Like humans, dogs are predisposed to several health problems – one of which is bladder stones. It can happen due to various reasons, many of which can be easily prevented. Overall, knowing how to prevent bladder stones in dogs should be a joint effort between the veterinarian and the dog owner.
In this post, I will discuss the bladder stone problem in dogs, how it’s treated, and what you can do to prevent it from happening or recurring.
What causes bladder stones in dogs?
There are many potential causes of bladder stones in canines. It can be a single cause or a combination of multiple factors. But whatever it is, you must get your pet treated to avoid life-threatening consequences.
Moreover, there are two major types of bladder stones in canines, which are triggered by different causes. Here’s a quick preview of the two:
🐶Oxalate bladder stones
This type of stone is a mixture of oxalates, citrates, and minerals. It’s not really clear how this bladder stone forms, but vets have a few theories.
First, oxalate bladder stones can be tied to your dog’s genetic predisposition. This means that some dogs are born to be prone to this problem.
On the other hand, another potential reason is metabolic diseases. Canines suffering from diabetes or liver disease may suffer from oxalate bladder stones as a secondary condition.
Aside from that, overuse of canine antibiotics may also contribute to the risk of oxalate stone formation. It’s because excessive use of antibiotics will allow the proliferation of Oxalobacter formigenes in the dog’s gut. This bacteria has a sole nutrient, which is oxalate.
Overall, oxalate bladder stones aren’t the most common case in canines. However, veterinarians say that cases of oxalate bladders in dogs are continuously increasing and may soon overtake the struvite type.
🐶Struvite bladder stones
The struvite bladder stone is the most common type among canines. It’s formed through the concentration of struvite, a mineral in the canine’s urine. It’s a combination of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate.
Take note that struvite crystals are normally present in a canine’s bladder at very low levels. However, when these crystals increase, they will stick together until it becomes hard matter.
Most of the time, struvite bladder stones in dogs are caused by urinary tract infections. Other conditions that change the acidity level of your dog’s urine can also impact its susceptibility to struvite stones.
On the same note, it’s important to highlight that kidney stones are different from bladder stones. Nevertheless, crystals or small stones that developed in the kidney can travel down the canine’s ureter and into the bladder.
If not expelled, these crystals from the kidney can congregate in your pet’s bladder until it sticks and hardens together. The point here is that just because your dog’s kidney is clear doesn’t mean its bladder can’t harbor the dreaded stones.
Signs that your dog has bladder stones
Dogs suffering from bladder stones may or may not show immediate symptoms. Others will only show signs of the health problem once the stone has gone big and is only treatable through surgery.
So before things get worse, you should watch out for these potential symptoms of bladder stones in dogs:
- Bad-smelling urine
- Straining to urinate
- Bloody urine
- Poor appetite
- Frequent urination
- Incontinence or accidents all over the house
- Licking its genitals
If you notice some of these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to get the veterinarian involved. Whether it’s bladder stones or not, these symptoms often indicate a health problem that needs proper veterinary care.
The earlier bladder stones get diagnosed, the easier they will be to treat. It will also spare your dog from further suffering and pain.
Treatment for bladder stones in dogs
Bladder stones in dogs can be treated differently, depending on the severity of the condition. Here are some of the most common treatment plans veterinarians prescribe. Just remember that each dog requires a unique approach and you should always involve its vet in the process.
A specialized diet can help dissolve the struvite crystals in your dog’s bladder. However, you should know that this method is more effective if the crystals haven’t formed into large stones yet.
Moreover, changes to your dog’s diet will include monitoring your pet’s protein intake. Take note that this new diet should be suggested and formulated by the vet. Also, you should remember that low-protein diets alone aren’t enough to prevent bladder stones.
For canine bladder stones that can’t be dissolved by diet changes alone, antibiotics are often the next or complementary course of action.
Your dog’s veterinarian will prescribe a set of antibiotics that your dog needs to take. Remember that antibiotics should only be administered to canines – and even humans – within the right timeframe and dosage. It’s because excessive use of antibiotics can also make bladder conditions worse.
For worst cases of bladder stones, the only way to treat them is surgery. The vet will cut through your dog’s bladder and remove the stones manually. This is often the only resort for dogs with large stones that are impossible to pass or break down through medication.
However, you should know that surgical procedures like this have a long recovery time. Still, this is just a small sacrifice compared to the life-saving benefit to your pet.
How to prevent bladder stones in dogs
In any health problem, prevention is always the best way course of action. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of having bladder stones. This also applies to preventing bladder stones from recurring:
✔️Keep your dog hydrated
Optimal water intake will help your dog flush out crystals in its bladder. This will prevent the crystals and minerals from sticking together. Overall, the more your dog pees, the better when it comes to preventing bladder stones.
If your canine isn’t much of a drinker, you can change things up to encourage it to take a sip. The following are some of the hacks that work well with my pet:
- Using a water additive. Water additives are flavored products that appeal to canines’ tastes. This will encourage your dog to drink more water.
- Adding a dash of green tea. Some dogs won’t drink water because of the lack of taste. In this case, you can brew some green tea, let it cool, and add a small amount to the canine’s water bowl.
- Give ice cubes as treats. Some dogs like chewing on ice cubes, which is a good way to keep your pet hydrated and entertained. Just make sure that you supervise your dog as ice cubes can cause choking.
- Use a water fountain. The sound of trickling water can help encourage your dog to drink more. Also, moving water is packed with more oxygen, making it fresher to drink.
- Consider giving wet food. Wet food allows your dog to consume more moisture even without drinking. However, you should consult the vet first about this to ensure that wet food matches your dog’s needs.
✔️Sticking to a therapeutic diet
Switching to a bladder-friendly diet will help reduce your dog’s risk of developing stones. However, it’s important to know that you should pair it with the other methods discussed here for better results.
This diet is formulated to make your dog thirstier, so it would be compelled to drink more. It’s important to speak to your dog’s veterinarian to discuss this new diet.
✔️Fight off urinary infections as they arise
Dogs become more susceptible to bladder stones when their urinary infections are left untreated. If you notice that your dog has signs of urinary tract infection, you should bring it to the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some signs of urinary tract infection in dogs are bloody urine, straining when urinating, licking their genitals, and fever.
Most cases of canine UTI are treated with antibiotics. Just remember never to self-administer medications to your dog with UTI without the advice of your dog’s vet.
✔️Consult the vet regularly
Lastly, it’s important to bring your dog to the vet for annual checks. This way, conditions like bladder stones, urinary tract infections, and so on can be diagnosed as early as possible.
Take note that vet visits aren’t only reserved for emergencies. Being proactive in your dog’s health will save it from painful bladder stones and similar infections.
✔️Never self-medicate your dog
Giving your dog medications without the advice of a veterinarian can potentially worsen the formation of bladder stones.
Although self-medicating your dog may seem like a money-saving move, it may cause more expensive health problems later on.
If you suspect that your dog has signs of bladder stones, the vet is always the first person you should call.
✔️Choose the right breed
If you’re yet to get a dog, it’s important to know that some breeds are more likely to develop bladder stones than others. The likes of Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, and toy breeds are susceptible to “pee pebbles” than their larger counterparts.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that all small dogs will develop bladder stones. If you already own one, just make sure that you give it the best diet and that you get the canine checked by the vet regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why does my dog keep getting bladder stones?
A: Recurring bladder stones in canines can be a diet issue. You should also consider the possibility that your pet has urinary problems causing the over-retention of proteins and minerals in its kidney and bladder. The best person to consult here is your dog’s veterinarian. Aside from diagnosis, the vet can provide the necessary treatment plan to prevent the stones from forming again.
Q: How often do bladder stones come back in dogs?
A: On average, about 50% of dogs will have a recurring case of bladder stones within two years. Still, this risk can be reduced with proper prevention steps, diet changes, and regular vet visits. Also, the chance of bladder stones recurring depends on the overall health and predisposition of your pet.
Q: Can a high protein diet cause bladder stones in dogs?
A: A high protein diet can increase your dog’s likelihood of having bladder stones. However, it’s not the only potential cause. It’s important to consult your dog’s veterinarian in case diet changes need to be done or if your pet needs completely new food.
Q: Does dry dog food trigger bladder stones?
A: Dry dog food doesn’t necessarily cause bladder stones in dogs. What you have to check is the ingredients of the food. For example, ingredients like potatoes and grains can contribute to the increase in the alkaline level of the canine’s urine. If left unchecked, such high alkaline levels can cause stone formation in the kidney.
Q: How much does it cost to get bladder stones removed in dogs?
A: Depending on the severity of the condition, bladder stone removal in dogs may cost around $1,000 or $1,500. This cost can rise up to tens of thousands based on the rates of the vet, your dog’s condition, and potential complications. This is why you should consider getting your dog insured, so you won’t have to shoulder the entire cost of treatment in case bladder stones indeed occur.
Q: What should dogs with bladder stones not eat?
A: Dogs with bladder stones shouldn’t be fed with high-oxalate food items. Some of these are spinach, brown rice, organ meat, and sweet potatoes. It’s best to consult your pet’s veterinarian for further guidance about diet changes. This way, you can still provide ample nutrition while looking after the dog’s bladder health.
Knowing how to prevent bladder stones in dogs is life-saving knowledge. It will save your dog from the pain and suffering of dealing with health problems. Also, it will spare your pocket from hefty vet bills for treatment.
Overall, the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of bladder stones should always be under the expertise of a veterinarian. This is to ensure that your pet will have the best possible prognosis.
Did your dog ever experience bladder stones before? Share your story in the comment section below!