To some people the idea of stones in a dog's bladder may seem a strange one. However these are not garden rocks, but mineral deposits that form in urine and stick together to form solid objects which physically resemble stones. The factors that cause a stone to form include the dog's genetic makeup, his diet, how much water he drinks, and health problems.
Looking For Symptoms of Bladder Irritation
1. Understand that bladder stones have two phases. When they first form, they can rattle around inside the bladder like a stone in a tumble dryer and irritate the bladder wall.
2. Watch out for blood-stained urine. Bladder stones rubbing against the delicate mucous membrane lining the bladder may cause it to become inflamed. When the bladder lining becomes inflamed it is prone to bleeding. This blood collects in the bladder and is passed out when the dog urinates.
3. Keep track of any recurrent urinary infections. An inflamed bladder has a weakened lining that is more vulnerable to infection. Many dogs with bladder stones get repeated urinary infections.
4. Consider whether your dog is urinating more frequently. Inflammation affects not only the mucus membrane lining the bladder, but the nerves in the bladder wall. The inflamed nerves send an incorrect message to the brain that the bladder is full and needs emptying. This may result in the dog repeatedly trying to pass water even though his bladder is empty.
5. See if your dog displays signs of discomfort when urinating. A dog with a sore bladder as a result of bladder stones will have discomfort when urinating. This may manifest itself as the dog looking wary as he passes water, or fidgeting, stopping mid-stream and seeking a new spot to lift his leg, as if the location is causing the problem.
Looking For Symptoms of a Blocked Urethra
1. Be vigilant about signs of a blocked urethra. A bladder stone that blocks the urethra requires immediate veterinary attention. However, not all stones cause an obstruction, a lot depends on their size.
2. Look for non-productive urination. Like putting a plug in a sink, a trapped bladder stone stops the bladder from emptying out. Imagine the scenario where the sink taps are left running and the basin soon overflows.
3. Watch for repeated urinary straining. The dog, knowing his bladder is full, tries to urinate but nothing comes out. As the bladder gets fuller, his determination to urinate increases, but to no effect.
4. Take note if the dog is excessively licking his or her penile tip, vagina, or belly. Inflammation from the bladder lining can spread all the way down the urinary tract and some dogs lick their external genitalia in an attempt to alleviate their discomfort.
5. Examine your dog for abdominal distension. A large, hard bladder causes the dog's belly to distend. The bladder of a German Shepherd-sized dog can become football sized before it bursts, enough to visibly make his belly swell.
6. Seek immediate veterinary attention if your dog collapses. If the dog cannot void urine, the waste products of metabolism build up in the bladder and reflux back into the kidneys. Many of these waste products are toxins - potassium can be especially dangerous.
Diagnosing and Treating Canine Bladder Stones
1. Bring your dog to the vet for testing. If you notice any of the above signs then contact your veterinarian. In order to decide what the problem is she may request a urine sample for analysis.
2. Understand how a urine sediment exam works. To prepare the sample, approximately 1ml of urine is put into a mini-test tube and spun down in a centrifuge. The heavy cells and sediment sink to the bottom under gravity.
3. Get a visual on the bladder stone using an ultrasound. The two options used to detect bladder stones are radiography and /or ultrasonography. However, not all types of stone show up on x-ray because their mineral composition is of almost identical radio density to urine.
4. Understand the problems with radiography. The drawback to radiography is that not all stones show up. If the mineral composition is of similar density to urine, then the stone will be invisible on a plain x-ray (one where no contrast agent is injected into the bladder). This can give false negative results.
5. Be prepared for the possibility of surgery. Once a stone is found, the clinician needs to assess whether urgent action needs to be taken to avoid the risk of a urethral blockage.
6. Change your dog's diet to prevent the formation of new stones.