Briefs from Dr. Timothy Metzger of Rainbow Veterinary Hospital: “Can Bladder Stones Be Fa-tal?”


“Mini,” a 6-year-old, 105 pound spayed female golden retriever, was acting listless and had not been eating for the past three days. She had been dribbling urine and was also straining when she tried to pee.

We performed several tests including bloodwork and a urinalysis. Mini had a higher than normal white cell count in her blood which indicated that her immune system was fighting an infection. The blood test also showed an alarmingly high level of toxins in her system which normally would be filtered by her kidneys and expelled in her urine. Since she had been having difficulty peeing, these elevated toxins were causing Mini to feel sick and nauseated. It was no wonder that her appetite was gone!

The urinalysis revealed that the bacterial infection had settled in her bladder. It is likely that Mini had been suffering from incontinence, and the persistent dribbling provided a pathway into the bladder for bacteria that normally exists outside the body. Anyone who has had a bladder infection (cystitis) can relate to this condition, and how miserable it can be.

We also took some x-rays of Mini’s abdomen which revealed that her bladder contained hundreds of small bladder stones, about two cups worth. A bacterial infection in the bladder can alter the pH of the urine causing normally dissolved minerals to precipitate out and form solid crystals.

Mini’s surgery went well. The stones were manually removed from her bladder. Her urethra (the passage from the urinary bladder to the outside) was flushed with sterile fluids to clear it of any obstructions. Post op x-rays appeared to confirm that no stones remained.

The next day, Mini was still not eating and continued having difficulty urinating. We were concerned that somehow either the bladder or the urethra might have been damaged or even ruptured during the surgical procedure. This could lead to an extremely serious condition called peritonitis which is an infection within the abdominal cavity. An additional exploratory surgery was necessary. Mini was recatheterized and copious amounts of fluid were passed through the intact urethra into the likewise undamaged bladder. At this point, a remaining final stone rolled out of the urethra. This stone most likely had been residing in the urethra behind the hips or under the tail bone which caused it to be obscured in the post op x-rays.

On the following day, Mini was urinating well, drinking a little, and her appetite began to return. By day five, her temperature was normal, and she was eating, drinking, and passing urine without any problems.

The dribbling which had been the root cause to Mini’s illness was the result of weakness and lack of tone of the sphincter muscle that normally holds the urethra and bladder shut. In Mini’s case, estrogen pills will help her regain the tone in her sphincter muscles thereby preventing future dribbling.

Mini returned home and has continued to improve daily. Her family is simply glad to have her back, happy and healthy. Sometimes it is not as easy as the textbook says.

Rainbow Veterinary Hospital is located at 2321 Empire Ave. in Burbank. Call (818) 846-1166 or visit for more information or to set up an appointment.

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