Lulu, a four year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who had bladder stones

Lulu is a lovely, good-natured dog, but like many pedigree animals, she’s had more than her fair share of health problems. She developed severe epilepsy before her first birthday, and since then, she’s been on permanent daily medication to prevent her from having seizures. Thelma took her on as a rescued dog after the diagnosis of epilepsy; she has known from the start that Lulu is a “special case”.

Lulu’s latest problem started three months ago, when Thelma noticed that the little dog was crouching to pass urine far more often than usual. She’d go out into the back garden and squat down half a dozen times rather than the usual once or twice. And she kept wanting to go back out into the garden to do more.

Thelma brought her to our clinic, and the initial suspected diagnosis was a bladder infection, known as cystitis. Lulu was given a standard course of antibiotics. In a simple case, this would have solved the problem.

She did respond well initially, but when the course of antibiotics finished, the problem recurred. This time, as well as squatting repeatedly to piddle outside, Lulu started to have accidents in the house, leaving wet patches on the kitchen floor. When she was brought back to the vet, we knew that it was time for a full work-up, with an ultrasound scan and laboratory analysis of her urine.

The test results confirmed what we suspected: Lulu did, indeed, have cystitis, but this was complicated by the presence of tiny stones in her urine. These develop when mineral-like chemicals in the urine settle out into a type of sandy sediment in the bladder. This sediment irritates the lining of the bladder, then bacteria move in, making things worse. Treatment involves a long course of an specific antibiotic to eradicate the bacterial infection. Lulu also needed to go onto a special diet with a reduced level of the minerals that were crystallizing out in her urine. In time, this diet would change the composition of her urine so that the crystals, sediment and any tiny stones would gradually dissolve away.

It can sometimes take several months until all the irritating sediment is eradicated from inside the bladder. Lulu made steady progress on the new regime, but she was still suffering from episodes of visible discomfort whenever she passed urine.

Three weeks later, Thelma was changing the bedding in Lulu’s bed in the kitchen when she noticed a few small pebble-like stones on the blanket. They looked similar to small pebbles in her garden, and she thought at first that they may have been caught in the fur on Lulu’s feet and brought in accidentally.  Thelma decided to bring them in to the vet to show us, in case they were significant in any way. We sent them off to the laboratory for full analysis and the result proved to be something surprising: the “pebbles” were a type of bladder stone. Some of the sediment in her bladder must have stuck together and formed the stones. Somehow, Lulu had managed to pass them. It was no wonder that she had been straining so hard when she was trying to pass urine.

Lulu made a dramatic improvement from the moment she’d passed those stones. She stopped wanting to go outside so often, and when she passed urine, she did it normally, without any straining. She has now finished a long course of antibiotics, and a repeat ultrasound scan this week confirmed that the sediment in her bladder has almost completely cleared.

Lulu will be on that special diet for life, but she enjoys eating it. And if she never again has to pass a pebble in her urine, she’ll be a very happy dog with a very relieved owner.

Tips

  • Bladder stones are common in dogs
  • Treatment involves a special diet, which is often enough to dissolve the stones
  • Rarely, surgery may even be needed to remove them

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