Bladder stones and urine crystals 

Your pet's life is not always a smooth ride. Sometimes they literally land on the rocks! Stones do not belong in the body, but quite frequently we do find them in various organs and tissues. They affect virtually all pets from dogs and cats to bunnies and reptiles. 

One of the most common sites for stone formation is the bladder. Urinary stones can also be found in the kidneys and anywhere along the urinary tract.  

There are many kinds, sizes and shapes of bladder stones, which form from mineral crystal build-up in the urine. Factors such as urine concentration, frequency of urination, urine acidity, bladder infections and other factors that facilitate crystallization are responsible for the stone development.

Some breeds are prone to bladder stones. Congenital problems are also known to cause them. Dalmatians and English Bulldogs have a defect in urate metabolism and are prone to urate stones. Many small breeds, such as Yorkshire terriers and Schnauzers have a congenital liver shunt that causes high levels of blood ammonia and urates. Newfoundland dogs have a kidney defect that causes cystine stones. 

Low water intake and diet also cause stone formations. High levels of calcium, due to a calcium rich diet, excess vitamin D or diseases such as hyperactive parathyroid gland, cause calcium deposits in the bladder.

Many pets will have little or no clinical signs. The stones are found accidentally by the veterinarian. Signs may be common to other problems, such as urinary tract conditions, and include frequent and painful urination, urinating in the house, bloody or discolored urine, and pain in the abdomen.

Bladder stones may be found by palpation of the bladder, x-rays and ultrasounds, while crystals are seen and identified in the urine analysis. Large stones are removed surgically and sent for analysis. A complete blood test, urine culture and other additional tests are sometimes needed to complete the diagnosis.

While large stones require surgical removal, some small stones and crystals may be dissolved medically or by special diets. The stone composition is needed to correctly formulate the medical treatment.

Antibiotics are usually used to control infections. Future stone formation is addressed through medications and special dietary formulations. Moist diets help increase the water intake and pets should be encouraged to drink plenty of water. It is also important that the pets do not hold urine in the bladder for long periods because of an inability to go out in the case of dogs, or a litter box problem in the case of cats.

Periodic exams, urine analysis and other tests are important to keep the patient pets healthy and to fine-tune the treatment.

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Veterinarians, Animal hospital