DID you ever have one of those crystal growing kits, often sold as an educational toy?
Our kids used to enjoy watching the colourful miniature crystal metropolis slowly taking shape until someone would inevitably knock the whole thing over into a crumbling mess.
We seem to be naturally attracted to the geometric beauty of crystals and these toys were a fun way to learn about their formation.
The same chemistry principles underlie the formation of stones in the bladder. A relative saturation of particular minerals, the right pH or acidity conditions, a "seed" particle or nidus such as from a bacterial infection to act as the starting scaffold on which the crystal deposition starts, and away it goes, pretty much like in the "magic crystal garden". If conditions in the urine remain suitable, weeks or months later stones the size of golf balls or even larger can be rattling around in the bladder.
Phoebe the eight-year-old Poodle was doing her number ones a bit more often than usual, and then her owner noticed blood in her urine. When we examined Phoebe it was easy to feel the several large firm masses in her bladder area and so we confirmed that they were in fact bladder stones or uroliths by x-ray. The following day we operated to remove the stones. This all went smoothly and Phoebe recovered well (and was a bonus six stones lighter!!).
Now, in dogs and cats, bladder stones can have different mineral composition, and depending on the chemical make up of the particular urolith, we can adopt preventive strategies, mainly with special diets. So Phoebe's stones were sent on a journey to the Minnesota Urolith Centre at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, USA!
This place analyses bladder stones from all over the world and has recently passed the 750,000 mile - stone. That's a pretty decent database and they have all sorts of fancy gadgets to determine the exact structure and chemical composition of the uroliths so we vets can prescribe the appropriate treatment. Then it will be over to Phoebe to eat the diet food and drink more water!