Bladder stones (or urinary calculi) are a result of minerals in concentrated urine turning into crystals. Just like human beings, dogs and cats experience urinary tract infections. These infections can cause bladder stones. Bladder stones can also be caused by numerous other reasons, even diet.
Bladder stones are especially dangerous in male cats. They frequently block the urethra and cause a backup of urine. This can quickly become deadly and needs an emergency visit to the vet. In other pets, bladder stones can be just as serious. However, removal can usually be scheduled during business hours.
So, how much do cat and dog bladder stone surgeries cost?
Average Dog and Cat Cystotomy Cost
The most direct method of removing bladder stones is via surgery – otherwise technically known as cystotomy. The idea is to puncture and partially open the bladder in order for the physician to methodically remove the urinary calculi after a thorough suction of waste fluids.
This bladder stone surgery is proven to be the best procedure for severe cases that involve total urinary blockage.
A vet visit to diagnose bladder stones usually costs $250 to $400, not including treatment.
The total cost of surgery to remove bladder stones ranges from about $800 to $1,400. This includes pre-anesthetic bloodwork and take-home medication. It is also recommended by most veterinarians to follow up after the surgery.
Although most online forums estimate the actual dog and cat cystotomy cost to be this much, it is possible to acquire low-cost procedures from veterinary hospitals. For example, a Maryland-based called Jarrettsville Veterinary Center offers cystotomy procedure for small mammals at roughly $500.
On the other hand, a Virginia-based low-cost vet clinic called Helping Hands Vet has its own flat rate for pet cystotomy – regardless of the type of small animal companion. The estimated cost is somewhere around $655.
Apart from the cat or dog bladder stone surgery fee, you also need to consider the average price of important diagnostic tests. Your veterinarian will diagnose bladder stones using a combination of two methods.
First, they will do a urinalysis. Struvite stones are typically caused by a bladder infection. A urinalysis will show if there is an infection and what kind.
Crystals may also appear on the urinalysis. This will tell your veterinarian what kind of bladder stones your dog has. The cost of this is about $60 to $120. Price varies based on how extensive the urine testing is.
The veterinarian will take an x-ray of your dog to see if there are bladder stones present. This cost ranges from $120 to $250.
Sometimes, a veterinarian can simply feel the stones while examining your dog. An x-ray is still recommended because it confirms that what your vet feels are in-fact bladder stones.
Remember that based on your dog’s specific needs, your veterinarian may recommend more testing.
An Illinois-based Lakeside Veterinary Hospital charges $200 to $250 for a full-body x-ray imaging. A two-view diagnosis costs $145 while a one-view case-referral costs $60.
It also charges around $65 for the urinalysis lab test. Pre-surgical exams cost roughly $30, though it may depend on the case of the patient in question. In-house bloodwork that includes complete blood count (CBC) and chemical analysis costs a total of $130.
However, there are certain cases of bladder stone infection (e.g. cystine and urate) that prove elusive for radiography. In this particular case, sonography (ultrasound) would be a more precise pre-op method.
A New Jersey-based St. Francis Veterinary Center charges a conservative cost of $400 to $600 per full ultrasound scan.
- Prescription Diet
If your dog or cat only has small struvite or urate stones, they can often be dissolved using a prescription diet. These diets are $30 to $40 for an 8-pound bag and $80 to $90 for a 28-pound bag.
Your pet may need to be on prescription food for only a few months or he may need to be on the food for life. This depends on the type of stones and your pet’s medical history.
If your dog or cat is only on the food for a short time, your veterinarian will schedule a recheck x-ray. This will make sure that all the stones are dissolved before stopping the food.
Urinary diets also prevent new bladder stones from forming. If your pet is at risk of forming stones again, it is recommended that he stays on a urinary diet.
Increasing water consumption can also aid in the prevention of bladder stones. This can be done by feeding a canned diet rather than a dry one.
- Pre-Surgery Health Checks
Most dogs and cats requiring bladder stone surgery will need bloodwork before going under anesthesia. A full blood chemistry and a CBC will cost roughly $150 to $200.
These blood tests help decide which medications and precautions to use for the surgery. They may also offer information about why they formed bladder stones in the first place. This bloodwork may be done a few days before the surgery or on the day of the surgery.
The day of the operation, the veterinarian will perform a physical exam on your pet. This typically costs $30 to $50.
It checks your pet’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate. This exam checks that his health has not declined since surgery was recommended.
The drugs required for anesthesia will depend on your pet’s health and weight. The quality of care and level of monitoring will also vary the cost of anesthesia.
Your dog or cat may need intense monitoring and IV fluids. The cost of anesthesia will roughly fall into the $150 to $400 range.
Ask your veterinarian if vital signs will be monitored by a dedicated staff member throughout the surgery. Pets that need bladder stone surgery are often at higher risk than a simple spay or neuter.
Not all clinics have veterinary technicians trained to use monitoring equipment. It is perfectly acceptable to ask your veterinarian for a referral to a specialist hospital.
The cost of surgery at a specialist hospital is typically similar to the cost at your local veterinarian.
Veterinarians charge about $400 to $600 per hour for their time performing the surgery. This only includes the sterile procedure and not the preparation and recovery.
The hourly price varies based on the skill level of the veterinarian and the local market.
A bladder stone removal will take from around 30-60 minutes. This depends on the size of your pet and how difficult the stones are to remove. However, post-op recoery requires the dog or cat patient to be confined for three days.
Many clinics will charge based on the estimated time the surgery takes. This way owners can know the costs up-front.
Your dog will be sent home with antibiotics and pain medication after surgery. The medications prescribed may be limited based on the health of your dog.
If there are no major issues, the antibiotic and pain medication should be under $30 each. If your dog has kidney or liver issues, the pain medication may be much more expensive.
Certain types of urinary infections can make the antibiotic more expensive too. Around $100 for pain medication or antibiotics is possible.
- Stone Analysis
It is typically recommended to analyze the bladder stones that were removed. This costs around $100.
This test will determine with certainty the type of bladder stone. This allows you and your vet to make the best plan about preventing future stones.
- Follow Up
Your veterinarian will likely want to see your pet back in the clinic after some time. This is to make sure that he is healing well and that no new stones are forming.
This will likely include a brief exam, urinalysis, and x-ray. Brief exams cost around $30 to $50. Urinalysis and x-rays would cost about what was paid to initially diagnose the bladder stones.
Symptoms of bladder stones can look like a simple urinary tract infection. Your pet may also strain to urinate without producing any urine.
Inability to urinate is a medical emergency and needs to be seen right away. This is most common in male cats but can happen to any pet. Other symptoms can usually wait until your regular veterinarian is open.
Use your best judgment if an emergency visit is needed. Urinary issues can rapidly become very serious kidney damage.
Common symptoms of bladder stones in pets are a bit similar to those of humans. These include the following clinical signs:
- Blood in the urine
- Physical strain during urination
- Urinating in small volume but with increased frequency
- Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
- Bladder accident (breaking house training/habits)
- Crying out in pain (vocalization)
- Frequently licking their genitals
Healthy adult canines relieve themselves 3 to 5 times a day. All five of the previously mentioned symptoms are keys to recognizing certain ills in a dog’s bladder movement.
One of the most obvious signs that truly give away this condition is the dog’s tendency to whimper due to discomfort. If the dog experiences obvious physical hurts during urination, you need to have your beloved animal companion checked by a veterinarian.
Most of the adult cats are able to urinate at an average of 2 to 4 times a day. The same list of earlier aforementioned clinical signs may manifest among affected felines.
But what makes bladder conditions tricky to determine among cats is that they are very good at masking their symptoms. They do not usually vocalize pain or discomfort.
Nonetheless, it is crucial to determine how certain habits have dramatically changed considering that cats are creatures of unbreakable routine.
Special Mention Breeds
Unlike struvite and calcium oxalate stones, the other types of urinary calculi only afflict certain breed of dogs and cats. After all, they comprise the least portions of the gene pool in terms of prevalence alone.
This is where genetic predisposition makes the most impact as a direct consequence of bladder stones.
Urate stones, for instance, afflicts only less than one-tenth of the canine and feline species. Among dogs, the most frequently distressed are Dalmatians – particularly male ones.
Other dogs include English bulldogs and Black Russian Terriers. The feline breeds that are very prone to urate stones include the Birman, Egyptian Mau, and Siamese.
Canine and feline species affected by cystine stones are comparatively even fewer. Among cats, the highly afflicted are restricted within the Siamese and Domestic Shorthair gene pool.
For dogs, here are the breeds that are highly at risk:
- Basset Hound
- English Bulldog
- Irish Terrier
Silicate stones are almost predominantly a canine bladder issue and the incidences of it occurring among cats are too rare to even seriously document.
According to the report by the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, the following dog breeds are at risk of acquiring bladder stones with partial or complete silica content:
- Bichon Friese
- German Shepherd
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Lhasa Apso
- Old English Sheepdog