Canine Bladder Stones
Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Canine Bladder stones can affect both male and female dogs of all breeds and all ages and are increasingly common. Here we present an introduction to the different types of bladder stones in dogs and how they form.

In this article we explore:

Causes of Dog Bladder Stones

Struvite Stones

Struvite crystals typically only develop into bladder stones in dogs who have a bacterial bladder infection (cystitis). "Sterile struvite stones" are struvite stones that form in dogs without the presence of a UTI - this condition appears to be extremely rare.

Urinary tract infection in dogs are caused by bacteria in the urethra. This bacteria produces magnesium, phosphate, and ammonium. When the urine becomes super-saturated with these waste products it becomes alkaline which contributes to the formation of struvite crystals. An acidic urine (normal for most dogs) helps to dissolve the crystals.

Urine that stays in your dog's bladder longer than usual puts your dog at an increased risk of forming struvite canine bladder stones.

Breeds susceptible to canine urinary tract infections include Boxers, Poodles, Dalmatians, Dachshunds, German Shepherd Dogs, Pugs, and Irish and Cairn Terriers.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

In most cases, the cause of calcium oxalate stone formation remains unknown. The stones typically form in an acidic urine and several conditions and dietary factors are thought to play a role in their development.

These include:
  • Excessive calcium in the dog's urine (hypercalcaemia) which is often caused by Addison's disease or certain types of cancer, or diets high in calcium; *
  • Increased oxalate in the dog's diet, such as vegetables high in oxalates, peanut butter, grass, etc.;
  • Defective or inadequate amounts of inhibitors of crystal growth (these are natural substances present in the urine that inhibit the growth of calcium oxalate crystals);
  • Urinary acidifiers added to a dog's diet aimed at preventing struvite stones;
  • Medications that:
    • Increase or decrease the acidity of the urine which can stimulate stone formation;
    • When used for long periods of time, can actually cause formation of stones.

Medications to avoid in dogs prone to forming calcium oxalate bladder stones:

  • Urinary acidifiers (e.g. Methionine).
  • Cortisone-like drugs such as Prednisone;
  • Diuretics such as Lasix (Furosemide);
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C);
  • Sulfa medications;
  • Tetracyclines.
* Note, excessive calcium in a dog's urine is widely regarded as one of the possible causes of CaOx bladder stones in dogs. However, this theory is disputed by Narda Robinson, DO, DVM:
"One frequently heard mantra against human food holds that fruits and vegetables, especially those with higher calcium, cause CaOx stones. While it is true that plants are sources of calcium oxalate, CaOx stones in the urine are not a result of an increased concentration of calcium in the urine, as many incorrectly claim."

Ammonium Urate Stones

Certain liver diseases such as Portosystemic Shunts (PSS) whereby blood that would normally flow through the liver, instead bypasses the liver.

Cystine Stones

A genetic defect which causes excess urinary excretion of cystine. 

Symptoms of Canine Bladder Stones

Clinical signs of bladder stones in dogs are similar to those seen in dogs with other bladder problems:
  • Increased frequency of urination;
  • Passing small amounts of urine;
  • Straining and painful urination;
  • Inability to urinate;
  • Excessive licking of the genitals;
  • Possible blood in the urine;
  • Lethargy, fever and poor appetite;
  • Tenderness in the bladder area;
  • Note: Increased thirst and volume of urine, or urinary incontinence are not typical of canine bladder stone symptoms. These are more common with diabetes or kidney disease in dogs.


Bladder stones in male dogs are far more dangerous than in female dogs, as they can cause a blockage in the male’s longer, narrower urethra, preventing him from being able to urinate.

This condition can cause acute canine renal failure, hyperkalemia, septicemia, and death within a few days.

If your furry friend is exhibiting any canine bladder stone symptoms - Rush him to a veterinarian for immediate emergency care!

Diagnosis of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Your veterinarian will usually diagnose canine bladder stones after appropriate testing identifies:
  • Your dog has a urinary tract infection (Struvite bladder stones);
  • Alkaline urine (acidic pH);
  • Excessive crystals in the dog's urinary tract;
  • A bladder stone can be seen on X-ray or ultrasound.

Treatment of Canine Bladder Stones

Because canine bladder stones are found in varying sizes, numbers, locations, and can be comprised of different minerals, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating and/or preventing canine bladder stones.

Treatment may include one or more of the following:
  • Urohydropropulsion -  Under anesthesia, saline is filled into the bladder using a urinary catheter. The bladder is then compressed, forcing the stones back out with the solution. This method can only be used with smaller bladder stones in dogs which do not risk blocking the urethra.
  • Catheterization - An attempt to dislodge the stones by pushing them back into the bladder and freeing up the flow of urine. In most cases, canine bladder stone surgery will then be performed;
  • Surgery - This is the only option for Calcium Oxalate stones as they cannot be dissolved. Dog bladder stone surgery is called cystotomy, and when stones are in the urethra, the procedure is called a urethrotomy. The stones will then be submitted for laboratory analysis. 
  • Urine culture (Struvite stones) to check for canine urinary tract infection. Appropriate antibiotic therapy or alternative infection-fighting treatment from a holistic veterinarian, to eliminate UTI. Repeated follow-up urine cultures to ensure the dog is infection free;
  • Prescription dog foods or other vet recommended dog food or special diet in an attempt to dissolve your dog's bladder stones;
  • Urinary acidifiers -This treatment is considered risky as the exact dosage that is safe and effective is often not known. If your vet suggests urinary acidifiers for short-term acidification, your safest option would be to consider a natural therapy such as cranberry extract, rather than conventional medications (such as methionine).

Suspect bladder stones in your pooch?

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