Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Bladder stones in dogs can cause urinary problems and even become life-threatening if they entirely block the bladder. In this blog post, our vets in Pittsboro will discuss this condition, its causes and symptoms, and the treatment options.

What are bladder stones in dogs?

Bladder stones, also known as uroliths or cystic calculi, are mineral deposits that can form rock-like structures in a dog's urinary bladder. They can occur as a collection of small stones or a single larger stone, ranging in size from a grain of sand to gravel. Dogs can have both small and large stones in their bladder.

What are the symptoms of bladder stones?

The most common signs of bladder stones in dogs include:

  • Hematuria (blood in urine)
  • Dysuria (straining to urinate)

Stones rubbing against the bladder wall can cause irritation and tissue damage, leading to bleeding. Swelling, inflammation of the urethra or bladder wall, physical obstruction of urine flow, or muscle spasms can also cause dysuria.

What causes bladder stones in dogs?

The Precipitation-Crystallization Theory typically explains bladder stone formation. This theory suggests that one or more crystalline compounds may be present in a dog's urine, and high levels of these compounds can result in stone formation due to factors such as dietary habits or previous bladder disease, like a bacterial infection. Sometimes, the issue is caused by the body's metabolism.

When the urine becomes saturated with the crystalline compound due to high acidity (pH) or specific minerals in the urine, tiny crystals can form and irritate the bladder lining, causing the production of mucous that sticks to the crystals. Clusters of crystals then form and harden into stones.

The time taken for bladder stones to form may vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the amount of crystalline material present and the degree of infection.

What food causes bladder stones in dogs?

Dogs can develop bladder stones when they eat a diet high in carbohydrates, particularly fillers like grains, which are often added to commercial dog foods. Excessive intake of grains can interfere with the dog's acid levels, leading to the formation of bladder stones.

To prevent this, some veterinarians recommend low-protein, low-phosphorus, and low-magnesium diets. However, a diet based on meat may be the best option, as it is a natural source of protein that keeps urine acidic, thus preventing the growth of stones in the bladder. Besides, it is essential to keep your dog hydrated by encouraging them to drink plenty of water, as it helps flush out small crystals from the bladder.

Diagnosis of Bladder Stones in Dogs

The symptoms of bladder stones can be similar to those of cystitis or an uncomplicated bladder infection. However, it's important to know that these conditions are different. Most dogs who have bladder stones don't have a bladder infection. Therefore, your vet may need to do further investigation to make an accurate diagnosis.

Some stones may be too small to be detected by palpating them through the bladder wall, or the bladder may be too inflamed. Your vet may also recommend other diagnostic options such as x-rays, ultrasonic bladder examination, or an ultrasound or radiographic contrast study.

How to Get Rid of Bladder Stones in Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with bladder stones, you may wonder about treatments that can dissolve them. There are three potential treatments for bladder stones in dogs:

  • Surgical removal
  • Non-surgical removal by urohydropropulsion
  • Prescription diet and antibiotics

When left untreated, these stones can become painful and obstruct the neck of the bladder or urethra, preventing your dog from fully emptying its bladder and only producing small squirts of urine.

Complete obstructions can lead to urine being totally blocked. If the obstruction is not relieved, this blockage can cause a potentially life-threatening condition and lead to a ruptured bladder. Such a situation would be classified as a veterinary medical emergency, requiring immediate attention from your veterinarian.

Other Types of Stones

Gallstones also form in the bladder but contain bile salts, while kidney stones are mineral formations that develop in the kidney. Neither of these are directly related to bladder stones. Though the urinary bladder and kidneys are both part of the urinary system, kidney stones are not usually associated with bladder stones. Inflammation or disease causes these stones to form in either of these structures.


After bladder stones are removed, the prognosis is generally good. However, preventive measures should be taken to avoid the recurrence of stones. Your primary care veterinarian should conduct ultrasounds or x-rays of your dog's bladder regularly (every few months) to check if stones are recurring. If the stones are small enough, non-surgical hydropulsion can be used to eliminate them.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is your dog having problems urinating? Our vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating many conditions and illnesses. Contact Pittsboro Animal Hospital
to book an appointment today. 

New Patients Welcome

Pittsboro Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Pittsboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (919) 542-5712