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Struvite Bladder Stones (Dogs)

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Bladder stones are rock-like formations of minerals that form in the urinary bladder, and are more common than kidney stones in dogs. The more common name for this type of bladder stone is struvite bladder stone.

How did my dog get these stones? Normal dog urine is slightly acidic and contains waste products from metabolism including dissolved mineral salts and other compounds. Struvite is a normal component of dog's urine and will remain dissolved as long as the urine is acidic and is not too concentrated. If the urine becomes exceptionally concentrated or if it becomes alkaline (opposite to acidic), struvite crystals will fall out of solution. In dogs, struvite bladder stones usually form as a complication of a bladder infection caused by bacteria that produce an enzyme known as urease. This enzyme breaks down the urea that is normally present in the urine causing an excess production of ammonia; this ammonia production then causes the urine to become alkaline.

Ammonia in the urine also causes bladder inflammation. Under these environmental conditions, struvite crystals will precipitate out of solution and collect around any cells or debris that may have formed in the bladder as a result of inflammation. Other causes of alkaline urine such as certain kidney diseases, long-term use of diuretic drugs or antacids, and other conditions that cause elevated urine pH or elevated levels of urinary phosphorus or ammonia can also predispose a dog to the formation of struvite bladder stones. Bladder stones are somewhat common in dogs, and struvite stones are the most common. . Breeds most commonly diagnosed with struvite and calcium oxalate bladder stones include Shih Tzu, Miniature Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso, and Yorkshire Terrier. What are the main signs of bladder stones to look out for? The signs of bladder stones are very similar to those of an uncomplicated bladder infection or cystitis. The most common signs that a dog has bladder stones are blood in the urine and straining to urinate. Blood occurs because the stones rub against the bladder wall, irritating and damaging the tissue and causing bleeding. Straining to urinate may result from inflammation and swelling of the bladder walls or the urethra, from muscle spasms, or from a physical obstruction to urine flow. Large stones may act almost like a valve or stopcock, causing an intermittent or partial obstruction at the neck of the bladder, the point where the bladder attaches to the urethra. Small stones may flow with the urine into the urethra where they can become lodged and cause an obstruction. If an obstruction occurs, the bladder cannot be emptied fully; if the obstruction is complete, the dog will be unable to urinate at all. If the obstruction is not relieved, the bladder may rupture. A complete obstruction is potentially life threatening and requires immediate emergency treatment.

How are struvite bladder stones diagnosed by your vet? In some cases, if your dog is relaxed and the bladder is not too painful, your veterinarian may be able to feel struvite stones in the bladder. However, some stones are too small to be felt this way. Often, bladder stones are diagnosed by means of a X-ray of the bladder, or by means of an ultrasound. How are struvite bladder stones treated?

Struvite bladder stones are treated by your vet.

How can I prevent my dog from developing struvite bladder stones in the future?

Prescription diet and regular check ups with your vet.

Some vets will put your dog on meds too

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