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Bladder Stones and your Pets: What you Need to Know

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Bladder stones are a condition that both dogs and cats can suffer from. Sometimes bladder stones are a minor health complication that can be resolved with simple non-invasive treatments, but other times they can be life threatening. So we thought we’d give you a little bit more information about what bladder stones are, what causes them, what you can do to help try and prevent them in your cat or dog, and what treatments are available.

What are Bladder Stones?Bladder stones are hard deposits of minerals or crystals that form in the bladder. These stones can be extremely small to begin with, but they have the potential to grow in size,irritatethe bladder walls, and possibly obstruct your pet’s ability to pass urine. There are different types of bladder stones that are caused by the accumulation of different minerals. Struvite and calcium oxalate are two of the most common kinds of bladder stones in pets. They form when the pH of the urine changes, becoming more alkaline to form struvite stones and more acidic to form calcium oxalate stones.

What Causes Them?There are a number of factors that cause bladder stones in dogs and cats, but the bottom line is that the pH environment in urine is usually balanced in such a way that it can break up minerals, which are flushed from your pet’s system when he or she does their business. Changes in that environment allow for the buildup of minerals, causing the stones. Certain breeds of dogs and cats are at greater risk for developing bladder stones due to genetics alone. Your pet’s diet can also be a cause, as the mineral content of some diets may impact whether stones develop. One of the larger causes of bladder stones is whether pets are getting enough water and having the opportunity to empty their bladders on a frequent basis. Water in the bladder helps to dilute the concentration of minerals. The longer a pet holds his or her bladder, the greater the concentration of minerals in it that can cause stones, so ingesting adequate water and having the opportunity to flush out the bladder are both important. A lack of the proper amount of exercise can also contribute to the development of bladder stones.

How can I Tell if my Furry Friend has them?The two most common symptoms of bladder stones are blood in the urine and painful urination. These symptoms are the same as those caused by bladder infections, and often the formation of bladder stones in pets is concurrent with a urinary tract infection. The blood in the urine is caused by irritation of the bladder as a result of crystals or stones rubbing up against the bladder walls. Another symptom to watch for is an increased frequency in the need to urinate. Your dog might want to be let out constantly or your cat might visit her litter box with great frequency. During these frequent bathroom breaks, you might notice your pet straining to do his or her business, and very little urine may result. This could be caused either by the fact that your pet’s bladder is empty from previous bathroom breaks, or that the flow of urine is being obstructed by larger stones. In advanced cases, your pet might also appear to be depressed, lethargic, or even vomit.

As soon as you become aware that your pet may have a bladder infection or bladder stones, it is important that you take him or her to her vet immediately. Your pet’s doctorwill examine your furry friend and make a conclusive diagnosis. Sometimes, if the stones are large enough, a veterinarian will be able to feel the stones in your pet’s bladder. Ultrasound and x-ray tests can usually deliver a sure diagnosis of whether stones are present. In some cases, a urinalysis can also be done to determine if there is aninfectionor stones are present.

What Treatments are Available for Bladder Stones?There are several options for treatment of bladder stones, and the course that your pet’s doctor recommends will be largely dependent on the size and mineral composition of the stones. Sometimes stones are small enough that they will be passed through regular urination. In these cases, your vet might recommend ways to encourage him or her to drink and urinate more frequently. If it is likely that the stones have been caused by mineral imbalances in your pet’s diet, your vet might prescribe a special kind of food that helps dissolve the stones and prevent new ones from forming. In some cases a procedure can be performed at the clinic to sedate your furry friend and help him or her pass the stones by flushing the bladder. Finally, in some cases, surgical removal of the stone might be necessary. This occurs if the stone is too large to pass, or has obstructed your pet’surinarytract, a potentially life-threatening condition.

How Can I Prevent Them?While you may not be able to completely guarantee that your pet won’t develop bladder stones, there are definitely some things that you can do to help prevent them. In this post we’ve discussed the importance of water intake and correct dietary composition. You may wish to consult your vet about your pet’s diet at his or her nextappointment. Sometimes veterinarians will recommend changes to diet as animals age. Additionally, you should always make ample amounts of fresh, clean water readilyavailableto your pet. Try to get on a routine schedule of letting your dog outside for bathroom breaks, and make sure that your cat’s litter box is clean and accessible at all times. Also, encourage your pet to exercise. You can do this by setting aside some time each day to participate in a short play session with your animal companion. It doesn’t take much exercise to meet your pet’s needs, but it’s important that physical activity be part of the daily routine.

If you think that your pet may have developed bladder stones, contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If you have further questions, feel free to chat us up at your pet’s next appointment. We’re always happy to provide you with as much information as we can to help you be the best pet parent you can be!

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