Bladder stones in dogs and cats are more common than many pet owners are willing to accept.  However, there are things you can do to prevent them… or prevent them from returning.

Most owners never suspect that their pet has bladder stones.  If they suspect a medical issue, the first thought is urinary tract infection.   They may notice more frequent urination, or blood in the urine, or a new habit of peeing in the house.   Cats may sit in the litter pan for long periods at a time.

Sometimes owners will suspect that this is a behavioral issue, rather than a medical one.  If you notice these behaviors or symptoms in your dog, or suspect that your dog has bladders stones, the only way to know for sure, is to get an ultrasound, x-ray and urinalysis.  These 3 tests together will give you a clear understanding of the issue at hand.


If you suspect that your pet has Bladder Stones

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There could be any number of causes of bladder stones in dogs and cats, but the primary catalyst is dietary in nature.  Bladder stones usually form when your pet can’t completely empty their bladder of urine.  Giving your dog too little water, and then not taking them out often enough can cause urine to sit in the bladder for a long time.  Chemicals in the urine form crystals, which will collect and  eventually harden into bladder stones.    The best way to avoid this is to make sure they are well hydrated and have plenty of time outside.


Food and genetics are also factors, as some food ingredients and minerals don’t digest well with some animals.  Also, smaller dogs are more likely than bigger dogs to contract bladder stones.  High levels of certain ingredients in dog foods can increase the chance of crystal formation in the urine, if the pet is not emptying it’s baldder often.  The best way to prevent bladder stones is to make sure your dog is getting plenty of water, and going out often.

If your dog does indeed have bladder stones, changes to the diet and exercise plan will need to be made, to avoid further instances.  Understanding the composite of the stones is instrumental in preventing further issues. Surgery is the quickest and most effective way to surgery to remove them, and then send them to a lab for analysis.  Understanding what the stone CORE is comprised of will help you understand how to change your pet’s diet, so that this problem doesn’t arise again in the future.

What are bladder stones made of?

Bladder stones removed from one, small dog.
Actual bladder stones shown in the x-ray, removed and cleaned, ready for analysis.

There are over a dozen common types of bladder stones, but the most common bladder stones found in dogs and some cats are Struvite and Oxalate.  Struvite stones in dogs are started by an enzyme called urease, because of the urinary changes that occur with specific types of bladder infection: almost always Staphylococcal infection, but occasionally a Proteus infection. If a urine culture from a patient with a bladder stone should grow either staph or proteus, this would make struvite more likely than oxalate.  Also, struvite requires an alkaline pH to form while oxalate requires an acid pH to form; urine pH is a part of any urinalysis and thus provides another clue as to the stone identity.  They primarily consist of Magnesium Ammonium Phostphate and Calcium Oxalate Monohydrate.

Struvite  Stone creation is made possible , that is produced by certain bacteria, like Staphylococci and Proteus.

Signs and symptoms of bladder stones may include:

  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Difficulty urinating or interrupted urine flow.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Cloudy or abnormally dark-colored urine.
  • Sitting in litter box for long periods.

Which Dog are Most Breeds at Risk?

Smaller dogs tend to develop bladder stones more often that larger dogs, but that doesn’t mean that larger dogs are immune to them.  Dogs that are seen the first time for bladder stones are about 8 years old, but they may have been developing since around 4 or 5 years old.

Here is a list of the most common breeds of dogs seen for bladder stones.

  • Bichon Frise
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Jack Russell
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Maltese
  • MN Pinscher
  • MN Schnauzer
  • Pomeranian
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Male dogs are more likely than females and neutered males are more likely than unaltered males, to get bladder stones and infections.

Research from an Epidemiologic evaluation of calcium oxalate urolithiasis (bladder stones) study in dogs in the United States, from 2010‐2015.  Calcium oxalate uroliths were submitted more often from male dogs than from female dogs (73.1% versus 26.9%) and were more common in neutered (85.5%) than intact dogs (14.5%).

Top 10 Struvite breeds