I am often amazed of how the animals instinct of survival is so strong that they’re able to hide symptoms of pain, weakness or diseases.
Unfortunately in some instances, by the time the medical problem is found, a great deal of damage has occurred.
Our job as pet owners is to pay attention to any subtle changes in our pet’s behaviour or habits, that may be a sign attributed to an actual physical distress.
One of the more common issues that pets and their owners have to face is chronic urinary tract problems. We all know what urinary tract infections are, most of us have experienced it either first hand, or with a loved one.
Pets often suffer from urinary tract infections as well. Urinary tract infection (AKA UTI) are pretty straight forward to diagnose and treat.
Often times I hear about pets being treated for a UTI just by an assumptive diagnosis.
Some pets are being treated with antibiotics, off and on for a significant part of their life.
One may be surprised to know that many of chronic recurrent UTI’s are in fact a result of a formation of bladder stones.
It is actually impossible to know if the stones are the cause or the results of an infection, but it is well known that these two are strongly linked to each other.
The exact reason for urinary bladder stones is not clear. The contributing factors are diet, frequency of urination, genetics, and the urine PH (level of acidity).
The types of urinary stones in dogs and cats include struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, cystine, calcium phosphate, and silicate.
Struvite and calcium oxalate stones are by far the most common.
The stones are causing constant irritation to the bladder, especially if their margins are rough or spiky.
They often cause a great deal of discomfort to the animal. Presence of blood in the urine is probably the most common symptom, along with painful urination or straining to urinate and frequent urge to urinate but often with a small amount of urine voided.
Occasionally the symptoms are so subtle or not even detectable, and the stones are found as an incidental finding while attending to a different issue.
Besides the irritation, infection and discomfort these stones are causing, their biggest possible alarming outcome is if one passes from the bladder and gets lodged in the urethra, disabling the ability to urinate.
Urinary blockage is a real life threatening condition that needs to be resolved ASAP.
Beside assessing a urine sample, the diagnosis of urinary bladder stones should include an imaging as well.
Usually the stones do not shed crystals into the urine, hence can not be detected by testing a urine sample.
If the urine is taken directly from the bladder under ultrasound exam, the bladder is scanned for presence of typical changes associated with stones.
X-ray exams can confirm the presence of most of the stone types as well.
As for the treatment, some stones can be dissolved using dietary modifications and/or medications. However, the stones are most commonly removed by a surgical procedure.
After their removal, the stones are sent to an analysis of their nature and a culture of the possible bacteria accompanying the stones presence.
If it is lodged in the urethra, blocking the urine passage, an emergency surgery is indicated in order to remove it.
For long-term prevention of the recurrence of stones, special diets can be used for each type of stone.
Increasing water consumption by the animal dilutes the urine, which prevents over-saturation of the urine with the particles that are eventually formed into stones.
If your pet is suffering from chronic or recurrent urinary tract issues, make sure that urinary bladder stones are checked for.
This problem may take some effort to solve but it is very manageable once diagnosed.