Bladder Stones In Dogs – Signs, Treatment, Recovery (With Actual Pictures)

Bladder stones are a serious urinary condition in our canine friends.

Not only can bladder stones lead to significant discomfort for the dog affected, but they can be life threatening if they progress to blocking urine flow.

So what are bladder stones, and how do our pups get them in the first place?

In this article we will discuss the details of bladder stones in dogs, and help you better understand the treatment options on the table for this urinary condition. 

Bladder Stones In Dogs

What Are Bladder Stones In Dogs?

Bladder stones, or uroliths, are stone-like collections of minerals in the canine bladder.

Bladder stones can vary in size from dog to dog, ranging from tiny pebbles to tennis ball sized stones.

Some dogs may have a collection of small stones, while others will have one large urolith.

No matter the size of the stone in your dog’s bladder, they all have the ability to cause serious urinary complications down the line.

Are Bladder Stones The Same As Kidney Stones In Dogs?

Many of us are familiar with the condition known as kidney stones in humans, leading pet owners to wonder if this is comparable to bladder stones in dogs.

It’s important to note that while dogs can develop kidney stones as well, this is not the same thing as bladder stones.

Even when a dog develops kidney uroliths, this often has nothing to do with the development of bladder stones.

Both conditions involve the urinary system in dogs, but they are not automatically related to each other.

What Are Bladder Stones Made Of?

Bladder stones are made up of a collection of different minerals based on the environment in the bladder.

These stones develop when urine does not empty the bladder completely, causing crystals to develop in the leftover urine.

As the urine gets more and more concentrated with crystals, the bladder wall will become irritated.

An irritated bladder will produce mucus due to the inflammation, causing these tiny crystals to group together.

After time, stones are formed.

Large Bladder Stones Taken From A Dog
Image Provided By – WVS Care For Dogs

What Causes Bladder Stones In Dogs?

As we mentioned above, certain crystals can develop based on the environment in the bladder.

Certain lifestyles or health factors can impact the pH levels of the urine, creating an environment that promotes the development of different types of crystals.

Though the exact cause of bladder stones is still unknown, there are a few factors that are believed to contribute to the production of uroliths in dogs.

  • Current or chronic UTI’s
  • Inflammation of the bladder
  • Not drinking enough water
  • A diet high in protein
  • A diet high in certain minerals that lead to crystal production
  • A diet high in salt

Signs Of Bladder Stones In Dogs

Part of what can make bladder stones so challenging to diagnose without diagnostic imaging is the fact that they can mimic a standard UTI.

Many dogs with bladder stones come in with typical UTI symptoms, leading many to go undiagnosed if films are not performed.

Some of the most common signs of bladder stones in dogs include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Dribbling urine
  • Urinating frequently
  • Abdominal pain
  • Attempting to urinate, but no urine is produced
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pup, it’s best to have them seen by your veterinarian for further guidance.

How Long Does It Take Bladder Stones To Develop?

In most cases, it takes anywhere from 3-6 months for large bladder stones to form.

Though it will take some time for the larger stones to develop, small bladder stones in dogs have been known to form in as little as 2-3 weeks.

The presence of a UTI is known to speed up the process of crystal formation, along with any other factors that cause irritation of the bladder wall.

How To Diagnose Bladder Stones In Dogs

As we mentioned above, diagnostic imaging is very important when your dog is experiencing symptoms of a UTI.

Many bladder stones are missed when simply sending dogs home with a round of antibiotics, unaware that bladder stones are the cause of their symptoms.

The most common way to diagnose bladder stones in dogs is through abdominal radiographs.

Most bladder stones can be easily viewed on x-ray, but there are some stones that are radiolucent.

Bladder Stones In A Dog Seen From An Xray
Image Provided By – WVS Care For Dogs

For these stones, an ultrasound can be used as a diagnostic tool.

You can even use a contrast study if an ultrasound is not available, which will cause the outline of the stones to glow in the bladder.

In some cases, vets can feel a dog’s bladder stone while palpating the abdomen.

However, there is no way to rule out a bladder mass versus a stone, so this is not considered a definitive diagnostic tool.

Your vet will also perform a urine analysis under a microscope to search for any evidence of infection, as well as which types of crystals are in the urine.

Identifying the crystals that led to the stones is critical when determining the plan of action going forward.

Treating Bladder Stones In Dogs

Treatment for a dog’s bladder stones will vary based on how large the stones are, how severe the dog’s symptoms are, and whether or not the dog is currently blocked (unable to urinate).

Based on your dog’s current situation, your vet will likely choose from four different treatment options.

Surgical Removal Of Bladder Stones

Surgically Removing Bladder Stones From A Dog
Image Provided By – WVS Care For Dogs

A cystotomy is a surgical procedure that removes any bladder stones from the urinary bladder.

This involves making an incision directly into the bladder, removing any stones, and flushing the bladder thoroughly after.

Your vet will also flush any stones that could be blocking the urethra, as well as testing for any potential urinary obstructions.

This is a straightforward procedure that many veterinarians perform each day, with most dogs returning to their normal selves in 7-10 days.

Dietary Dissolution Of Bladder Stones

Dietary dissolution is an option for pet owners that want to avoid surgery.

This treatment route involves exclusively feeding your dog a prescription diet that will dissolve their stone type, hopefully causing the stone to break down over time.

While this may sound like a great alternative, this option does come with a few risks.

Dietary dissolution is not a quick fix.

It can take weeks to months to dissolve a bladder stone, meaning your pup may still experience discomfort in that timeframe.

Not only can your dog still experience pain and urinary infections until the stone dissolves, they will still be at risk of urinary obstruction until the stone is gone.

This means that even if you choose the dietary dissolution route, your dog may still need surgery in the end.

Urohydropropulsion Of Bladder Stones

Urohydropropulsion is on the table if your dog has small bladder stones that can pass through the urethra.

This process involves putting your dog under light sedation to place a special urinary catheter.

Your vet will then use a bladder flush and natural gravity to remove the tiny stones in the bladder, often doing so with minimal trauma.

When this option is available, it is typically very successful. 

Ultrasonic Dissolution

Some specialty centers can perform ultrasonic dissolution in dogs with small bladder stones.

This technique uses ultrasound waves to break up the stones in the bladder, allowing them to be flushed out in tiny pieces.

How Much Does Bladder Stone Treatment Cost In Dogs?

Bladder stones can be easily resolved with a few different treatment options, but this can be an expensive process.

To help you better prepare for treating your dog’s bladder stones, let’s list a few of the average costs below.

Diagnostics Costs For Bladder Stones

  • Vet exam: $50-$150
  • X-rays: $100-200
  • Ultrasound: $100-$200
  • Urine analysis: $50-$100
  • Stone analysis at a lab: $150-$250

Treatment Costs For Bladder Stones

  • Cystotomy: $1,000-$3,500
  • Urohydropropulsion: $500-$1,000
  • Ultrasonic dissolution: $1,200-$2,500

Diet Costs For Bladder Stones

  • Urinary diets (monthly costs): $50-$100 based on your dog’s size

Lifestyle Changes For Bladder Stones In Dogs

While bladder stone treatments in dogs will solve your pup’s dilemma in that moment, you will need to implement a few lifestyle changes going forward.

These changes will help to prevent the development of urinary crystals in the future, which will in turn prevent bladder stones as well.

If possible, it is always best to send your dog’s bladder stone for testing at your vet’s lab of choice.

This will inform your vet of the specific crystal responsible for creating the stone, allowing your vet to determine if a diet change can prevent stones in the future.

If the crystals can be prevented with a prescription diet, your dog will need to eat that food for the rest of their life.

If their crystals cannot be prevented with a diet change, your vet will likely suggest having regular urine testing performed at their office.

This can help your vet catch any urinary infections as they develop, as well as monitor for the presence of crystals in the future.

If needed, your vet may suggest regular x-rays as well.

Final Thoughts

Bladder stones can lead to a serious medical emergency in our canine friends.

If you ever notice any urinary symptoms in your beloved pup, it’s best to have them seen by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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