your vet should also be your first port of call for advice and information on the condition, as they know your dog, and their health and background, better than anyone else.
However, several questions pop up online time and again regarding bladder stones in the dog, and as such, it can be handy for dog owners to have a simple, easy to refer to guide of some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Read on for the answers to some of the most widely asked questions about dogs and bladder stones.
Cystitis is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract, which can arise for a variety of reasons. Bladder stones may elevate the risk factors for your dog developing bladder stones, as the stones can abrade the lining of the urinary tract and make it more susceptible to infection, but the two conditions are not directly related other than this.
The symptoms of cystitis and bladder stones are often very similar, and can involve straining to pee, blood in the urine and needing to go to the toilet much more than normal. Recurrent bouts of cystitis and other forms of bladder infections can also be an indication of bladder stones, because as mentioned, bladder stones raise the risk of a bladder infection developing.
Bladder stones often begin with an infection of the bladder, although what precisely causes the stones themselves to form will depend on what type of stones your dog is afflicted by. Small bacteria cells can act as a trigger for minerals present within the urine to cluster around the bacteria, which grows to form a crystal, and then a stone.
Bladder stones can potentially prove serious, as they are painful and can cause bleeding of the urinary tract. They are often small enough to enter the urethra but too large to exit at the other end, which can lead to blockages that may ultimately cause the bladder to rupture.
How exactly your vet may wish to proceed in treating your dog’s bladder stones will largely depend on how big the stones are, and where they are located. Smaller stones may be able to pass out with the urine, but larger stones and multiple stones may require surgical removal.
In some cases, feeding a special acidifying diet can help to dissolve certain types of bladder stones, but this is not effective for all forms of stones.
It is not always possible to prevent bladder stones from developing or recurring, but there are certain things and combinations of factors that can raise the risk of stone development, and exacerbate the condition.
Feeding dry food only, or mainly dry food to your dog can serve to make the urine itself more concentrated, which raises the likelihood of stones developing. A healthy canine diet should be based on good quality meat protein, as this acidifies the urine and helps to prevent stones from developing, and dissolves small stones in their early stages.
Prescription diets may be provided by your vet to prevent the formation of further bladder stones, and these work to raise the acidity of the urine and keep stones from developing.
Feeding wet food as well as dry, or instead of dry food, can help with your dog’s hydration levels, diluting the urine and making stones less likely. A high quality diet based on human-grade meat, without fillers, grains and low quality by products can also have a whole range of positive health effects for your dog, as well as reducing the chances of them developing bladder stones.
Certain breeds of dog do have a greater propensity to bladder stones than others, as their livers are not as well designed to break down proteins as most other breeds. Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire terriers and miniature poodles are considered to be particularly at risk.