As bizarre as it sounds, stones can form in the bladder or elsewhere in the urinary tract of your pet. These stones are called calculi, and can range from very tiny to golf ball size!
These calculi form due to supersaturation (overload) of urine with minerals. These minerals join together to form microscopic crystals, and the crystals then join together to form calculi. The type of stone formed depends on the minerals present, but some of the common types in dogs and cats are struvite, calcium oxalate and urate. Treatment and prevention of further stone formation depends on the type of stone present.
Signs that your kitty or pooch has bladder stones are very similar to the signs of urinary tract infection. These may include difficulty urinating, frequent urination, blood in the urine and pain. In some cases, a tiny stone could become stuck in the narrow tubes that carry urine from the bladder to the kidneys (ureters) or the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world (urethra), and this a very painful and life threatening situation.
Diagnosis of bladder stones is usually done by checking a urine sample and by imaging tests such as X-rays and ultrasound. The next step is to find out what type of stone is present, as this will dictate treatment. Certain types of stones and large stones of any type will need to be removed surgically. In other cases, a change of diet may be instituted to alter the characteristics of the urine in order to dissolve the stones. If a blockage has occurred, this needs to be relieved as an emergency. It is likely that the patient would need to continue on a special diet or medications long-term to prevent re-formation of calculi.
Share this article with your cat and dog-loving friends so they can recognize symptoms should they arise.