Cystine bladder stones in a French bulldog

Rico caused some consternation on August 12th. We were just about to finalise packing for our first overseas holiday in 12 years with the kids; when Rico presented as an emergency. He couldn’t pee!


We explained how serious this is; and got to work. We passed a urinary catheter ; but it met an obstruction that absolutely would not budge.

Things were much more serious than we had hoped. Sometimes these cases are manageable medically; and we can shift the stones; and use diet to dissolve them. But, Rico had a urolith (stone) firmly wedged in his urethra; and retroflushing with lubricant, saline and local anaesthetic just couldn’t move it. These stones can have spiky edges that wedge into tissues. We had to make a call. His life was in danger; and we had to act quickly.

Thankfully, as a new graduate, I spent a lot of time with the wonderful soft tissue surgeon Sue Gregory at the Royal Veterinary College, and she taught me the skills needed to help Rico. She had a special interest in urology; and so urethras and stones don’t scare me!


Rico needed emergency surgery to unblock his urethra; remove the stones; and create a permanent opening in a wider part of his urethra. This allows him to pee safely, and to pass any stones he might make without having them obstruct his urinary tract. We were several hours in theatre with him; reconstructing a urethrostomy in a delicate procedure involving careful dissection. We will manage his condition medically going forward; making sure that he is on a special diet.

Once he was stabilised; we were happy to leave him in the care of our wonderful team. Our Locums Lucy and Callum and nurses Avril and Bryhnie; along with Katie and Orlaith. were superheros; holding the fort whilst we jetted off to sunny Spain for a much needed break.

There can be bleeding after this surgery; and this did occur in Ricos case; but it’s finally settling down now and he’s living his best life. The team kept a close watch on him for me; allowing me to relax in the sun with Shane and the kids for the first time in a long time. He was a very good boy throughout; although he did get grumpy at times; but wouldn’t you be grouchy if you had spiky stones stuck in your urethra! Ouch!