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Struvite Bladder Stones in Dogs

Laura's dog, Bailey, had a cystotomy to remove struvite stones. Laura shares her experience to help other owners recognize UTI symptoms.

X-ray showing three large (3-centimeter) canine bladder stones.

X-ray showing three large (3-centimeter) canine bladder stones.

What Is a Bladder Stone?

Bladder stones are various combinations of minerals found in urine, most often as the result of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Struvite stones are the most common. These stones are formed by multiple crystals of the combined minerals of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate. Since treatment and prevention methods are based on the type of bladder stone, it is important to first determine which type of stone your dog has: This is typically done by sending a specimen of the stone to a specialty lab for analysis.

Interesting Facts

  • Just like in humans, female dogs are also more prone to getting UTIs because they have a shorter urethra.
  • 85% of dogs with struvite bladder stones are female.
  • Dogs breeds more susceptible to struvite stones are the Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Labrador Retriever, and Dachshund.

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

Many dogs easily handle mild cases of UTIs and never give any indication to their owners of having one. This is why UTIs are often not detected in the early stages. However, since struvite stones are rarely formed without the presence of a UTI, it is important to know the signs of a bladder infection so your dog can be treated by a veterinarian and placed on an appropriate antibiotic before struvite stones develop.

  • One of the first noticeable signs of a UTI is excessive drinking. Is your dog drinking more water than normal?
  • The second sign is rare or frequent urinating. If you dog is urinating less or more often than normal, she may have a UTI.

Try to observe your dog when urinating for any abnormal signs. If you witness several attempts before she is able to void, take her to the vet for a definitive diagnosis via a urinalysis.

My Dog's UTI

The signs can be easy to miss. In our case, my dog Bailey, a husky mix, did show signs; I just misinterpreted them. Bailey, though fully house-broken for several years, started having accidents in the house. She would go into areas of the house that we do not normally go into, so I did not notice her accidents right away.

We had also just boarded her at the kennel for 10 days while we were away on vacation. We suspected she was upset that we had left her so long or that maybe she had picked up some bad behaviors at the kennel. We were wrong. It was a routine checkup at the vet that picked up a UTI. My vet did a quick ultrasound and quickly saw three stones.

Some dogs with bladder stones show no symptoms.

Some dogs with bladder stones show no symptoms.

Signs of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Symptoms of stones can include the following:

  • blood in the urine
  • frequent voiding of small amounts of urine
  • holding the position much longer than usual
  • excessively licking the genital area
  • painful urination (does your dog yelp?)
  • foul-smelling urine that may contain blood
  • tenderness in the bladder area
  • pain in the lower back
  • fever
  • lethargy

If a stone completely blocks the flow of urine and is left untreated, a dog can die.

Diagnosis of Bladder Stones

If a urinalysis detects a UTI and bladder stones are suspected, an X-ray is done to determine the actual presence, quantity, size, and location of the stones in the bladder. This is necessary to determine the proper course of treatment.

How Large Are Struvites?

Struvite bladder stones range in size from the size of a pin head to more than an inch. My dog Bailey, a husky mix, had a total of six struvites, with three of them measuring greater than three centimeters.

Treatment of Bladder Stones in Canines

There are three main ways your veterinarian may treat bladder stones:

  1. Feed a special diet to dissolve the stones.
  2. Sometimes, smaller stones in female dogs can be removed by a non-surgical procedure in which the bladder is squeezed to expel the stones through the urethra.
  3. If the stones are large in size or quantity, surgery (called a cystotomy) may be needed.

Regardless of the method, an antibiotic will likely be used to get rid of the bacteria causing the UTI.

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Bailey's incision one week after surgery.

Bailey's incision one week after surgery.

The Cost of Surgically Removing Bladder Stones in Dogs

The high cost of pet care (the costs are based on my own experience).


X-rays (2)


Carprofen (anti-inflamatory)


Hospitalization (2 days)


Minnesota Lab Stone Analysis


Cystotomy Surgery


Post Op/Nursing Care


Surgical Catheter and Fluids


Anesthesia (inhalant)


Amoxicillan (antibiotic)


Tramadol (pain medication)


E-Collar EZ


Soft Pet Recovery Collar


Lactated Ringers Liter


Grand Total


Bailey resting in peace during recovery.

Bailey resting in peace during recovery.

Recovery After Canine Bladder Stone Removal

Dogs are amazingly resilient creatures. A cystotomy surgery is the equivalent of a major human surgery requiring six weeks of recovery. Most dogs are back to their normal selves in two weeks or less. We were given the following restrictions for our dog:

  • Diet: A regular diet, no special recommendations.
  • Exercise: Limited activity. For the first couple days, the pain medication induces drowsiness. No stairs for the first couple days. Short leash walks were permitted after two days. Our vet wanted to make sure Bailey was on a leash when she went in the backyard so she wouldn't be tempted to chase a squirrel or quickly dash off if she saw something interesting.
  • Incision Care: We had to monitor the incision for swelling or drainage. Bailey had internal dis-solvable stitches and external glue holding her incision together. She could not get wet for three weeks. She also was not supposed to lick or scratch her stitches.
  • Medications: Bailey was sent home with a 10 day supply of antibiotics, pain medicine to use as needed and an anti-inflammatory medication to use for the first five days.
  • Follow-Up: Our vet recommended Bailey to have a urinalysis done every three months to make sure she does not have another UTI.
Bailey with a "soft" recovery collar

Bailey with a "soft" recovery collar

Surgery Recovery Collars

Most dogs are given the typical plastic cone collar to wear to prevent them from scratching or licking their incision. Most dogs, including mine, hate this device. Bailey hated it so bad she already chewed it to pieces before we picked her up the morning after her surgery.

My vet recommended I buy her a soft collar from a pet store. I purchased an inflatable soft collar to fit around her neck. Although she did not like it, Bailey tolerated it. The soft collars allow dogs to keep their peripheral vision, and they are just more comfortable to wear.

Pay Attention to Your Dog

Lesson learned for me. I should have been much more in tune with my dog. If I had, I would have taken her to the vet much sooner. Bailey is such a good-tempered dog, I never suspected she had any medical issue or was in pain.

Any dog can get a urinary tract infection—they are very common. If your dog suddenly starts having accidents in the house, take her to the vet to make sure nothing is medically wrong. If only our beloved four-legged friends could talk!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on November 03, 2016:

Globaldogtraining, I am sure pet insurance would have been a good idea, but why is it, we never think of that when our dogs are healthy? Thanks for stopping by!

Tonya Wilhelm from Ohio on July 03, 2016:

So glad she pulled through a-ok. As others commented pet insurance is so helpful. Saves us a ton since my guy has a neurological condition. Bailey is super cute, too.

LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on November 24, 2012:

bodylevive, you were likely wise to take Eragon to the vet for his nail. Had it gotten infected, that would have been painful for your pet and even more expensive! I buy heart worm pills from our vet, but I have seen them much cheaper on online sites.

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on November 24, 2012:

Pet care is very expensive. Every time I take one of mine for routine stuff, I want to cry. Preventive care I think is the best care that there is. One of my friend's pet died from heart worms. He was just laying around and she chalked it up to be lazy. I take mine every year to get tested for heart worms and they are put on a monthly regiment. One of my family members is a pit name Eragon, some how he broke a nail and I took him to the vet. My husband thought it would be okay, just let it heal on its own. Ohoooo, the look I gave him. I calmly said, his flesh is in that nail and he may get an infection, so I took him to the vet.

LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on July 26, 2012:

Natashalh, it truly is amazing how quickly pets can recover. You are correct, pet insurance can be a good purchase. Unfortunately, I never think about pet insurance until we need it!

Natasha from Hawaii on July 26, 2012:

Wow, that vet adventure cost almost as much as orthopedic surgery I got for one of my dogs! That's incredible. Pet care can cost a lot. I've frequently thought about pet health insurance! It does exist and, if your pup has a mishap, is more than worth it.

Dogs do heal very quickly. My ortho surgery guy had a fractured pelvis and broken toes, but his bones completely fused and he was back to normal within 6 weeks. I know a person who had a fractured pelvis and orthopedic surgery who took a couple of years to fully recover.

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