Photo by Andrey Kuzmin.
Many species gets stones in their bladders. The medical terms for this are cystic calculi and urolithiasis. Animals tend to get more bladder stones, and humans seem to get more kidney stones, although in animals, they can both occur at the same time.
Typical symptoms of bladder stones are straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and urinating small amounts frequently. Many people assume that their pet only has a bladder or a urinary-tract infection when they notice these symptoms. This is not always the case. Sometimes, even when there is a large stone or there are many smaller ones, there are no symptoms at all.
Even though some larger stones can be palpated, or examined by touch, a diagnosis is usually made by taking a radiograph. This works when the stone is radiopaque, which means that the radiation won’t pass through it and it will show up on the radiograph as a dark object. Some bladder stones are radiolucent, meaning that the radiation will pass through them and they won’t show up on a radiograph. These stones are diagnosed by ultrasound.
The arrow points to radiopaque stones in the urinary bladder of a cat. Photo courtesy of LBAH.
A urinalysis and a urine culture are important tools for detecting cause of the problem and how it will be treated. The pH of the urine, the type and amount of any bacteria, and the specific gravity of the urine are all part of the cause, treatment, and prevention aspects of bladder stones.
Even tortoises get bladder stones, and some of them are huge. These are removed surgically. Photo courtesy of LBAH.
Some of these stones are treated using a diet called S/D (stone diet). It actually dissolves the stones in the bladder slowly over several months and does not require any surgery. Once the stones are dissolved, a different diet should be prescribed by a vet to prevent recurrence.
Many stones need to be removed surgically. Symptoms then will be gone immediately, and most pets will recover in a short time. We use the laser for this surgery for even faster healing.
The stone is analyzed for its content, and a plan is set up to prevent recurrence. For some stones, recurrence is common months and years down the road, so a specific protocol needs to be followed to prevent this.
To learn much more about bladder stones, follow this link.
To learn how we remove bladder stones in a tortoise, follow this link.