Where did that rock come from?

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

Most owners looking at a radiograph, or x-ray film, of their pet would want to ask “Where did that rock come from?” if they were told that the bright white object in their pet’s bladder was a stone.

Many of us have family members or friends who have had kidney stones. Kidney stones tend to be painful while in the kidney or as they pass out of the body. The pain is the result of an obstruction in the urinary tract causing urine to build up pressure in the tubing or in the kidney itself.

Although animals can develop kidney stones, they tend instead to have bladder stones. Unlike the kidney stone, a bladder stone tends to be irritating, causing the sensation of needing to urinate rather than causing pain.

Clinical signs of bladder stones can be vague. Some pets only show signs of a problem by asking to go out on frequent walks. Once out on the walk they urinate more frequently than usual. Another sign, in addition to frequent walks, is small volume production. Because of their many trips outside, they often only urinate drops at a time. Other clinical signs include red or pink urine and unusual accidents in the house.

The diagnosis of bladder stones can be done in two ways: radiograph or ultrasound. Once stones are seen in the bladder, it is important to determine what type of stone is present. By collecting urine from the pet and using a microscope, crystals in the urine can be identified. These crystals often are the same type of crystal that has bound together to form the stone. Occasionally, the stone is made of a different type of crystal or is made of multiple types of crystals.

Treatment for this condition can be easy or complicated. Certain stones can be broken down by using a prescription diet produced by a pet food maker. Once broken down, a special food can be used to prevent them from coming back. Easy indeed. Other stones can only be removed by surgery. These stones will have a good chance of returning and, once again, only surgery can remove them — a more complicated condition.

Abnormal urinary habits should be examined as soon as possible. Bladder stones may not be the most common cause of urinary tract disease, but if they are present the earlier the diagnosis is made the better the outcome.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.