Bladder stones in dogs are a common canine urinary problem. If left untreated, they can cause many health issues, such as painful urination and fatal urinary blockages. Learn crucial information about the causes and symptoms of bladder stones in dogs to ensure your pet receives an early diagnosis and treatment.
What Are Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Bladder stones or cystic calculi are rock-like minerals that form in the urinary bladder. They may vary in size, ranging from small sand-like grains to large pebbles. In many cases, both large and small bladder stones may develop in dogs.
What Causes Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Experts are in the dark about what causes bladder stones in dogs to develop. However, they have pointed out several factors that contribute to the development of this renal issue, such as:
1. Changes in pH Levels
A dog’s pH balance indicates if he might develop bladder stones. The normal pH levels of dogs are 7.0–7.5. If you wonder how dogs get bladder stones, it can occur when the pH levels go beyond or below what’s considered normal. A variety of conditions can cause a change in dogs’ pH levels which will be further discussed below.
2. Side effects of certain medications
Some drugs can affect the pH levels of urine, whilst others can increase calcium levels. Long-term usage of these medications can prompt the formation of bladder stones in dogs. Below is a list of drugs that fall under this category:
- Sulfa medications
Vitamin C supplementation may also instigate bladder stones to develop, as it increases the urine’s acidity. Consult the vet before putting your canine companion on any of these medications.
3. Dietary causes
What food causes bladder stones in dogs? Foods rich in protein and oxalates are associated with canine bladder stone formation. Here are some foods that pet owners should consider cutting back or excluding from their dogs’ diets:
- Animal fats
- Brewer’s yeast
- Brown rice
- Organ meats (e.g., liver and kidney)
- Soy products
- Sweet potatoes
- Wheat germ
Table scraps and junk foods can cause bladder stones in dogs too. The same goes for dry dog foods containing carbohydrates such as grains and potatoes.
4. Bacteria Infections
Bacteria precipitate the formation of bladder stones in dogs by producing an enzyme called urease. It increases ammonia production leading to high pH levels in dogs’ urine or alkaline urine. Urinary tract infections caused by bacteria can also cause bladder stones in dogs.
5. Other canine diseases
Multitudes of health problems contribute to the development of bladder stones in dogs. Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, liver shunts, kidney stones, and calcium or phosphorus imbalances can negatively affect nutrient production, thus causing this renal problem.
What Are the Types of Bladder Stones in Dogs?
There are five common bladder stones in dogs. Each of them is named after its mineral composition: struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, cystine, and silica.
1. Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs
Struvite is formed when magnesium and phosphate combine. The trigger of their formation is the presence of ammonium-producing bacteria in the urine. They cause an increase in urine PH leading struvite crystals to stick together in clumps.
Struvite stones are the most common type of bladder stones in dogs. Around 26% of all canine bladder stones were found to contain struvite stones. Some breeds have higher chances of developing this type of bladder stone in dogs, including:
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
- Miniature Poodle
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Shih Tzu
- Yorkshire Terrier
Struvite stones are also more likely to develop in females than males. The average age of dogs with this type of stone is 2.9 years old. The most common cause of struvite stone formation in canines is lower urinary tract infections.
2. Calcium Oxalate Bladder Stones in Dogs
This type of bladder stone in dogs develops when there are high levels of calcium, citrates, or oxalates in the urine. Unlike struvite, calcium oxalate stones can form without bacterial infection.
Numerous dog breeds are predisposed to this type of bladder stone primarily due to genetic defects. These include:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Bichon Frise
- Border Collie
- Boston Terrier
- English Bulldog
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Poodle
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Norfolk Terrier
- Norwich Terrier
- Shih Tzu
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Standard Schnauzer
Calcium oxalate stones are more common in male dogs than females. Older dogs have a higher tendency of developing this type of bladder stone too. The average age of dogs with calcium oxalate formation is 9.3.
3. Urate Bladder Stones in Dogs
Urate stones are also known as ammonium biurate. Portosystemic shunts and genetic disorders cause an increase in ammonium biurate crystal excretion, which leads to this type of bladder stone formation in dogs. Breeds more likely to develop urate stone are:
Dalmatians make up 80% of the breeds predisposed to urate stones. Moreover, male Dalmatians are more susceptible than females.
4. Cystine Bladder Stones in Dogs
When dogs’ kidneys have difficulties reabsorbing the amino acid cysteine, it causes this type of bladder stones forms. It is believed to be caused by a genetic abnormality, which is commonly seen in certain breeds such as:
Compared to other types of bladder stones in dogs, cystine stones are less common in dogs. Males are often diagnosed with this renal issue compared to females.
5. Silicate Stones
The formation of silica stone in dogs’ bladders is linked to the intake of foods containing silicates, silica acid, and magnesium silicate. This type of bladder stone is prevalent in certain breeds, including:
Male dogs commonly suffer from urethral obstruction due to silicate stones. The average age of canines that develop this form of bladder stones is six years old.
What are the Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Not all affected dogs will exhibit clinical signs, especially if their bladder stones are small. These typically pass through the urinary tract without a problem. Dogs with large bladder stones, however, may show the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in urinating
- Smelly urine
- Increased frequency of urination
- Potty accidents
- Bloody urine
- Excreting small amounts of urine
- Constant licking of the genital area
- Bloated stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
If your dog shows the signs of bladder stones mentioned above, send him to the vet immediately for diagnostic testing. Ignoring this renal issue can result in life-threatening complications such as urethral obstruction, which causes the bladder to rupture.
How Fast Do Bladder Stones in Dogs Form?
Depending on the number of crystalline minerals and the severity of infection, bladder stones in dogs can develop at a slow or fast rate. Most cases of large bladder stones take months to form. However, some were reportedly able to develop within two weeks.
How Are Bladder Stones in dogs Diagnosed by the vet?
Bladder stones in dogs have similar clinical signs to cystitis and minor bladder infections. To accurately determine whether your dog’s symptoms are caused by bladder stones, the vet will perform several diagnostic tests including but not limited to:
- A complete blood count is carried out to rule out possible blood-related diseases.
- Urinalysis and urine culture help determine if your dog has urinary tract infections.
- X-rays or ultrasounds are used to check the urinary tract for bladder stones.
- Chemistry tests are performed to check if the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and sugar levels are normal.
- Thyroid tests aid in detecting if there are any abnormalities in thyroid hormone production.
- Stone analysis is run on any bladder stones passed in the urine or surgically removed to determine their type.
- Nuclear scintigraphy is a non-invasive diagnostic test used to analyze the renal function and blood flow.
How Does the Vet Treat Bladder Stones in Dogs?
The main goal of treatment for canine bladder stones is to remove or dissolve the stones. The treatment options depend on the type and location of the bladder stone in dogs, and the most common ones are:
This is the surgical removal of bladder stones in dogs and cats. It is the quickest way to eliminate this health issue and often the emergency solution to urethral obstruction due to bladder stones. However, cystotomy is not the safest treatment for dogs with medical conditions or high sensitivity to anesthesia.
This treatment involves feeding your dog a special diet formulated to dissolve the stones. It is important to note that dietary dissolution is unable to break down certain types of bladder stones, such as the calcium oxalate variation.
In comparison to cystotomy, dietary dissolution is a slow type of treatment. Generally, it can take 2-3 months before the therapeutic diet can fully dissolve bladder stones in dogs.
Ultrasonic dissolution is a non-invasive procedure that immediately removes bladder stones in dogs. It breaks them down using high-frequency sound waves. In the process, the bladder stones turn into smaller granules that can be easily flushed out of the bladder.
Small bladder stones are removed through this non-surgical method. It uses a special catheter that is inserted into the bladder to flush them out. Most of the time, dogs need general anesthesia when undergoing this treatment. In some cases, heavy sedation may be necessary.
What Are the Home Treatments for Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Treating bladder stones in dogs naturally is an alternative option if you want to avoid exposing your pet to anesthesia or invasive procedures. This method is also useful in preventing recurrent bladder stones in dogs. Here are three natural remedies you can do at home:
1. Increase your dog’s water intake.
Keeping his bladder well-hydrated plays an important role in flushing out debris and bacteria. Ideally, the recommended water intake of dogs is 1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight. If you have a 50-pound dog, he should drink around 50 ounces of water every day.
There are many ways to encourage your furry pal to drink more water. You can mix low-sodium broth with his water or food. Placing more water bowls around your home is also a good idea.
Feeding him frozen homemade dog treats will give him extra hydration too. Just make sure to avoid using ingredients that are high in oxalates.
2. Administer a natural diuretic.
Parsley has diuretic properties that promote increased urination in dogs. This allows your pet to regularly flush away dirt from his bladder, which prevents the formation of stones. The recommended dosage amount of parsley for dogs is as follows:
- Dogs under 15 pounds – 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day
- Dogs around 15 to 50 pounds – 1 to 2 teaspoons per day
- Dogs over 50 pounds – 1/2 to 1 tablespoon per day
3. Give your dog apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is believed to lower excessively high pH levels. Test your dog’s urine pH levels first using pH strips. Make sure it is alkaline before giving him raw, organic, and unfiltered ACV.
Below is the list of dosage amounts of ACV for dogs according to weight:
- Dogs approximately 15 pounds – 1 teaspoon
- Dogs approximately 35 pounds – 2 teaspoon
- Dogs approximately 85 pounds – 1 tablespoon
Keep in mind these home treatments only work on mild cases of bladder stones in dogs. If your canine companion has a severe bladder stone problem, he requires immediate medical intervention.
As with any home remedies, consult the vet before applying them to your dog. Seeking advice from a holistic vet will also ensure that these natural treatments for bladder stones in dogs are applicable to his condition.