Bladder stones in dogs are mineral densities that form inside the bladder. They can form one at a time or in the hundreds.
The formation of bladder stones in dogs is usually related to a change in urine pH. This change in pH can be either acidic or alkaline, which will affect which type of stone ultimately forms. Diet is one factor that can affect urine pH.
Urine concentration can also affect bladder stone formation: the more concentrated a dog’s urine, the more likely stone formation is. The amount of water a dog drinks can affect their urine concentration.
A urinary tract infection may also be a factor in the development of bladder stones. In these cases, the stones are often struvite stones (versus calcium oxalate, which are the other common type of bladder stone in dogs and cats).
If your dog has bladder stones, your vet might recommend surgical removal, since bladder stones can cause pain, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and in the worst case, a urinary obstruction (blockage).
This procedure is called a cystotomy, and it involves opening the urinary bladder to remove the stones. The incisions are then closed with stitches and/or staples.
Recovery From Cystotomy in Dogs (Bladder Stone Removal)
If your dog seems lethargic, refuses food and water, or has a swollen belly, then check in with your vet right away.
Allow your dog to rest after surgery so their bladder and belly incision can heal. Running, jumping, or rough play can cause their stitches to loosen or even come out. This can lead to a life-threatening complication called uroabdomen, where urine leaks into the abdominal (belly) cavity instead of exiting the body through the urethra.
Usually, your vet will recommend activity restriction for two or more weeks. During this period, you will be asked to leash-walk your dog so you can keep close tabs on their urinary habits.
Monitoring Urine Output
Your dog may strain to urinate or may urinate more frequently at first, but they should be able to produce urine and should appear comfortable afterward. Your dog’s urine may be slightly blood-tinged for a few days post-surgery, but this should gradually improve.
If you are unsure if the color of your dog’s urine is normal or you see continued blood or blood clots, check in with your vet.
You will likely have to administer pain medication for the first week when your dog comes home. In some cases, antibiotics will also be given, as some dogs with bladder stones can also have urinary tract infections.
Your vet may prescribe a special diet that can help modify the pH of your dog’s urine and prevent certain types of bladder stones from reforming. This will depend on what type of stones your dog had in the first place. Some dogs will eat a special urinary diet for life.
During the recovery period, monitor your dog’s water intake and help your dog stay hydrated. You can encourage your dog to drink by having fresh bowls of water nearby and even giving them ice cubes for treats.
Your dog will need to wear an E-collar until their stitches are removed. Monitor their surgical site daily for any pain, redness, or inflammation. Call your vet if you see these signs of potential infection.