“She doesn’t feel very good. She has to go out a lot, and she’s drinking a lot of water. I think I saw some blood in her urine.” How long has that been going on? “Just a couple of days.”
She is an older female that has never been spayed, so I’m worried about the possibility of a uterine infection. The first test I want is an abdominal ultrasound. I really want to get a look at that uterus.
The uterus looks okay, but there’s this huge acoustic shadow from the bladder makes it hard to get a good look at the uterus. It takes a minute for me to shift my point of view from this huge shadow being “in my way” to it being “the thing I’m looking for”. That’s what a huge bladder stone looks like on an ultrasound, because it doesn’t let any sound waves through.
I took an X-ray to get a better look at it. Wowsers! That’s a big one. Not only that, but if you look closely you can actually the bladder wall. It is so thick from chronic inflammation that you can see it on the X-ray. Normally, you just see a silhouette of the bladder.
The only remedy for this situation is surgery, which is usually pretty straightforward. Any surgery can have complications, but these usually do quite well.
So here’s the weird thing: this dog has only been showing outward signs noticeable to the owner for a couple of days. You can see that this thing is pretty doggone big, and very rough. It looks like a whole bunch of tiny stones packed together, which is what it is. These are struvite stones (calcium magnesium phosphate) and in dogs they occur secondary to bladder infections. Something like that takes months to form.
You might say that this dog’s owner just couldn’t have been paying any attention to the dog or he would have noticed this a long time ago. I might say that, too, except that I have run into this several times before, and with clients that I knew well – people who do NOT ignore their pets. I don’t know how it can happen that such a long term problem shows no outward signs, but sometimes it does.
Bottom line, when you first notice that your pet is having problems, it may not necessarily be something that is just starting. Maybe instead of “watching it for a few days” you need to get it checked out as soon as you can.