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Published: May 22, 2012

Bladder stones in dogs are a somewhat common condition that can lead to complications for the canine if left untreated. All pet owners should take the time to understand how bladder stones are formed and what can be done to help treat the dog if the condition develops.

It helps to have an idea of how bladder stones form.  It may  be difficult to comprehend how rock-like minerals find their way into a dog's body. All dog food contains certain minerals that, while small, are similar in chemical composition to the rocks you would find outdoors. A dog’s body is capable of breaking down these minerals and using them as nutrients.  Some of these minerals are naturally found in the urine but they don’t normally cause a problem because the acidity and concentration of the urine keeps the minerals dissolved.

However, certain bladder infections in dogs may cause the urine of a dog to become less acidic.  Bacteria can increase the amount of ammonia in the bladder, which causes the urine to become less acidic. The urine is then unable to dissolve the minerals. Consequently, sharp pieces of these minerals can become embedded in the dog's bladder lining, attached to mucus. The bladder stone then becomes an amalgam of small minerals held together by the animal's mucus secretions.

While bladder stones are similar to kidney stones, a dog suffering from one of these conditions does not necessarily have the other. That being said, owners with dogs who have kidney-related diseases should be on the lookout for bladder stones, as they are more common in these animals.

Clinical signs of bladder stones in dogs include blood in the urine and straining to urinate. If an owner notices either of these two signs, they should take their dog to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Bladder stones that are untreated may eventually become lodged in the urethra, which will prevent the animal from emptying its bladder. This is an emergency situation which is extremely painful for the dog and will require quick action to fix.

Owners have two main options for dealing with bladder stones depending on the type of stone present. Surgery is a common option as the procedure is quite safe and dogs have a quick recovery period. However, it's also possible to break down some types of bladder stones over time with a change in diet and certain medications or supplements.   Talk with your veterinarian about the best course of action for your animal so the pain of bladder stones can be avoided.