Today we had two dogs in the hospital that had to surgically remove stones from their bladders with general anesthesia. Bladder stones are not uncommon in dogs, they begin as small microscopic crystals, but over time they can become quite substantial solid stones: sometimes it feels as if you are removing gravel-sized stones or pebbles from these bladders.
Bladder stones can form for a variety of reasons, often secondary to an infection or because the urine has an incorrect pH. Some dogs are more predisposed to bladder stones than others. If we detect crystals in a dog's urine early enough, we can dissolve the crystals with special diets to change the pH of the urine and administer antibiotics if necessary. However, once the stones are above a certain size, we cannot dissolve them and we will have to enter and remove them. The risk of not removing these stones is that one will leave the bladder to the urethra (the urine tube to the outside world) will get stuck and cause a blockage.
Once we have surgically removed these calculations, we tend to send them for analysis (interestingly, they are sent to the United States for analysis) and, once we know exactly what type of calculation they are, we can recommend the best diet for the patient. Be warned to avoid recurrence. Regular follow-up urine samples help us keep track of these cases and ensure that the stones do not have the opportunity to re-form.