Can a dog live with bladder stones or do they have to be surgically removed?
Original Question: My veterinarian told me that my dog has bladder stones. Do I have to get them surgically removed or can he live with them the rest of his life? He's only 5 years old. - Michelle
I’m Dr. Clayton Greenway with healthcareforpets.com and we’re answering questions this morning. Michelle has sent one in and it says, “My veterinarian told me that my dog has bladder stones. Do I have to do the surgery to remove them or can he live with them the rest of his life? He’s only five years old.”
This is a good question. I like the way she says my veterinarian told me that my dog has bladder stones. I always like to show people the X-ray of the bladder stone so they really have a concept of it and if your veterinarian doesn’t X-ray, you should really take a look at it because it lets you understand exactly what’s going on. But bladder stones are an interesting problem. So obviously your veterinarian can see these stones in the bladder and I suppose from the question, if she’s asking, “Can he live with them forever?” She’s probably not seeing any problems related to this and we do see this sometimes where we actually find stones incidentally when we’re doing X-rays for other things. And so stones in the bladder, they can bounce around, they can irritate the bladder, they can make your dog pee more often in small volumes and that’s called pollakiuria because the bladder hurts, so when they start to pee it hurts, so they stop because they tense up. So that’s a symptom of also infection and inflammation from the stones. Infection can come along with the stones because the bacteria can live on the stones and that can be a problem giving them antibiotics, they may not be able to reach that bacteria, so sometimes you have the symptoms come back and come back. People can think there are recurrent infections but it’s actually stones.
The next thing is, is the concern I have is that it’s a male dog and male dogs have more problems with getting blocked. So stones can fall into the urethra and block them and in that case and when I see it, it’s an emergency. A dog can die very easily from that given a day or two, so you’re going to have to take immediate action if something like that happens and your dog is not producing urine if you know that there are stones there. If that happens, now you’re in crisis, so you might end up at an emergency clinic, it might be really expensive to deal with the problem before you even get to the surgery of removing the stones.
So once you know there are stones there, how do you do with them? Well, you can surgically remove them but first what you want to try to figure out is what type of stone it is. There’s about four types of stones. You can find the crystals when you do a urinalysis and that should tell you about the stone. Most of them will shed crystals, so you find out what type of stone it is and some of them can be mixed stones so they don’t all have to be of one kind but there are foods that can actually dissolve certain stones and the most common one is called struvite and a food can change the acidity level of the urine, dissolve the stone, and you’re okay there but another very common stone that some breeds are really prone to creating is called calcium oxalate and those ones typically do not dissolve whatsoever and they have to be removed surgically.
What I think Michelle needs to think about in this question is whether she wants to take control of this issue. The dog is probably a little bit uncomfortable but she’s not noticing it and dogs are pretty stoic. The problem is it’s a ticking time bomb. If that stone falls into the urethra, it’s going to be a lot more expensive to deal with that problem and the dog’s going to go through a lot more discomfort and a lot more trauma getting that solved then if she is proactive and does the surgery to remove them.
First you should figure out what stones they are, see if they’re dissolvable, take another X-ray after a diet to see if they have dissolved and then address them surgically if they’re not. So hopefully that helps, you let us know how things go and good luck with it. Keep those questions coming to healthcareforpets.com where we’re dedicated to your pet’s health.
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