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What is Lithotripsy?

Lithotripsy is a procedure performed in dogs to treat urolithiasis-- the presence of stones in the urinary tract. Lithotripsy involves using energy to break the stones (uroliths) into small particles that can be collected or flushed from the urinary tract. The treatment is typically completed with a laser via cystoscopy, a procedure that provides access to the urinary tract with a small scope, rather than with open surgery.

Laser lithotripsy is typically recommended after other treatment methods, such as medication, diet change, and urohydropulsion have proven ineffective in removing urinary tract stones. Dogs are likely to be referred to a surgical or internal medicine veterinary specialist for laser lithotripsy treatment.

Lithotripsy Procedure in Dogs

Laser lithotripsy is completed under general anesthesia with the use of a cystoscope.

  • The patient will be evaluated to determine if he or she is a good candidate for the procedure and fit for the use of anesthesia.
  • The patient is anesthetized and positioned for the procedure.
  • X-rays or other imaging may be conducted to visualize uroliths.
  • The cystoscope, a thin tube fitted with a camera and designed to accommodate surgical tools, is passed into the urethra.
  • As stones are encountered, a laser tool is guided to make contact with the stone and energized to break up the material.
  • Urolith fragments are either collected and removed or washed out the urinary tract via voiding urohydropulsion.
  • The cystoscope is removed and the patient allowed to waken from anesthesia.
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Efficacy of Lithotripsy in Dogs

Laser lithotripsy is very effective at destroying urinary tract stones in many dogs, particularly within the bladder and urethra. The procedure is less invasive than surgical removal of stones, and thus carries less risk of complications than open surgery,such as cystotomy. Lithotripsy is generally more effective in female dog than in males, though success rates of 80% or greater are commonly achieved with male patients. 

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Lithotripsy Recovery in Dogs

After the completion of a laser lithotripsy procedure, a dog may remain at the veterinary hospital overnight for observation. Since there are no surgical incisions, limited aftercare will be needed, such as the administration of antibiotics and pain medications. Small amounts of blood may be present in the urine for a few days after discharge, but the dog should experience relief from the symptoms of urolithiasis rather quickly. The veterinarian may recommend changes to diet or exercise routines following discharge and a follow-up visit may be scheduled to check progress; x-rays may be taken to check for the presence of stones in the urinary tract.

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Cost of Lithotripsy in Dogs

The cost of laser lithotripsy in dogs may range from $1,300 to $2,800, depending on the size and condition of the patient and the number of stones present, which will affect anesthesia requirements and the time needed for the procedure. Local availability and the cost of living, along with the need for diagnostic tests and imaging, can affect the overall cost of lithotripsy treatment.

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Dog Lithotripsy Considerations

Though laser lithotripsy is an effective method of resolving existing urinary tract stones, it will not prevent the formation of new stones. Any underlying health conditions or dietary issues must be addressed to prevent recurrence of the condition. Further, due to the nature of cystoscopy, not all dogs are good candidates for the procedure; small breed male dogs may not have a large enough urethra to accommodate the scope required to carry out lithotripsy. Additionally, the procedure may not be appropriate for dogs with a large number of stones or particularly large stones, and may not be effective for stones located higher in the urinary tract or the kidneys.

Occurrence of complications associated with the procedure is rare, but injury caused by the cystoscope or laser are possible. Risks associated with anesthesia are also present, though veterinarians minimize the likelihood of complications with a thorough preoperative evaluation and proper monitoring during the procedure.

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Lithotripsy Prevention in Dogs

Dog owners can take several steps to prevent urolithiasis from developing and leading to the need for laser lithotripsy treatment. Feeding dogs an appropriate diet, promptly addressing urinary tract infections, providing a sufficient water supply, and giving adequate exercise and opportunities to empty the bladder can help promote good urinary health in dogs.  

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Lithotripsy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Molly

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Miniature Schnauzer

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bladder Stone Present

Where is a Dallas area vet that will do lithotripsy for a 14 pound senior miniature scnauzer ? continual "spotting" - no bladder control, minimal urine passage.

March 20, 2018

Molly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I"m not sure of which veterinarians have the equipment necessary for lithotripsy, or if that is the correct option for Molly. Surgery may be a more curative procedure for her, if she is having difficulty passing urine. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you as to whether lithotripsy or surgery is best, and refer you to a clinic that offers that option, if needed. I hope that she does well.

March 20, 2018

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Murray

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Brussels griffon

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15 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

I have an 8 pound Brussels griffon with a stone in his urethra and one in his bladder and some in his kidneys. His cardiologist has cleared him for surgury (he does has a heart condition and collapsing trachea). I'm wondering if he would be a good candidate for lithotripsy or if I should just go ahead with the regular surgical removal or leave it alone because he seems happy but the vet did say it's bothering his urethra.

Feb. 11, 2018

Murray's Owner

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0 Recommendations

You need to discuss this with your Veterinarian since not all dogs are suitable candidates from lithotripsy and not all Veterinarians have the equipment in their practice as it is not a common procedure. However, speak with your Veterinarian and discuss the possibility of lithotripsy with them. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://vetspecialists.com/cystoscopy-and-lithotripsy/

Feb. 11, 2018

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Chuki

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Low Volume Stream , Long Time To Ur

Hi my Chihuahua has stones in his urethra 20+ Count . I was wondering if this would be a procedure for him. the vet I’ve spoken to here wants to do a re-route of his urethra. I was considering the lithotripsy it sounded much more appealing; is there anything you can share to help me determine whether or not he’s a good candidate or possible candidate ?

Jan. 31, 2018

Chuki's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. Lithotripsy can help to break up bladder and urethral stones, but if yoru veterinarian is recommending a urethrostomy, that may be a better long term therapy for Chuki. The type of stones matters in this decision, as if he is forming stones due to a systemic condition, he may benefit from the urethrostomy. It would be best to ask your veterinarian what the best therapy will be for him, as they have seen him and know more his situation. I hope that everything goes well for him!

Feb. 1, 2018

I’ve seen several vets and had different opinions as towhat kinds of stones were in the urethra . thanks for the help

Feb. 1, 2018

Chuki's Owner

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