How Do I Know If My Dog Has Bladder Stones?

Everything you need to know about bladder stones in dogs.

dog with bladder stones

If you know anything about bladder stones in people, you probably know that they’re extremely painful. But did you know that dogs can get bladder stones, too?

We reached out to Dr. Aliya McCullough, a veterinarian on staff at Fetch by The Dodo, to get the answers to your questions about bladder stones in dogs.

What are bladder stones?

Bladder stones are made up of minerals that clump together in a dog’s bladder. And they can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to develop.

“There are many types of bladder stones, but struvite and calcium oxalate are the most common,” Dr. McCullough told The Dodo. “Dogs may also have urate bladder stones.”

Struvite bladder stones

Struvite stones are the most common type of bladder stones in dogs and are made of magnesium and phosphate. These are caused by a bacterial infection in the bladder.

According to Dr. McCullough, these types of stones are more common in young adult dogs, females and certain breeds, including miniature schnauzers, shih tzus, Yorkshire terriers, Labrador retrievers and dachshunds.

Calcium oxalate stones

Some dogs are more likely to develop calcium oxalate stones. In healthy dogs, a substance called nephrocalcin inhibits the formation of these types of stones, but some pups are born with a defect in this substance, Dr. McCullough said.

“Calcium oxalate stones are more common in middle- to old-age dogs, males and the miniature schnauzer, Lhasa apso, Yorkshire terrier, miniature poodle, shih tzu and bichon frise [breeds],” Dr. McCullough added.

Urate bladder stones

Urate bladder stones usually form due to genetic abnormalities that cause problems with how uric acid is metabolized, and they’re most common in certain breeds including dalmations and English bulldogs.

Symptoms of bladder stones in dogs

Some dogs may not show symptoms if they have small bladder stones, and will just pass them when they pee. For pups who do show symptoms, some common ones you might notice include:

If you notice any these signs, you should take your pup to the vet ASAP.

dog bladder stones
Evgeniy Kalinovskiy/

What causes bladder stones in dogs?

Bladder stones form when there are high amounts of minerals in a dog’s urine. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to developing bladder stones, and other factors that can lead to bladder stones include diets high in certain minerals, underlying medical conditions and bladder infections.

Diagnosis of bladder stones in dogs

Your vet might be able to feel stones by examining your pup’s abdomen, but they can’t always be felt.

Other ways to diagnose bladder stones include “urine testing and X-rays; however, not all stones can be seen with X-rays. In those cases, an abdominal ultrasound may be used,” Dr. McCullough said.

Treatment for bladder stones in dogs

Bladder stones can become a serious problem if they’re not treated.

“Not only are they painful for dogs, but their presence in the bladder leads to repeat UTIs,” Dr. McCullough said. “In male dogs, especially, bladder stones can move into the urethra, where they can block the passage of urine, leading to life-threatening complications.”

The most common treatment to remove the stones from a dog’s bladder is surgery. If the stones are blocking your dog’s urethra, he’ll need immediate surgery because that can become life-threatening.

Some dogs can’t have surgery, though, because they’re at higher risk for complications from anesthesia (risk factors include age, health conditions, breed and size). In these cases, vets can use other methods to remove bladder stones, such as:

  • Lithotripsy — This involves using a laser or shock waves to break the stones into small pieces.
  • Urohydropropulsion — This treatment uses liquid to flush stones out of your dog’s bladder.
  • Dietary dissolution — Your vet can recommend certain types of food that are formulated to dissolve bladder stones, like this Hill’s Prescription Diet food. This treatment doesn’t work for getting rid of calcium oxalate stones, though.

These treatments can get pretty expensive. From tests to diagnose your pet to removing the bladder stones, the cost can be well over $1,000, which is why having pet insurance to help you pay for procedures and treatment is a great idea.

(If you're looking for pet insurance, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo because it's made by and for adoring pet parents, and it's the most comprehensive coverage in the U.S. and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for, like prescribed supplements.)

How can you prevent bladder stones?

It’s important to make sure your pup stays hydrated because bladder stones are less likely to form in dilute urine. Give your dog plenty of water, or try feeding him wet food to increase his water intake.

Another thing you can do is feed your dog a prescription diet that’s formulated specifically to promote bladder and urinary health. And be sure to talk to your vet before giving your pup any supplements because adding too many vitamins and minerals to his diet can cause stones to form.

Try this Hill’s Prescription Diet wet food from Chewy

For dogs with recurring bladder stones, your vet might recommend having him X-rayed every year so they can catch any stones early on and treat them.

Bladder stones are definitely uncomfortable for your pup, so look out for these symptoms so you can get him treatment and help him feel better ASAP.

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