Lethargic, not eating, vomiting, large (and painful!) bladder, straining to urinate. More accurately, no urination at all – since Frank, a three-year-old Pug, hadn’t peed in twenty-four hours. These symptoms, plus Frank’s elevated kidney values on bloodwork led our emergency team to a quick diagnosis of urinary obstruction.
But what was the cause of the obstruction? Our team suspected a bladder stone. But the tricky part in Frank’s case was finding the proof.
Let’s back up, though. Bladder stones occur when natural minerals in the urine clump together into a stone-like form that can vary in size. These can cause an obstruction in the bladder, which means the pet can’t fully empty it. Being unable to urinate at all, like Frank, is a medical emergency since dangerous toxins and electrolytes build up in the blood instead of being flushed out of the body in urine. These toxins can even stop the heart – hence the need for emergency care.
Unfortunately, bladder stones aren’t always visible on x-rays, which was the case for Frank. A faintly mineralized area — either a bladder stone or mineralized bladder debris — was visible. But because the diagnosis wasn’t clearcut, a few extra steps were needed to confirm the reason for Frank’s obstruction.
In the meantime, a catheter was placed to get Frank urinating again. He was hospitalized with treatments: intravenous (IV) fluids, pain relievers, and anti-nausea medication. His urine testing showed a lot of bladder inflammation, but no evident infection. There were no crystals founds in his urine. So the best way to uncover the root cause of Frank’s problem was with additional imaging.
An abdominal ultrasound was performed and Dr. Nevins, one of our board-certified veterinary radiologists, confirmed crystalline debris and at least one bladder stone! Fortunately, Frank’s subsequent bloodwork showed that his kidney values returned to normal after his obstruction was bypassed (with the urinary catheter) and he was hydrated. But with the proof of a bladder stone, Frank wasn’t out of the woods quite yet. He went into surgery with Dr. Anderson, one of our board-certified veterinary surgeons, to have the bladder stone removed.
Frank recovered well from surgery. He stayed the night in our ER so we could keep a close eye on him and control his post-surgical pain. The urinary catheter was removed, and great news! Frank was urinating well, comfortable with his pain relievers, and eating like a champ. With this leap of progress, he was able to head home to continue the healing process with his family.
Six months after surgery, Frank’s Mom, Jessica, shares that he made a wonderful recovery and is spunkier than ever, “He sure lights up the day!” Here’s Frank at home with his half-sister, Piper.
Our “Fur-tunately: Stories of Animal Survival” series feature real pets treated by our team at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. All images and information have been shared with the owner’s permission.
Case content provided by Ally Thell, DVM.