Urinary Crystals and Bladder Stones in Dogs

Bladder stones are hard mineralised deposits or rocks that form in the bladder from accumulation of urinary crystals, which in turn are usually due to eating a diet very high in the minerals magnesium, phosphorus or calcium.

Both bladder stones and urinary crystals can be very uncomfortable - although in some cases an animal may have bladder stones with no outward symptoms.

Dogs with crystals or stones may show signs such as:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Straining to urinate or passing small amounts of urine
  • Urinating inside the house, or in odd places
  • Licking the urinary opening.


It should be noted that it is possible for a stone to block the urethra (pipe from the bladder) and prevent urination.

This is an emergency.

If you’re not sure if your dog is able to pass urine, assume it could be an emergency and call us immediately.

If your pet has recently suffered from an blockage, please monitor very closely as the risk of recurrence is high.

During examination your vet will conduct a full physical examination, and will possibly take an x-ray or perform an ultrasound.

Animals with stones usually need to have them removed surgically, and are then placed on a special diet to prevent new stones from forming. Dogs with severe crystals may need to stay in hospital to help clear them out, and again need to be on a special diet in future. This is a very treatable problem but if left unchecked it can become extremely serious.


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Bladder stones and crystals are a big problem for both cats and dogs in Hong Kong, and are one of the most common reasons for surgical intervention.

Poorly balanced pet diets are notorious for being very high in magnesium and phosphorus, and when large amounts of these minerals are released into the bladder they can crystallize and form stones. Over time these stones grow and can eventually become very large – up to the size of an orange. Bladder stones cause irritation and discomfort to the bladder, and can cause blockage of the urine leaving the bladder. This is a potentially life threatening problem.

A high quality diet, appropriately chosen for your pet’s age and breed, will prevent bladder stones in nearly all cases.

Both dry food and wet (canned) foods are safe, as long as they are balanced and nutritious. We carry a range of diets specifically formulated with stone prevention in mind. Some great balanced diets for cats that will help prevent the formation of crystals and bladder stones can be found here.

If caught early, some stones can also be dissolved using a special diet prescribed by your veterinarian.

Dogs with urinary tract issues should also be encouraged to drink more water. There are couple of easy ways to do this - one is to give your dog some canned food with his regular diet, as this will increase the amount of moisture consumed.  

The second is to buy a water fountain which will encourage pets to drink more water. A selection of water fountains can be found here.

We would also recommend a good balanced supplement, preferably containing glucosamine, which has been shown to help coat the bladder and prevent crystal and stone formation.

Common signs of bladder stones include blood in the urine, passing small amounts of urine frequently or difficulty urinating. If you see any of these signs you should discuss with your vet immediately.


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