Bladder stones are clumps of minerals that form hard pebble-like substances in the bladder, usually either becoming one large stone or a collection of smaller stones within a matter of weeks to a month. As is the case with humans, they are also not uncommon in cats and dogs, and are generally caused by diet, other bladder diseases or the body’s metabolism failing to dissolve the minerals in the urine. Luckily, they can be treated effectively and be prevented from occurring again with the right diet and appropriate vet care.
While bladder stones can cause substantial pain and distress to the affected animal, they are generally not considered life threatening. However, in some cases bladder stones can become so large that they obstruct the bladder, while other stones can be so tiny that they can pass into the urethra and also cause urinary obstruction. When either form of obstruction occurs, this becomes a serious pet emergency with the imminent potential to cause the bladder to rupture, and there is a high risk of death.
Pet owners will often see signs if their cat or dog does develop bladder stones, such as blood in the urine or straining to urinate. Animals will generally also display signs of distress and pain, especially when urinating. While these symptoms are similar to other more common bladder infections that may not be as serious, if pet owners ever see these clinical signs then they should visit a 24 hour vet clinic and consult a veterinarian immediately.
The tests needed to determine if your pet does have bladder stones will depend on the type and severity of the bladder stones present in the animal. In rare cases where the bladder stones are large enough, a 24hr emergency vet will occasionally be able to simply feel them through the abdominal wall. However, this is often not possible and therefore if the emergency vet still believes bladder stones may be the cause of the animal’s symptoms then x-rays or ultrasounds may be required.
In order to treat bladder stones, there are two main options – surgical removal of the stones or medically dissolving the stones. The method chosen by the emergency vet will firstly depend on whether the animal has a bladder obstruction, in which case surgery is usually required, otherwise the type of bladder stones found and the age and other health conditions of the affected pet will be key considerations. Dissolving a bladder stone is often not the preferred method, as it can take upwards of a month to dissolve the stones and requires very strict dietary conditions for pet owners to adhere to. Additionally, if medical treatment is undertaken then there is a risk of further urethral obstruction occurring as the stones become small enough to pass into the urethra.
If your pet does require surgery as part of their treatment, then they will also need to remain in an animal hospital for ongoing 24 hour monitoring while they recover. Once the cause of the bladder stones has been resolved, the veterinarian will be able to determine the best course of action (be that dietary or further medical treatment) to prevent bladder stones from occurring again.
Animal Accident & Emergency have two 24 hour pet emergency centres in Melbourne, which are ideally located in Essendon and Point Cook and both with easy freeway access and amble parking. Our emergency vet clinics operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (including public holidays), and offer all the latest equipment and state of the art technology, as well as a 24 hour intensive care unit. Our dedicated team of emergency vets and nurses provide the highest standards of emergency vet care, critical care medicine and surgery, and are experienced in treating all emergencies from right across Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat. So when you bring your pet to Animal Accident & Emergency you can rest assured that your pet will receive the best and most advanced vet care available.
If you believe your pet may have bladder stones or for any emergency, please phone one of our 24-hour Animal Accident & Emergency Centres:
Essendon Fields (03) 9379 0700
Point Cook (03) 8368 7400
Always Open, We Always Care