Bladder stones are unfortunately a common occurrence in dogs and cats. They can go undetected for a long period of time if the patient does not exhibit any symptoms. Fortunately, most types of bladder stones can be prevented with nutrition, in which the patient would be fed a specific diet aimed at preventing recurrence.
Most dogs or cats that have bladder stones will show symptoms that include straining to urinate, bloody urine and/or chronic, recurring urinary tract infections. It is important to note that some patients will not show symptoms at all of this condition and therefore it is recommended to perform a urine analysis at the discretion of your veterinarian.
Most types of bladder stones can be diagnosed easily via x-rays whereas some of the uncommon types can be missed with X-rays alone and your veterinarian may recommend ultrasound imaging to further assess and diagnose bladder stones.
Dogs and cats with bloody urine should always have a urine check performed. If there are urinary crystals present, an x-ray of your pet's bladder will be recommended to determine if there are bladder stones. Most types of bladder stones are an accumulation of urinary crystals so it is important that if urinary crystals are found on the routine urine check, an x-ray should be performed.
Pets that have chronic and recurring urinary tract infections should also be screened for bladder stones. While bladder stones are often sterile, they can harbour bacteria that provide a constant source of infection of the urinary bladder. Typical signs of bladder infections in dogs and cats are straining to urinate, blood in the urine and/or a foul odour to the urine.
Treatment will be determined based on the type of stone that is present. For example, if your veterinarian is concerned about a Calcium Oxalate bladder stones, they will often recommend surgical removal of these bladder stones. If it is thought that the stone is a Struvite based stone, a prescription based urinary acidifying diet can be used to break down the stone. There is a concern using this method however, as the bladder stone(s) break down into smaller pieces, there would be the potential of a small stone becoming lodged in the urethra creating a life threatening obstruction. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you as to which method would be most appropriate based on your pet and stone type.
After the stone(s) have been analyzed, your veterinarian can develop a plan to help reduce the chances of recurrence. This will often be done with prescription diets and/or medicines designed to adjust the urinary pH. In some instances, bladder stones will continue to develop despite the appropriate diet and/or medicines. In these patients, it is very important to have frequent urine tests performed and/or radiographs to monitor the development of stones.