Bladder stones in dogs – everything you need to know to help your pup

Bladder and kidney stones in dogs are relatively common health problems. Almost 20% of urinary diseases are diagnosed as “urolithiasis” – the formation of crystals and stones in kidneys, bladder, or anywhere in the urinary tract.

So chances are your dog will have a urinary problem sooner or later, especially if you have a small breed 🤷‍♀️ Because we vets see this disease so often, I wanted to give you all the information you need to be able to recognize that something is not right.

The stones cause mechanical irritation and inflammation, but can also partially or completely block the urine flow. So the signs and severity can range from mild inflammation to life-threatening conditions.

If your pup suddenly starts peeing more, peeing inside, or wanting to go outside more than he usually does, you should pay attention.

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While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

dog sleeping on a couch

What causes the formation of kidney and bladder stones in dogs?

Dog’s urine naturally contains salts and minerals, which can under some conditions start to crystallize and form urinary stones.

The disease can occur in any dog, but certain breeds and types such as small dogs are more prone to develop kidney and bladder stones.

urinary and kidney stones in dogs

Other factors such as sex, diet, anatomic anomalies, urinary tract infection, medications, or urine pH can also potentially influence the formation of urine sediment and urinary stones in dogs.

Bladder stones in dogs have a high recurrence rate, which makes proper management very important.

Signs of bladder stones in dogs

Dogs with bladder stones can display the same symptoms as dogs with urinary tract infections (UTI).

If your well-mannered housebroken dog suddenly pees inside or is asking to go outside very frequently, it is a red flag and you should take him to a vet.

If your pet has a urinary tract disease or baldder stones, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • frequent urination 
  • frequent urination of small amounts
  • he’s frequently trying to urinate, even when there’s no urine coming out 
  • licking of the genitals
  • dripping urine
  • signs of pain during urination
  • loss of bladder control
  • accidents in the house
  • blood in the urine
  • loss of appetite
  • excessive thirst
  • apathy, behavior changes
  • vomiting
  • inability to urinate

However, bladder stones in dogs, as opposed to UTI, can also physically block the urine flow causing a urinary obstruction that requires immediate emergency treatment.
To put it in normal words – the urine is still produced normally, but can’t get out of the body. Your pet will not be able to pee. The animal will try to urinate, but nothing comes out.

❗️A complete obstruction is a life-threatening condition and a medical and surgical emergency❗️

Sometimes the stones get stuck between the kidneys and bladder. In this case, the urine cannot flow from the kidneys to the bladder. This can cause renal inflammation, reduction of the kidney mass, and kidney failure.

In any case, if you see any of the above mentioned signs, please contact your vet.

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Diagnosis of kidney and bladder stones in dogs

There are different types of bladder stones, depending on the prevalent mineral. The most common are struvite and calcium oxalate. Different types of crystals require different treatment strategies.

The therapeutical approach is different for each stone type. Therefore, determining the stone type is crucial for successful treatment.

The first thing we do is a urine analysis. Your vet will evaluate urine pH, look at the crystals under a microscope, and look for signs of inflammation…
The only way to know the type of stone for sure is to have it analyzed at a veterinary laboratory.

In some cases, your veterinarian may make an educated guess about the type of stone that is present, based on the radiographic appearance and results of a urinalysis.

Blood analysis is important to determine if there is an underlying condition (i.e. urinary tract infection) or some other concurrent problem (i.e. kidney failure).

Sometimes we can palpate (feel) the stones in the bladder during clinical examination, but usually, they are too small.
Mostly we need to do an x-ray and/or ultrasound of the bladder and kidneys.

Treatment of kidney and bladder stones in dogs

As I said before, different types of crystals require different treatment strategies.

Generally, there are 3 treatment strategies for bladder stones in dogs:

  1. In the case of struvite stones, we can try to dissolve them by feeding them a special veterinary diet. This is the most “dog-friendly” method. Unfortunately, other than struvite stones cannot be dissolved and have to be removed under general anesthesia
  2. non-surgical removal by urohydropropulsion – a technique that can be used only if the stones are very small. We use a special catheter, pass it into the bladder and then flush the stones out
  3. surgical removal

Some referral centers offer ultrasonic dissolution. It’s a technique that uses high-frequency ultrasound waves to disrupt or break the stones into tiny particles that can then be flushed out of the bladder.

picture of stones

How can you prevent your dog from developing bladder stones in the future?

Unfortunately, as I said before, bladder stones in dogs have a high recurrence rate.

It’s always important to find and treat the underlying condition. If the dog has for example an anatomical anomaly, it needs to be corrected. Otherwise, the urinary problems will just keep coming back.

Mostly, dogs that experienced bladder stones need to be fed a specialised therapeutic diet (like Royal Canin or Hill’s veterinary diets) for life.

Close routine monitoring is necessary to “catch” any early signs of recurrence. I recommend urine analysis and x-rays 1 month after surgery and then regular urine analysis every 3-6 months for life.

Bladder stones in dogs are a common disease, especially in small dogs. The symptoms are mostly the same as with other urinary problems. The treatment depends on the type of stone, which makes proper diagnosis very important. Sadly, it’s a condition with a high recurrence rate. So even after successful therapy, routine monitoring is necessary.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to constantly worry about your pup’s health. There are many dogs with a history of bladder stones, who are happy and healthy and have no further bladder problems 🙂

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  • Elaine

    This article hit home for me. My mini-schnauzer, who I unfortunately lost when he was 12, had bladder stone surgery but unfortunately the stones came back even though he was on special food, it’s surreal the way dogs get symptoms and disorders just like we do,

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