Bladder stones are fairly common in pets. They have multiple causes. They are painful to pets so the sooner they are detected and removed the better.
What causes bladder stones in pets?
- Diet. Certain minerals become oversaturated in the urine and eventually form stones. The pH (acidity or alkalinity) of the urine also predisposes to different crystals and stone formation.
- Genetics. Certain breeds are more prone to developing bladder stones.
- Urinary tract infection. This can also be a predisposing factor for some of the types of stones.
- Lifestyle. Not drinking enough fresh water.
- Obesity. Overweight pets are more vulnerable to bladder stones.
How does a pet owner detect a bladder stone?
Your pet will urinate frequently, or attempt to urinate often with discomfort. There might be blood visible in the urine. These are also symptoms often associated with urinary tract infections. It is unlikely that an owner will ever see a bladder stone that is passed in the urine.
What do I do if I suspect my pet has one?
Your pet needs to be examined by a vet. The vet may feel the stones in the bladder when palpating the abdomen and bladder. An a x-ray or an ultrasound examination may be necessary.
Surgery is usually recommended to remove the stones unless there is a severe anaesthetic risk. In this case, a special diet will be suggested to try and dissolve the stones. This is not successful for all stones and there is always a risk that smaller stones can lodge in the urethra causing a blockage. This is likely to cause more severe health problems.
Can they be avoided/prevented and if so, how?
Certain breeds are more susceptible. These include: Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Dalmatians, Poodles and Dachshunds. Stones are more common in males.
If you’re the owner of a susceptible breed, feeding your pet a diet that helps stone prevention could assist. There are prescription and breed-specific diets that control the mineral balance and pH of the urine.
For most pet owners, feeding a dog a good veterinary-approved diet for its life stage; avoiding feeding table scraps and human snacks containing excessive salts; preventing obesity; making sure it has fresh water daily; and minimising risk of urinary tract infection by not letting him or her swim in risky, contaminated water can help prevent stone formation.
Dr Reneé Perold: EberVet Pet Clinic