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Everything You Need to Know about Pet Cystotomy

When you find out your dog or cat needs bladder surgery, it can be overwhelming and hard to understand what your vet tells you about the procedure or even about why he or she needs one in the first place. At Cuyamaca Animal Hospital, we do everything we can to educate our clients in the Santee and larger San Diego communities so that they can make informed decisions around their pets’ surgical needs.

With a cystotomy, in particular, there can be a lot of confusion or misinformation on Google about what it is and where to go to have one performed on your dog or cat. As you know, we strive to break down the dense research and medical terminology so that all our clients can understand and feel empowered about the choices they are making.

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Here’s everything you should know about veterinary cystotomy:

Why does my pet need a cystotomy?

The most common reason for a cystotomy is bladder stones, which typically form due to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), or from excreting too much of a certain mineral in the bladder. The most common types of these stones are struvite and calcium stones, respectively.

What You Should Know About Struvite and Calcium Stones

Both struvite and calcium stones are diagnosed by taking x-rays but can also be found by your technicians obtaining a urinalysis by cystocentesis since ultrasound is used to guide the needle into the bladder to obtain the sample. After surgery, the stones are sent to a lab to determine what type of stones they are and to make recommendations on prevention—like what diet to feed and how to monitor your pet so that these stones don’t return.

In the case of pure struvite stones, these stones are typically dissolved with diet adjustments. Struvite stones are more common in females since females are more likely than males to get UTIs. However, male pets are typically recommended to have a cystotomy right away, as male pets are more likely to become obstructed by stones and unable to urinate. Obstruction due to stones can lead to acute kidney failure, and in worst cases, death.

In summary: if your female pet doesn’t naturally dissolve the stones, if the pet is male, or if your pet is uncomfortable, a cystotomy will be recommended.

What is a Cystotomy, and What is the Process?

In the simplest terms, a cystotomy is a surgical procedure on the bladder. A cystotomy is typically performed to remove bladder stones but is sometimes necessary to remove a tumor. Your veterinary surgeon will make an incision through your cat or dog’s abdominal wall, and then into the bladder wall to remove the stones or the tumor.

After a thorough inspection to make sure the stones and/or tumors are removed, your surgeon will then close the incision. Typically, the patient will go home later in the day after urinating for the vet to make sure he or she is comfortable doing so. Fortunately, the bladder is the fastest healing organ in the body, so most pets are back to normal in just a week.

What You Should Expect Post-Op

Commonly, pets will continue to strain during urination, will urinate frequently, and even have blood in their urine for at least a few days. If you see this happening after a cystotomy, do not worry!

Post-op complications are rare but are worth mentioning so that you are fully prepared in the event that your pet experiences uncommon consequences due to a cystotomy. These include incontinence (though this typically resolves within a week), straining and discomfort that lasts longer than 3-4 days, and urine leakage. Even in the event of these complications, pets typically respond well to an anti-inflammatory injection, should you return your cat or dog to the vet.

How Cuyamaca Animal Hospital Can Help

One of the reasons we strive in earnest to inform our clients thoroughly about procedures like these is because we don’t want to see our clients pay extra for a procedure we can do in-house. Part of our mission is to provide a wide range of veterinary services—from routine ones to complex ones like cystotomies—at a fraction of the cost of specialty veterinary hospitals.


Cuyamaca Animal Hospital works to be transparent every step of the way through your cat or dog’s surgical processes. Our focus is consistently on patient safety, pain management, and staying on top of best surgical practices so that your fears and concerns are put to rest. We are proud to have a compassion-based staff who takes exceptional measures before, during, and after surgery to ensure safe and full recovery in your pet.

Even if your pet has been recommended a cystotomy by another vet, Cuyamaca Animal Hospital can help. Don’t pay an astronomical price for a cystotomy at the specialty hospital when you don’t have to! Call us today at (619) 448-0707 so we can discuss your pet’s intestinal surgical needs.

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