Question:
Our small rescue dog is 14 years old. During a recent senior checkup we discovered a bladder stone (from an ultrasound during a draw for urinalysis). She has no symptoms. She is increasingly distressed when we go to the veterinary clinic (panting, shaking, defecating). What is the worst case scenario if we do nothing? I love my dog, but I do not want to upend her mellow senior life.

Dr. Nichol:
I appreciate your concerns. We consider different factors with a canine senior on cruise control. Some problems advance so slowly that they never catch up to the pet’s age.

Bladder stones come in multiple shapes and sizes; some have the potential to cause serious trouble, others are more benign. They can grow large enough, or there may be so many of them, that they cause inflammation, painful urination or a sudden inability to pass any urine at all. Your little girl’s stone doesn’t require immediate treatment because it isn’t causing trouble-yet.

Bladder stones are categorized by their mineral compositions. Many dogs have crystals in their urine that can help identify their stone’s makeup. Some stones require surgical removal, others can be dissolved.

Ideally urine samples are taken directly from the bladder but your scared girl gets too stressed for her own well-being. Use a clean soup ladle to catch a sample at home for urinalysis and culture. You can also check the ground each time she urinates to see if she’s passes a small stone. Your veterinarian can submit that for quantitative analysis and culture.

The good news is that most canine bladder stones are composed of struvite, a combination of minerals directly linked to bacterial infection. The right antibiotic plus a prescription diet may be enough to painlessly dissolve your girl’s stone(s) and make her bladder gladder. Don’t wait for trouble-get a diagnosis soon.