Are you staring down the barrel of a financial bill that could be just out of reach? If so, read on. This post is designed to provide in-depth information on bladder stones in dogs including ways to reduce the surgery costs.
Just like humans, a dog can be prone to certain health concerns. Most pet owners are familiar with ear infections, allergies, parasites, and dental disease, but did you know dogs can suffer from urinary bladder stones?
Bladder stones, also known as cystic calculi or uroliths, are solid, rock-like formations of minerals that develop in the bladder.
The stones can be found in sizes ranging from grains of sand to large stones, with a mixture of sizes being common.
They are not linked to other types of stones like kidney stones or gall stones. They are similar in that they are all caused by bacteria causing infection.
Unfortunately for our dogs, bladder stones can be quite painful. In some cases, they can be treated with a prescription diet and round of antibiotics. Cases involving large stones usually require surgery.
What Causes Bladder Stones in Dogs?
Bladder stones are caused by internal and external factors. Dogs normally have slightly acidic urine. It contains waste products that are normally flushed from the body during urination.
If the dog’s urine remains acidic, there usually isn’t any problem. However, if the urine becomes too concentrated or alkaline, bladder stones may develop.
Here are some of the most common conditions or factors that contribute to bladder stone formation:
- Dog food with high mineral content
- The urine pH levels being too high or too low
- Canine diabetes
- Genetic predisposition
- Bacterial infections
- Metabolic diseases
- Previous or recurrent bladder infections
Common Types of Stones
Many pet owners don’t realize that there is more than one type of bladder stone that can affect our furry friends. The following is a list of the most common types and what they mean.
Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs
Struvite bladder stones (aka magnesium ammonium phosphate hexahydrate) are common in dogs. This type of stone is, essentially, a hard mineral deposit. Generally speaking, they commonly present as crystals in urine without causing any problems.
Struvite stones are thought to account for 50% of all urinary stones in dogs.
Calcium Oxalate Stones
Calcium oxalate stones account for approximately 35% of all bladder stones in dogs.
It’s not well understood just why these types of stones occur. One theory for the development of these stones has to do with the normal increase of urinary calcium concentration combined with an increase in dietary oxalate may be the cause.
Oxalates (also known as oxalic acid) is a compound found in foods like:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Organ Meat
- Brown Rice
Orate Bladder Stones in Dogs
Urate bladder stones are thought to be the result of a genetic abnormality. This abnormality causes a disturbance in how uric acid is metabolized.
Urate bladder stones can also result from liver disease in dogs. Thankfully, urate stones only represent about 5% of all bladder stones in dogs.
Breeds More Prone to Bladder Stones
The breeds most likely to develop some type of bladder stones include:
- Bichon Frise
- Labrador Retriever
- Lhasa Apso
- Standard Schnauzer
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Miniature Poodles
- Shih Tzu
- Yorkshire Terrier.
Male vs Female Dogs With Bladder Stones
There is some evidence that points to specific bladder stone types according to the age and sex of the dog.
Female dogs are thought to account for 85% of the struvite stones diagnosed. Male dogs, however, account for 73% of dogs diagnosed with calcium oxalate stones.
Dogs who develop struvite stones are younger (in the two to four years old range). Dogs who develop calcium oxalate stones are typically between 5-12 years of age.
Signs & Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Dogs
Dogs with bladder stones may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms. Keep in mind that your dog may not have every sign on the list. In fact, the list below could indicate other urinary tract conditions.
The following signs could indicate the presence of bladder stones:
- Hematuria (blood in their urine)
- Dysuria (straining to urinate)
- Urinating small amount frequently
- Discolored or cloudy urine
- Licking their urinary opening
- Abdominal discomfort or sensitivity
- Urinary accidents
- Change in energy level or normal behavior
How a Diagnosis is Made
If your dog shows any significant symptoms of bladder stones, or if you suspect your dog may have bladder stones, get them to a veterinarian. If the veterinarian suspects bladder stones, he/she may perform or request the following:
In some cases, bladder stones can be felt with the fingers. An overweight dog may be difficult or impossible to palpate reliably. Normally, this is performed across the dog’s abdominal wall.
Sometimes the stones are too small or the dog is in too much pain to perform this simple procedure.
Radiographs record images of a dog’s internal structure. This is a painless procedure.
Sometimes an ultrasound (sonography) can detect the presence of bladder stones. This painless procedure uses high-frequency sound waves to take pictures within the body.
Urine Culture (Urinalysis)
The presence of bladder stones may also be detected through a urine culture or blood test.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Bladder Stones
Your dog’s treatment options will depend on the size of your dog’s bladder stones, and the severity of their condition.
One of the least invasive methods of bladder stone removal is dietary dissolution. To do this, a special diet will helps break down stones in your dog’s bladder.
This procedure can help to avoid surgery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on every type of stone. In addition, it can be a lengthy process. A strict therapeutic diet must be followed.
This procedure allows small stones to be passed through a urinary catheter and flushed from the bladder.
General anesthesia is often used in conjunction with heavy sedation. Unfortunately, this procedure is not useful in flushing large stones from the dog’s body.
Surgery, although invasive and expensive, may be your dog’s only option for bladder stone removal. This is especially true if they have large stones.
Bladder stone surgery is often the quickest method of treating urinary bladder stones and can be performed by most veterinarians. Dogs with underlying health conditions may not be good candidates.
How to Get a Urine Sample From Your Dog
If the veterinarian has requested a urine sample, there are a few things you can do. First, the veterinarian will likely want a fresh (first thing in the morning) sample. How you obtain the urine sample will depend on whether your dog is male or female.
To get a male urine sample, take him to the place he normally urinates. Wait until he begins before angling the sample cup into the stream. Remember, you only need a small amount. Secure the cap and bring to the veterinarian quickly.
It’s probably going to be messy so you may want to wear a glove. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
The process works pretty much the same way for females. The easiest way is to use a small bowl or old plate you don’t need anymore. Bring the sample cup from the veterinarian with you along with the plate/bowl you plan to use.
Wait for your dog to squat and, when she does, quickly slip the bowl beneath her. When she’s done, just pour the sample into the sample cup. Secure the cap and bring to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
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Get a Urine Sample From Your Dog INDOORS
If you’re lucky enough to have a doggy lawn (a patch of real grass that sits in a frame) you won’t even have to venture outside for this process.
DoggyLawn is an environmentally-friendly patch of grass for dogs of every size. It’s a popular solution for dogs who have an injury or are recovering from surgery who still have to use the bathroom. Instead of risking further injury or pain by making them go outside, you can easily train them to “go potty” inside!
These are great for dogs who aren’t feeling well enough to go outside. They also come in handy for people living in apartments or condos. It’s not so bad in the warm months, but if you live in a cooler climate you’ll know what I’m talking about.
If your dog has to pee more than usual (even if he/she just has the urge!) you’re going to have to bundle up and take your precious pooch out every single time.
If you’re lucky enough to have a DoggyLawn, the process of collecting a urine sample is the same. It’s just that much easier because you don’t have to navigate rocky, muddy, or uneven terrain.
Just position your sample cup (angle into the stream for males or slip a plate under a female) and easily get the sample.
7 Effective Ways to Lower Bladder Stone Surgery Costs
Not every dog is a good candidate for surgery. If your dog fits that description, you may be looking at a costly bill. Of course, we do whatever we can for our pets! But…if you can find a way to cut some of that cost, wouldn’t you want to?
The Cost of Cystotomy in Dogs
The cost of surgery will vary depending on whether you live in a rural or urban area. The cost of a specialist (if required) will cost more as well.
The following are some easy ways to help cut costs on your overall dog surgery costs. Generally speaking, the average cost of surgery for dogs ranges between $800 and $1400.
The final bill usually includes pre-anesthetic bloodwork, take-home medication, and other necessities.
Before you panic read the rest of this post. We’ve compiled some of the most commonly used methods of reducing the overall cost of bladder surgery for dogs.
Low-Interest Credit Card or Line of Credit
If you are interested in paying back the cost of the surgery at a later date, you may want to use a low-interest credit card or line of credit.
You should check with your bank beforehand to see what you are qualified for and the rates you may be eligible for. In some cases, the interest rates on a line of credit can be lower than on a credit card.
Ask To Pay in Installments
If you are unable to pay for the entire surgery upfront or prefer to break it up, ask your veterinarian’s office about paying in installments. Not all offices will offer this, but many offices will do their best to work with you to get your dog the surgery they need without putting you into a financial crisis.
Ask About Human-Grade Medications
You may be surprised to learn how many medications you can use for your dog straight from your local pharmacy. Many over-the-counter human medications work the same way for dogs are they do for dogs, and they can be much cheaper.
Pet insurance is great, but it has to be purchased before your dog has a diagnosis requiring treatment. For that reason, you should consider getting pet insurance for your dog as soon as you bring them home.
CareCredit is similar to a typical credit card but meant specifically to help cover healthcare costs for your furry friend. It can be used on routine care such as annual check-ups, and medications, as well as veterinary surgeries and emergencies.
Unlike some forms of veterinary payment plans or pet financing, CareCredit gives its customers the flexibility to use the card repeatedly for their pet’s needs and procedures.
If you aren’t satisfied with the surgery cost quoted to you, it’s okay for you to get quotes from other clinics or veterinary surgeons. Rural veterinarian clinics are likely less expensive. If you live in an urban environment, it may be worth driving a little outside of your area to get a better price.
If you are trying to save money, you can let your veterinarian know that you would prefer to get all of your take-home supplies somewhere else. Request an itemized invoice to see a list of all the items you are being billed for.
You may be able to shave a little off the price by removing any nonessentials.
Being upfront with your veterinarian about your need or desire to save money is the best course, as they can advise you on which items or treatments are necessary, and which are not.
Follow-Up Reading Hand Picked For You
Read the post directly related to this called Dog Bladder Cancer – Signs, Symptoms and Life Expectancy.
Other Related Posts to Read Include:
Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs
7 Clinical Reasons Why Your Dog is Peeing in the Crate
Do Male Dogs Change After Being Neutered?
Ask What You Can Do From Home
Just like going to your doctor, or the hospital, return visits typically cost you more money, making your overall bill much larger. To avoid unnecessary vet visits for simple tasks, ask the veterinary staff what tasks you can easily complete at home.
Performing simple care tasks at home, will both allow you to take the best care of your dog, and save you the money you would have spent at the clinic. Cleaning wounds, and rebandaging, taking your dog’s temperature, and even simple injections are among the many skills you could learn.
Bladder stones are an unpleasant and painful condition that can happen to any dog. They come in multiple types, affect different dogs differently, and can be treated in a variety of ways.
It is normal for treatment, especially surgeries to be a costly necessity for your furry friend. If your dog has bladder stones and requires a surgical procedure, hopefully, some of our tips and tricks can help save you money.
Remember that if you are concerned about your dog’s behavior or health, they should see their veterinarian immediately. Clinical signs or symptoms could be attributed to something minor, but they can just as easily be caused by a serious underlying disease or condition.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope you have found it helpful and informative. Please check out my website for more great posts about dogs’ health. Here are a few articles you may be interested in reading:
References and Resources
American College of Veterinary Surgeons. (2021). Urinary Stones. ACVS. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/urinary-stones.
Coates, J. (2018, October 25). Bladder Stones in Dogs: What are Signs and How to Best Treat Them. PetMD. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/bladder-stones-in-dogs-what-are-the-signs-treame nt.
Hunter, T., & Ward, E. (2021). Bladder stones in dogs. vca_corporate. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bladder-stones-in-dogs.
Richardson, J., Bourjaily, M., & Keefe, E. (2021). Bladder Stones in Dogs. Small Door Veterinary. Retrieved November 10, 2021, from https://www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/bladder-stones-in-dogs.
Wooten, S. (2020, August 26). Bladder & Urinary Stones in Dogs: What They Are and How They’re Treated. Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/healthcare/bladder-stones-in-dogs.