Bladder Stones – Oh My!

The fast onset of urinary issues is one of the more common problems we encounter for pets at Barrington Square Animal Hospital.  Our clients in Hoffman Estates may recognize these problems after a variety of clinical signs develop in their pets including: increased thirst, increased urinary frequency, straining to urinate, accidents in the house, or even blood in the snow when their pet urinates outside.

When any of these signs develop, the majority of clients correctly assume that their pet has developed a urinary tract infection (UTI).  It is important to know that UTI’s can be caused by a variety of underlying factors.  The external anatomy of many female dogs and cats can predispose them to UTI’s.  Similarly, prostate concerns can be a factor in intact male dogs.  Another all too common cause for urinary tract infections are bladder stones.

Similar to kidney stones in people, bladder stones in dogs and cats can be a source of pain, inflammation, and recurrent urinary tract infections.  Small breed dogs seem to be more prone to the development of bladder stones compared to larger breeds or cats.  The exact causes for the development of these stones is unknown but is likely related to how certain dogs metabolize and eliminate mineral components of their diet (primarily calcium, phosphorous and magnesium). 

Bladder stones are so common that all of the doctors at Barrington Square Animal Hospital search for stones in any pet showing signs of a urinary tract infection.  The majority of stones are visible on x-rays but some can only be visualized with a quick ultrasound of the bladder.  Stones in the urinary system act as safe harbors for bacteria normally eliminated in any animals’ urine.  It is extremely important to identify a stone in any patient suspected of a UTI.  If the stone is not addressed, antibiotics alone will only temporarily resolve clinical signs for the pet.  With bacteria embedded permanently in the stone, as soon as the antibiotics are stopped the UTI will shortly return.

Unfortunately, the clinical signs that are easy for us to recognize as urinary problems often do not develop until stone development is fairly advanced in pets.  It is very common to find either multiple stones or very large stones when the diagnosis is first made.  Roughly half of bladder stones can be dissolved with diet change.  The dissolution process can take several months and is only effective in about 50% of pets.  For this reason, surgical removal of bladder stones is a procedure commonly performed at Barrington Square Animal Hospital (at least 1-2 every month).  Advantages of surgical removal include more immediate discomfort relief for the pet, complete resolution of secondary UTI’s, and the ability to make stone specific diet recommendations once the exact stone type is identified.

If your pet is showing signs of urinary tract discomfort or you are concerned that he/she may have a bladder stone please feel free to use our online appointment booking service to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced doctors.

Dr. Dan Phillips, DVM

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