A "stoned" dog is not a healthy dog. Especially if the "stones" are located within the animal's bladder, where they can cause pain and interfere with urination.
Clinically known as urolithiasis, bladder stones (urinary calculi) actually can be found anywhere within the urinary tract, including the kidneys, bladder, ureter (the tube connecting the kidneys to the bladder) and the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside of the animal). More than 85 percent of the time, however, these stones are found within the bladder itself.
Dogs often have a genetic predisposition to developing bladder stones, similar to the way that kidney stones tend to run in human families. Also, bacterial infections, diet and the pH balance of the dog's urine can affect stone formation. Normally it's a combination of these factors that causes the problem for most dogs.
Many times the first symptom of bladder stones will be the appearance of blood in the dog's urine. Often the dog will urinate frequently, in small amounts. Or, it may strain while urinating, or the owner will notice that the dog remains in the urinating position for much longer than normal.
Unlike kidney stones, which are extremely painful in humans, dogs appear to experience little, if any, discomfort from bladder stones. Many times there are no obvious symptoms, and the stones are discovered only when the veterinarian palpates the dog's abdomen during a routine checkup. The diagnosis is then confirmed through X-rays.
Even though the dog is experiencing no pain, bladder stones remain a serious condition. In many animals the stones grow to the point that they are occupying over 80 percent of the dog's bladder. Larger-sized stones can easily become trapped in the ureters or urethra, where they completely block the flow of urine. If not removed, the result is a slow, painful death from kidney failure.
A combination of surgery and medication is normally used to control these stones. Surgery is performed when the stones lodge in the ureters or urethra, a procedure that's called a cystotomy. If the stones are only in the bladder, a combination of medication and surgery may be warranted. Ultrasonic sound wave technology also can be used to break up the stones, similar to kidney stone treatment in humans, but this treatment is not yet available in every veterinary practice.
There are several types of bladder stones, and your vet will analyze any surgically removed stones to determine which type your dog has. Then, preventive measures can be prescribed to prevent more stones from forming. This usually encompasses antibacterial medications, changes in diet, altering the urine pH through medications, and increased water consumption.
Any dog may be develop bladder stones, and they occur in both genders and in dogs of all ages. The breeds most often affected are the: Basset Hound, Beagle, Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Dachshund, Miniature Schnauzer and Welsh Corgi. If the stones are believed to be genetically caused, the owner may not want to breed the animal. However, other causes of bladder stones should be ruled out before a final decision is made.