Over the years, we’ve been pretty fortunate with Speckles. She did have those surgeries on her torn ligaments about six years ago. But, she’s been mostly illness- and accident-free since then. Even as Speckles entered her senior years, her health was doing fine. Well, that’s what we thought until we found ourselves rushing her to emergency to remove bladder stones (cystotomy)!
When We Knew Something was Wrong…
Everything happened so quickly and out of the blue. Speckles was acting like her normal happy self. But, one afternoon, she became lethargic, clingy, had no appetite, and had a couple of accidents in the house. I took her out for a walk but she would squat every five feet to only push out a couple drops of urine. When we got home, she continued to leak here and there and I had to confine Speckles to the bathroom.
We decided to buy some adult diapers for Speckles until we could get her to the vet. Frans and I were sooooooo embarrassed while shopping for them! We had no idea which kind or size to get for our pup and were stuck in that aisle for what seemed like hours. At home, we cut a hole in one of the diapers and stuck it on Speckles. She didn’t seem to mind wearing it but the “nude” color wasn’t too flattering on her.
Unexpected Urinary Tract Infection & Bladder Stones in Dogs
The next morning, I called the veterinary clinic and was able to get an appointment for later that day. We figured it was a simple urinary tract infection (UTI) and she could take some antibiotics to clear everything up. To our surprise, the vet seemed extremely concerned when she heard about Speckles’ symptoms. The fact that our dog had these at eight years old and that her bladder was super full seemed to be signs of a more serious problem.
Our jaws about hit the floor when we received a price quote of how much it would cost to test everything. After much deliberation, Frans and I decided to have a urinalysis, x-ray, and blood work done to see what was wrong. Turns out that Speckles had bladder stones, and pretty large ones at that! Did you even know dogs got bladder stones?!
The UTI could be treated with antibiotics but the bladder stones needed more attention. If tests revealed that the stones were made of struvite, we could put Speckles on a special diet to dissolve them. If they were calcium, we would need to get them surgically removed. The major concern, though, was how full her bladder was and her inability to urinate.
Full Bladder Emergency
The vet tried to express (physically push out) some of the urine but could only get a little out. She advised us to watch Speckles carefully overnight but to come in the following day to try again. When the vet checked her the next morning, she told us that we needed to get a catheter in Speckles ASAP! Her bladder was majorly full but something was likely blocking the opening. If we didn’t empty it right away, she could die! A full bladder could actually explode or cause waste to back up into her other organs if nothing is done about it.
Apparently, it’s very difficult to insert a catheter in females dogs. So, the vet told us to immediately head to the emergency animal hospital. After checking that our pet insurance would indeed cover it, we rushed over to the pet emergency clinic. After several hours of waiting (there was a more critical case being taken care of when we arrived), we finally talked to the resident vet.
She told us that she could indeed put in the catheter but that Speckles would need to stay overnight. They needed to empty her bladder and then flush it out. They also needed to keep an eye on her to make sure nothing else got stuck after removing the catheter.
This vet also said that shrinking the bladder stones at this point could actually do more harm than good. If the stones did dissolve, they could dislodge, causing pain as they moved around and possibly cause another obstruction. She said it would be safer to surgically remove the bladder stones via a cystotomy. Then, once she had a clean slate, a special diet would prevent future bladder stones from forming.
Catheter Insertion to Bladder Stone Removal
After a lot of tears and anxiety, we decided to go ahead and have Speckles admitted. The clinic first took an ultrasound to make sure there was no other mass or object physically blocking the urine. Then, the vet would drain her bladder, clean it out, and keep her overnight to monitor her. If all went well, the surgeon would call us in the morning to see if we still wanted to go ahead with the cystotomy. Speckles would then be operated on and kept one more night to recover.
The animal hospital kept us up to date the entire time. Also, since a friend of ours actually works at that clinic as a vet technician (but she was off duty during this time), she could guarantee the skill and care of the vet, surgeon, and team working on her. She also said that the removal of bladder stones in dogs is fairly routine so we shouldn’t worry too much.
Speckles did fine during the first procedure on Friday and, by the next morning (Saturday), she was ready for surgery. Everything went smoothly and, by Sunday, we could pick Speckles up and bring her home. As soon she walked out, we knew Speckles was feeling better. She was happy, her tail was wagging, and, when we got back, we also found out that she had her appetite back!
On the Road to Recovery
Her incision actually looked really good and she had several stitches which would dissolve in a couple weeks. Speckles needed to finish off her antibiotics for the UTI and now had pain meds for her recovery. She didn’t mind taking either of those as long as they were encased in cheese. But, she was less than thrilled with the “cone of shame” she had to wear as her wound healed.
As for the cost, we received reimbursement from our pet insurance a couple days after all the procedures (minus our deductible and 10% cost). What was covered pretty much equaled what we paid for the insurance over the past six years so it was worth those monthly payments. Plus, our plan will continue to cover 90% of any further issues Speckles might have related to bladder stones until the end of her lifetime.
If you don’t have pet insurance, I recommend you get it! Even though the surgery was routine and had a high success rate, the unexpected cost would have been too much for us to afford without insurance. We use Trupanion and found that it pays fast or directly to the vet, has good coverage, helpful customer service, and coverage is based on conditions, not calendar year.
It’s been a few weeks and Speckles is doing so much better! Her scar is healing nicely, her appetite is back, and she even wants to play again these days. Though the time period from when we noticed her symptoms to her having surgery was only three days, she probably hadn’t been feeling good for a while. She’s like a whole new dog now!
While I could do without the stress and expense, we’re so glad it all turned out okay and that Speckles feels better. She’s back to her lovable self and we love seeing her renewed energy. We hope she stays like this for at least several more years. 🙂