Bladder stones can cause your dog to have problems urinating and may even become life-threatening if they completely block the bladder. In this post, our Los Angeles vets explain what you should know about bladder stones in dogs. 

What are bladder stones in dogs?

Also called uroliths or cystic calculi, bladder stones are minerals that are often rock-like formations in a dog's urinary bladder. They may be a collection of small stones or a single larger stone from the size of a grain of sand to gravel.

What are the symptoms of bladder stones?

These are the most common signs of bladder stones in dogs:

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

Stones that rub against the bladder wall can cause irritation, tissue damage, and bleeding. Dyuria can be caused by swelling and inflammation of the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) or bladder wall, physical obstruction of urine flow, or muscle spasms.

What causes bladder stones in dogs?

The Precipitation-Crystallization Theory is the most widely accepted explanation for how bladder stones form. One or more crystalline compounds may be present in high concentrations in your dog's urine. Stones eventually form as a result of dietary factors from previous bladder disease, such as a bacterial infection. The body's metabolism can also cause problems at times.

Tiny crystals can form if the urine becomes saturated with the crystalline compound due to acidity (pH) or specific minerals. The bladder lining is then irritated, resulting in the production of mucous that adheres to the crystals. Clusters form and harden into stones.

Bladder stones can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to form, depending on how much crystalline material is present, and on the degree of infection.

Diagnosis of Bladder Stones in Dogs

While the symptoms of bladder stones are similar to those of cystitis or a simple bladder infection, they are not the same. The vast majority of dogs with bladder stones do not have a bladder infection. As a result, your veterinarian may need to conduct additional testing before making a diagnosis.

Some stones are too small to feel with the fingers through the bladder wall, or the bladder is too inflamed. X-rays or an ultrasonic bladder examination, ultrasound, or a radiographic contrast study are also options.

How to Get Rid of Bladder Stones in Dogs

If your pooch is found to have bladder stones, your next question may be to ask, “What dissolves bladder stones in dogs?”

Bladder stones will typically have three potential treatments:

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

If left untreated, these stones hurt and can obstruct the urethra or bladder neck, preventing your dog from completely emptying his or her bladder and causing only intermittent small squirts of urine to come out.

Complete obstructions can lead to urine being blocked. If the obstruction is not relieved, this can cause a potentially life-threatening condition and lead to a ruptured bladder. This would be classified as a veterinary medical emergency, which would need your veterinarian's immediate attention. 

Other Types of Stones

Kidney stones are mineral growths that form in the kidney, while gallstones are mineral growths that also form in the bladder but contain bile salts. Neither of these has anything to do with bladder stones. Despite the fact that the kidneys and urinary bladder are both components of the urinary system, kidney stones are typically unrelated to bladder stones. In either of these structures, these stones develop as a result of disease or inflammation.


The prognosis is typically good following removal of bladder stones. To help stop stones from reoccurring, preventative measures should be taken. Your primary care veterinarian should perform routine bladder ultrasounds or x-rays (every few months) to check for the recurrence of stones. Small enough stones may be removed without surgery using hydropulsion.

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 our Los Angeles vets to book an appointment today.