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Lithotripsy in Dogs

Some dogs may benefit from lithotripsy instead of bladder surgery.

Lithotripsy is a non-surgical procedure for removing bladder stones from dogs. It is an alternative to invasive surgery that requires cutting open the abdomen and then the bladder or kidneys.

Terms to Know

The following terms will appear in this article:

  • Kidneys. These organs are responsible for removing toxins from the body. They process urine and conserve water for use by the body. They also help control functions like blood pressure and electrolyte balance.
  • Bladder. The sac that holds urine after it's been processed in the kidneys but before it leaves the body.
  • Urethra. The tube that leads from the bladder to the outside world.
  • Ureters. The tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder.

What Is Lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy means crushing up bladder stones into tiny bits so they can pass through the urethra and out of the body on their own.

Lithotripsy can be accomplished with a laser (for stones in the bladder or urethra) or a shock wave (for stones in the kidneys or ureters).

Intracorporeal Laser Lithotripsy

This procedure uses a specific type of laser to break up stones in the bladder and urethra. A flexible tube goes up through the urethra and places the laser next to the stone.

The procedure requires the dog to be under general anesthesia. It has a high success rate for stone removal (around 70-95%). Of course, there are risks, including those associated with anesthesia and damage to the bladder from the laser, but those are rare.

In general, laser lithotripsy has a higher success rate and lower complication rate than surgery for removing stones from the urethra, especially, unless there are lots of stones.

Laser lithotripsy is more expensive than surgery and is performed at specialty veterinary clinics.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

This procedure also requires general anesthesia. The dog is placed in water, or a water cushion is placed on the dog, and then a shock wave is used to break up stones in the kidneys and ureters.

Shock wave therapy is safer than cutting the kidneys open, with a lower rate of kidney dysfunction afterward.

Some dogs end up with a urinary blockage after the procedure, when a stone fragment blocks the urethra as it tries to exit the body. Other dogs develop pancreatitis from the shock waves.

Many dogs require more than one treatment to get all the stones crushed up, and it's only useful for small stones.

The procedure is done at a specialty veterinary clinic.

Your veterinarian is best suited to help you decide if one of these specialty lithotripsy procedures is right for your dog.

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