Bladder stones are clumps of mineral crystals that form in the urine. They can occur for a number of reasons, including genetics, diet and long-term medication. No matter what the cost, bladder stones in dogs will cause your pet a lot of discomfort.
Table of Contents
- What Are Bladder Stones in Dogs?
- Causes and Prevention of Bladder Stones in Dogs
- How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Bladder Stones?
- How Serious is This Condition?
- Home Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
- Veterinary Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
- Final Thoughts
The stones themselves vary widely in size, and many dogs can develop and pass the stones without you even noticing. Unfortunately, if the stones are large in size they may not be able to pass on their own.
Symptoms of bladder stones in dogs include:
- frequent attempts to urinate with minimal excretion
- bloated or sensitive tummy
- avoidance of exercise
- evading stroking or cuddling
- bloody urine
- discomfort or difficulty urinating
- cloudy or discolored urine
- change in thirst level
- change in energy levels
- reluctance to move
In extreme cases, bladder stones can cause blockages, and be life-threatening. For that reason, you should visit your veterinarian as soon as you suspect that your dog is suffering from them.
Once diagnosed, in some cases, it is possible to treat bladder stones in dogs with home remedies. However, in more severe cases, when the stone is too large (or they are significant in number) surgical removal may be the only option.
Bladder Stones in Dogs
14 things pet owners must know
What Are Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Bladder stones are clumps of minerals that resemble – you guessed it – a stone! Despite their name, they can show up in your dog’s kidneys, urethra, bladder or ureters. There are many types of bladder stones, which is due to the different mineral compounds that they are composed of.
In the majority of cases, dogs suffer from Struvite stones, which are made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate hexahydrate crystals. This compound would ordinarily be dissolved within the urine and be ready to depart the body safely. In the case of bladder stones, these particles – for an unknown reason – become solid again.
In around 5% of cases, the Urate stone will be the culprit for causing bladder stones in dogs. Occurring predominantly in Dalmatians due to a genetic mutation they suffer from, this defect specifically relates to the metabolism of uric acid.
- Calcium Oxalate
- Calcium Phosphate
Not always a cause for concern, many small stones pass through the urinary tract without you or your pooch ever noticing. However, for larger stones, or groupings of smaller stones – this can cause an issue which requires medical intervention.
Causes and Prevention of Bladder Stones in Dogs
There isn’t an exact path that will guarantee the development of a bladder stone. Some environmental and genetic factors have been shown to play the most significant role in their development, and recurrence, including:
1. Urine pH
The pH balance of your dog’s urine is a key factor in whether or not he will develop this problem. A pH level that is too low or too high can allow the crystals (that ultimately become bladder stones) to form in the first place.
As a rule of thumb, a healthy pet’s pH level will ordinarily be somewhere between 5.5 and 7. It is possible for your veterinarian to test this, but they will require a fresh sample to be able to do this, as otherwise results will be inconclusive. It’s pretty easy to adjust your dog’s pH levels through diet, with specific foods known to increase or decrease the pH.
There is a correlation between dogs that suffer endocrine conditions such as diabetes and bladder stones. A majority of diabetic canines suffer from frequent urinary tract infections, and this is one of the fundamental causes of bladder stone development. In fact, around 40% of healthy dogs have struvite crystals in their urine, but the catalyst to turn these crystals into full blown stones in 98% of cases was a UTI.
If your dog does suffer from an endocrine disorder, helping to defend against UTI’s is your first line of defense against bladder stones. With the prevalence of antibiotic resistance – the majority of veterinarians will suggest a natural remedy.
Certain breeds, such as the Dalmatian, have a greater risk. Do your research on your dog's breed or ask the breeder whether they have a history of this condition. If evidence suggests that your dog may be likely to suffer, it is worth speaking with your veterinarian to make a diet plan that won’t aggravate the sensitivity.
To fully understand what your dog requires in his diet, you can start by reading through the AAFCO recommended daily nutrition for canines; bear in mind that these are guidelines only, and not a hard and fast list of what will work for every dog.
If your dog is currently taking medication, this can have the unfortunate side-effect of increasing his likelihood of developing bladder stones. The medication itself can alter the pH levels of your dog’s urine, and cause an increase in calcium.
Most likely, short-term medications will have little to no effect. If your dog must remain on medication long-term, it’s important to ensure that he drinks enough water to help flush the system.
Adding a little salt to your pup’s meals can help encourage him to drink more, but it’s important to check with your veterinarian before attempting this. You can also adjust his diet to include more acidic or alkaline ingredients which will even out the disruption caused by the medication.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Bladder Stones?
If your dog is exhibiting one, or many of the above symptoms, it may be worth going to the veterinarian for an examination. Your vet will be able to determine whether bladder stones are present by taking urine samples and performing x-rays.
In some cases where the condition has progressed, they may also be able to feel a thickening of the bladder wall, or the stones themselves. If found, they may then perform an ultrasound to determine the size, and shape to confirm whether or not surgery is necessary.
Dog breeds that are more prone to developing bladder stones include:
- Basset Hound
- Cocker Spaniel
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Welsh Corgi
How Serious is This Condition?
The body’s immune system is phenomenal and can flush out bladder stones a lot of the time. But, in some cases surgical removal is the only option. This usually happens when the bladder stone is too large or there are too many to easily or safely pass through the urinary tract.
This is a reasonably common condition in dogs, and for that matter humans too. Your veterinarian will likely have dealt with this issue many times before.
Home Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
There are a few home treatments for bladder stones in dogs that have been shown to be effective. As with any at-home treatments, it's important that you discuss the method with your veterinarian before giving it a try at home. Your vet will let you know whether or not the at-home treatment will impact your dog's overall health and well-being in a negative way.
1. Homemade Diet
Processed foods don’t meet the needs of every canine, and you may find that your four-legged-friend has better overall health on an all-natural homemade diet. In fact, many dogs on an all vegan or vegetarian diet thrive on such a diet.
Many pet owners worry about cutting meat, or animal products from their animal’s diet. However research in this area has concluded that a well balanced and varied vegan or vegetarian diet can result in optimum health for many canines.
2. Cranberry Extract
With UTI’s being the catalyst for most bladder stones, preventing, or treating this will be your first line of defense. A good quality cranberry extract or tablet can help even the most UTI prone canines, but be aware that it does take a high dose supplement.
Cranberry juice, dried cranberries or fresh cranberries are not potent enough to provide any benefit. Not to mention, they’re not the most palatable for your pooch.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
The most popular remedy for treating bladder stones at home is apple cider vinegar. This miracle solution seems to be pretty good at healing, and preventing a multitude of conditions. A potent detoxifying agent, just a few drops of Apple Cider Vinegar can help normalize your pups pH levels.
4. Rhubarb Root
A lesser known home remedy is the rhubarb root. You can purchase these from your local Chinese medicinal store, or from a holistic canine specialist. Rhubarb is especially powerful at helping the body rid itself of unwanted waste, and boosting bladder health.
A natural diuretic, parsley can be added to the food or fed as a supplement to make sure that your dog flushes his system as often as possible. But don’t forget, you’ll have to let him out more often when feeding a diuretic.
One reason that a dog can develop bladder stones is a digestive system that isn’t working correctly. Adding a dog probiotic to the food or water can do wonders, and has the added benefit that it will improve the overall digestive system, gut health, and immune system.
7. Increase Water Consumption
Some dogs simply do not drink as much water as their body needs. We have the added benefit of knowing how many glasses of water we are meant to drink per day, and therefore – we often have a glass of water even when we don’t fancy it.
Your dog, on the other hand, won’t do this. So if your pup doesn’t drink enough, it’s vital to think of creative ways to encourage an increase in fluid intake. A good starting point is switching to wet food, hiding treats in ice cubes, and adding broth to dry food.
Veterinary Treatment for Bladder Stones in Dogs
1. Surgical Removal
When symptoms are at their most intense, this is often a sign of a larger stone which may require surgical removal. Your dog will be put under general anesthetic, and a cystotomy will be performed.
This is when the veterinarian will make an incision to expose the bladder, and then open it to remove each stone manually. This type of surgery is pretty routine, and while all surgery carries its risks – the success rate of this surgery is incredibly high.
In some cases, where a stone is causing a blockage, emergency surgery will need to be performed immediately. That’s why it’s important to make yourself aware of the symptoms so that you can take your dog to receive treatment without delay.
There are medications available that will be able to shrink or dissolve bladder stones. Discuss with your veterinarian whether this is an option. If your dog is already on other medications, this might not be possible.
3. Prescription Diet
Often used short-term, a prescribed diet will be given to rid your pooch of this condition initially. Upon successful dissolution of the bladder stones, your dog can then be placed on a different diet – likely not the same that he was on before.
Bladder stones in dogs can be anywhere from the the size of a grain of sand, all the way up. As luck would have it, the best ways to prevent these masses from forming are all great ways to improve your canine’s overall health. With minimal additional effort or cost on your part.
The prognosis for dogs who have suffered from bladder stones is good, especially for those that didn’t suffer from a blockage. If your dog has suffered from this affliction, it’s important to do your research into the lifelong holistic, and medical management required to ensure that they don’t return.