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Bladder Stones in Dogs: Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Bladder Stones in Dogs: Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Does it seem like your pup is whining at the door to use the bathroom far more than usual? Is your normally very polite pooch having accidents indoors?

This all might be a sign that their bathroom routine is disrupted and there is something wrong with their urinary system.

Figuring out if your dog has bladder stones while at home isn’t black and white. You can’t necessarily tell if your dog is passing a bladder stone or not at any given moment, but if their behavior is changing and they are in some sort of discomfort, it’s best to ask your veterinarian.

Bladder stones are one of those things that, until we are seeing the x-rays of your dog’s bladder, we won’t understand the exact severity of it.

If you are worried that your dog might be dealing with bladder stones, contact your vet immediately to figure out the next best steps. If you’re on the fence, keep reading to learn more about bladder stones, their symptoms, and their treatment.

What Are Bladder Stones?

Bladder stones, also known as uroliths or cystic calculi, are formations of minerals that form in the urinary bladder and resemble little rock-like substances. There are four main types of bladder stones: struvite stones, urate stones, cystine stones, and calcium oxalate stones.

These stones aren’t necessarily one size and can instead be a range of different sizes. A dog might have one large stone that won’t pass or multiple stones of all sizes that are passing at different times.

Regardless of what kind of bladder stone affects your pup’s health, the pain is often high and can be very uncomfortable. Seeking help as soon as possible can put their pain at ease and help them get through this very unwanted ordeal and back to playing at the park.

Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Bladder stones might start small and seemingly insignificant, but they can compile and grow in both size and number. Some signs of bladder stone formation include abnormalities like:

  • Blood in your dog’s urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Struggling to urinate due to blockage
  • Frequent urination and dribbling urine
  • Urinating in the house
  • Licking at the urinary opening
  • Overall discomfort

If your dog is unable to urinate and hasn’t gone to the bathroom in a noticeably long time, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, as this is likely an emergency.

Kidney Stones and Gallstones: What You Need To Know

Bladder stones are not to be mistaken for kidney stones or gallstones. While all are uncomfortable and affect the same structure, they are different in their own ways. Gallstones form in the gallbladder, and kidney stones form in the kidney. To see what exactly is going on in your pet, your dog will need to undergo an x-ray.

How Do Bladder Stones Form?

Bladder stones usually form in one of two ways:

  • The first is when certain minerals in a pet’s body aren’t processed correctly in the urinary system, and they begin to build up in rock-like forms.
  • The second is when specific mineral levels in your pet’s body become too high; the minerals crystallize and harden into bladder stones.

This could be caused by a multitude of things: an issue with your dog’s metabolism, dietary factors, or a previous disease like a bladder infection. It can happen at any time and at any age, so it’s not like one group is more likely to get it than another.

For the most part, the main kinds of minerals found to create bladder stones are struvite crystals, calcium oxalate, urate, and cystine crystals. Some types are more common in male dogs than female dogs.

Different underlying conditions and issues can also influence the stone formation in a dog. If your dog has any of the following, it might increase the risk of them developing bladder stones:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Kidney disease
  • Urine acidity and alkalinity (urine ph)
  • Nutritional imbalance
  • Decrease in water intake
  • Genetic or breed predisposition

How Long Does It Take for a Kidney Stone To Form?

The crystallization of minerals in your dog’s bladder doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for a bladder stone to fully form. Depending on the quantity of crystalline material available, your dog’s bladder stones hardly have a known timeline.

It may take months for a very large bladder stone to form and then affect your dog. You might not even realize that something so sinister is building in your dog’s body until they struggle to use the bathroom and look in pain.

Diagnosing Bladder Stones

The only way to truly diagnose bladder stones is for a DVM to perform an x-ray or radiographs on your dog. Before you get to this point, your veterinarian will do a physical examination and ask about your dog’s diet and history. At the same time that they will recommend an x-ray, they will also probably want to run a urinalysis, urine culture, and bloodwork to ensure there isn’t anything else wrong.

A dog’s bladder stones can also be identified through the abdominal wall with your fingers by being palpated. Some, though, will be too small to feel or too large to actually palpate. The earlier that you get this diagnosis, the better off your dog will be. They might be able to avoid any urinary obstructions later on and instead find treatment immediately.

Treatment Options for Bladder Stones

Due to the variety of bladder stones, including their size and location, treating them is very personal. It’s likely that your veterinarian will discuss treatment for your pet specifically so that they can get the exact treatment that they need.

There are three main treatments for bladder stones:

  1. Surgical removal
  2. Urohydropropulsion
  3. Dietary dissolution through a special diet

Surgical Removal

Surgical removal is the quickest way to treat bladder stones, although it’s not an option for every pup since some dogs don’t tolerate anesthesia well.

In this surgery, the stones are removed via a cystotomy (when the surgeons go in and open the bladder to remove the stones). This procedure can remove the stones if they happen to be blocking your pet’s urethra, yet it’s not always necessary, and other options are available.


Urohydropropulsion is useful when the bladder stones are small and somewhat passable. You put a catheter into the bladder to help flush out the stones. This is usually done under anesthesia as well. Additionally, your vet might use a cystoscope, a small instrument that can sometimes remove small stones without surgery.

Dietary Dissolution

Dietary dissolution is the third way to treat bladder stones. This involves feeding your dog a diet that is formulated to dissolve bladder stones. These diets are always tailored to a specific kind of mineral found in your dog’s body.

This is a great option for those trying to avoid surgery, but this method has some disadvantages:

  • This method doesn’t work for all stone types, and your dog will have to undergo stone analysis to find out if they are dissolvable.
  • It can take several weeks to dissolve the stone, and your dog might have recurring infections during the process. They often are placed on antibiotics to help prevent other bacterial infections.
  • Lastly, not all dogs will eat the prescription diet, so you might be out of luck. These diets only work if it’s what is being fed to your dog exclusively. No treats or supplements can be given to your dog during this time, which is sometimes harder for the owner than the dog.

Preventing Bladder Stones

In some cases, prevention is possible! This will depend on the mineral composition of the stones, but you can get a better idea of this once the stones are removed. If they are removed or small enough to pass through the bladder, they should be tested for their chemical composition. You might be able to alter their diets to help balance out the mineral composition in their body.

Encouraging your dog to increase their water consumption can help to prevent bladder stones as it can lower the acidity in your dog’s body. Some vets will recommend that you switch to the canned dog food version of your pet’s food to increase their fluid intake.

By staying on top of your dog’s health, you can also help to prevent bladder stones. This looks like taking care of other underlying conditions and getting them checked out at the vet regularly. If your pet is suffering from a kidney infection or UTI, this might aid in the formation of bladder stones, so treating all other issues with your dog can better protect them from forming other health-related issues.

Get Answers From the Experts

When it comes to your pet, even the littlest thing can pique your interest. If your dog’s behavior changes in the slightest, you will be the first person to recognize it. This can be a good thing, especially when your dog is in pain.

When you aren’t sure what to do, reach out to AskVet Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ 24/7. You can reach out and talk with the highly-trained CPLCs about your dog’s change in behavior, and they can recommend the best next steps.

If you think your dog might be struggling to urinate or experiencing pain, AskVet can help determine the issues and provide support as needed. Sign up today and get started in a whole new world of pet care for only $9.99 a month.



Urinary Stones | American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Stones In Cats And Dogs: What Can Be Learnt From Them? | NCBI

Canine Struvite Urolith Medical Dissolution | Minnesota Urolith Center


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