February 5, 2024

Medical Issues

Bladder Stones in Pets

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

There are many conditions and health issues that both people and pets can get, and bladder stones are one of those things. Kidney stones are more common than bladder stones in people. If you know anyone who has had bladder stones, they will tell you how uncomfortable and painful the condition is.

The same can be said for our animal friends. Many different animals can get bladder stones including cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and ferrets. Today, I’ll explain what bladder stones are, what signs to watch for, and how we commonly treat this often painful bladder issue.

What are bladder stones?Bladder stones

Bladder stones are rock-like objects that are formed from minerals inside the bladder, and they can come in many different shapes and sizes. Some bladder stones can have a smooth surface like a smooth pebble on the beach, while other stones may have sharp little spikes like a little porcupine. Some bladder stones are as small as grains of sand, while others can be up to two inches long.

What causes them?

Bladder stones typically occur secondarily to a bladder infection and pH changes in the urine. Infection and pH changes could be due to unbalanced diets with elevations in particular minerals, or they could be due to other health conditions that cause mineral imbalances. With some pets, we can find the reason for the stones with a straightforward urine test. With other pets, we may need to do further testing.

What are some signs that my pet could have bladder stones?

Symptoms of bladder stones are very similar to those of a bladder infection.
These signs include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating more frequently or more urgently
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urine accidents in the house
  • Urinating small amounts at a time
  • Increased licking of the genital region

What if my pet has some of these symptoms?

If you are seeing any of the signs listed above, make an appointment with your veterinarian. The office may request that you bring a urine sample from your pet. If you’ve never collected a pet’s urine before, the office can give you some tips for success. In the event that you can’t get a sample from your pet before the appointment, the technician may be able to obtain a sample at the office. If that is the case, bring your pet to the vet’s office with a full bladder, and DO NOT take your him to the “potty” area before the appointment. The technician will then attempt to collect a urine sample for testing.

The veterinarian will examine your pet and check the urine sample to look for infection or other issues. Some stones will shed little pieces, and those crystals may show up in a urine test. However, not all bladder stones will shed crystals. If your veterinarian suspects bladder stones, she may order an X-ray to investigate further.

Is there a treatment?

Fortunately, there are treatment options available depending on what types of stones your pet has and on your pet’s health history. Together, you and your veterinarian can decide the best course of action for you pet.

If the bladder stones are small, your vet may recommend trying to dissolve them using a prescription diet and medications or supplements. With this treatment option, the stones may take months to go away. Additionally, as the stones dissolve, they may break into smaller pieces that could get stuck in your pet’s urethra. If the stones block the urethra, your pet may not be able to pee. This situation is considered a medical emergency. Seek treatment immediately if your pet is unable to urinate.

The other treatment option is surgical removal of the stones. Your veterinarian may recommend this course of action if:

  • the type of stone is not dissolvable
  • your pet is extremely uncomfortable
  • the stone is too large
  • there are multiple stones
  • you need a “fast” cure

In this situation, the surgeon will make an incision directly into the bladder to remove the stones. She will also examine the bladder for any other issues. After the surgery, keep your pet quiet and calm for the next two weeks for optimal healing. The surgeon can send the stones to the Minnesota Urolith Center for analysis to determine the exact makeup of the stones. This information is helpful for preventing additional bladder stones in the future.

In conclusion

No matter what treatment you choose, your pet may have reoccurring bladder stones, so monitor your pet at home. Keep regularly scheduled exams and urine tests with your veterinarian to alert you to any changes in your pet’s condition. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend long-term special diets and supplements to keep your pet’s bladder healthy and happy.

Urinary health is an important part of your pet’s overall well-being. If you notice a change in his pattern or something seems off to you, let your vet know what is happening. Together, you will find the reason for the changes and decide on the best remedy for your pet.

Dr. Aili V. Heintz, countrycare animal complexDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.