How we diagnosed Crystals and a Bladder Stone during a dog’s dental-procedure up

a dog recovering from surgery on a bladder stone
vet holding a dog with a bladder stone

Crystals & Bladder Stone Diagnosis in a Dog

Little Luna, a 3-year-old Poodle, is the apple of her mother’s eye. She presented to Lynbrook Vet for a dental procedure as she had grade 2 dental disease. At the time of admission, Luna’s mum mentioned in passing that she had seen tinges of blood in Luna’s urine over the last few days.

There can be many reasons for blood to be present in a pet’s urine, but none of these are normal, so we decided to get a urine sample. We took Luna out for a walk and wee prior to her procedure.

Crystals in Dog Urine

Luna’s urine sample was analysed under a special microscope in the clinic, and in it we found blood and calcium oxalate crystals! (See image!)

There are five different types of crystals that can form in the urine of a dog.

  1. Calcium Oxalate – these are the most common crystals.
  2. Struvite – These are commonly associated with urinary tract infections.
  3. Ammonium Biurate – These are seen with liver disease.
  4. Bilirubin – These are seen with liver disease.
  5. Cystine – These are uncommon in dogs and cats. They are seen in dogs that genetically excrete the amino acid Cystine. They may not show up on X-rays.
blood and calcium oxalate crystals in a dog’s urine

Which Pets Get Urinary Crystals?

Both dogs and cats can form crystals in their urine (for more information on cats, click here to read our blog!). Calcium Oxalate crystals, the ones that Luna developed, are the most common, and interestingly, the type of urinary crystal her breed is predisposed to. Additional breeds predisposed to these crystals include:

  • Poodles
  • Pomeranians
  • Min Schnauzers
  • Bichon Frise
  • Maltese
  • Dalmatians
  • Yorkshire Terriers and
  • Lhasa Apso

As well as the breed, genetics, diet, urinary tract infections, and medical conditions can also lead to the formation of crystals in both dogs and cats.

Why are Urinary crystals a problem?

Once crystals are present in the urine, they circulate in the bladder like shards of glass, irritating and damaging the bladder wall which causes bleeding. This can be very uncomfortable and distressing for the animal who may feel the need to toilet frequently and like Luna, urinate pink or red-coloured urine.

Crystals can also meld together, combining to form bladder stones. As a result, when crystals are detected in the urine, we always recommend that the bladder be imaged using an X-ray and/or ultrasound to check for potential stones. Not all bladder stones will show up on X-rays so sometimes further investigation may be needed.

Signs of bladder stones and crystals

  1. Increased frequency of urination
  2. Blood-tinged urine
  3. Straining to urinate
  4. Crying or vocalising when urinating
  5. Abdominal pain or discomfort


After discussing our findings with Luna’s owner, we obtained permission to perform X-rays on her abdomen to check for the presence of any bladder stones. So, whilst her teeth were scaled and polished, we took some X-rays and look what we found in her bladder!

A single, large bladder stone!

To be extra certain, we performed an ultrasound, and the stone was confirmed.

an x-ray of a dog with a bladder stone
an ultrasound of a dog with a bladder stone
Having called Luna’s mum with the results of our tests, we finished Luna’s dental scale, polish and dental X-ray procedure. Wesent her home on pain relief to help relieve the discomfort caused by that stone. Three days later, after having recovered from her dental procedure, Luna returned for surgery to remove the bladder stone.

The Surgery to Remove a Dog’s Bladder Stone

The surgery performed to remove a bladder stone is known as a “cystotomy”. It involves opening the abdomen and making a small incision into the bladder, removing the stone, checking for any other small stones, etc. and then closing-up the bladder with special techniques to ensure urine does not leak into the abdomen.

Luna went home the same day and has recovered well!

The bladder stone was sent to the USA for analysis, after which a plan was made to prevent the formation of crystals in Luna’s urine from happening again.

a bladder stone removed from a dog

How to Prevent Crystals and stones in Dogs

Preventative measures may include:

  • a change in diet.
  • additives to a pet’s diet to dissolve crystals.
  • regular urine tests to detect the early formation of crystals again.

Luna’s case teaches us that no matter how subtle a change in your pet’s condition may be, a veterinary consultation is important. Blood in the urine is not normal and it is very important to perform a urine test as well as X-rays and/or an ultrasound on such patients, because there is a possibility that more could be happening under the surface!

Have questions?

Contact us on (03) 8373 0301 or email us at [email protected]. And, to book an appointment with our experienced vets, please see here.

a dog recovering from surgery on a bladder stone
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