Bladder stones in pets

Bladder stones in pets is an extremely painful condition which can lead to a life-threatening emergency if not treated urgently. It is often caused by the pet’s diet, or by a urinary tract infection.

What are bladder stones?

Bladder stones are aggregates or clumps of many small crystals in the bladder that form due to the presence of bacteria, an abnormal pH and/or minerals in the urine.

There are many different types of crystals and they come in all shapes and sizes, from being as tiny as a grain of sand, to be as large as a golf ball. The most commonly seen stones are those composed of struvite and calcium oxalate crystals. Struvite crystals being the most common in dogs, and calcium oxalate crystals being the most common in cats.

What do bladder stones do to pets?

Stones cause tremendous irritation to the bladder wall which results in pain and inflammation.

Pain and inflammation in turn cause the following clinical signs:

  • Straining with urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urination in abnormal places
  • Constant dribbling or leaking of urine
  • Crying out in pain during urination
  • Absence of urination, this could mean an obstruction!

A urethral obstruction caused by a stone is a medical emergency! An obstruction could lead to the rupture of the bladder as well as the build-up of unwanted substances in the bloodstream; this is life-threatening to the patient.

Signs of a urethral obstruction include:

  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • pain in the abdomen
  • large, perfectly round ball felt in the lower abdomen

How are they diagnosed?

Your vet will take into account your pet’s age, breed and gender plus his/her medical history and diet. The vet will then conduct the following tests:

  • urinalysis
  • radiographs
  • ultrasound

What treatment is there?

Treatment most commonly involves either surgical removal of the stones or your pet being put onto a special diet. The diet corrects the pH in the urine, leaving out certain minerals that cause the stones. Each case is unique and your veterinarian will decide which treatment option would be the best. Further treatment involves antibiotics for urinary tract infection, anti-inflammatories and pain control. If the stones are removed surgically, they are sent to a laboratory for analysis.

How do I prevent them?

  1. Always feed your pet the best diet you can afford. Ask your vet for advice.
  2. Act immediately if you notice any of the symptoms above.
  3. If your pet has undergone surgical removal of bladder stones, he or she will be placed on a special diet that acts in trying to prevent future formation of crystals and stones.

After surgical removal of stones, your pet should be checked by your vet any regular intervals to see whether the stones are recurring. Discuss how often with your vet.