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Labrador Must Have Kidney Removed after Blockage

Reviewed by Dr. Celeste Clements, DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, October 22, 2015
Posted November 12, 2015 in Dog Surgery A-Z

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

One evening, Lexie’s guardians, John and Jill, came home to their 10-year-old female Labrador. Instead of greeting them at the door, tail wagging and happy to see them, Lexie was not at the door. She was in the kitchen, whimpering and unwilling to get up. She clearly hadn’t touched her food bowl. An hour later, Lexie was in the ER. The emergency veterinarian performed a physical exam which revealed consistent belly pain.

Blood work showed that she might have kidney problems. A urinalysis revealed a urinary infection. Lexie was kept on IV fluids and antibiotics overnight.

A urinary infection didn’t seem that bad, so Lexie’s guardians went home alone, but somewhat reassured. An ultrasound was scheduled for the next day.

Sad Labrador

Ultrasound reveals kidney problem
The Doctor who performed the ultrasound called after the test and explained the problem: 

“Lexie’s ultrasound revealed that everything is fine in her belly except for one single problem. Lexie has an enlarged, infected kidney. This is due to a blockage by a stone in the ureter.”

“What’s the ureter?” asked John.

The Doctor replied, “The ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. Normally, it is a small tube. In Lexie’s case, it’s five times wider than it should be. And the cause is a stone that moved from the kidney into the ureter and got blocked inside. That caused backflow of urine, and caused the ureter and the kidney to become enlarged. In turn, the urine has become infected, leading to the kidney infection.”

“So if you remove the stone, will she be OK?” asked Jill anxiously.

“Removing the stone is necessary, but we cannot leave an infected, abscessed  kidney in Lexie’s belly. It has to be removed,” explained the Doctor.

Her eyes welling up, Jill asked “will she be OK with only one kidney?”

“Based on my ultrasound, her other kidney seems in good shape, so yes, I do believe she will be fine.”

Lexie’s kidney surgery
On the same day, the clinic’s board-certified surgeon performed surgery on Lexie. The kidney and its ureter were removed. Samples were sent to the lab for biopsies and a culture. After surgery, the surgeon reassured John and Jill that everything went well. He confirmed that a stone had blocked the ureter and caused all of the problems that were found.

Lexie was lucky that she had a benign condition in her kidney. A kidney may need to be removed for several reasons, including trauma (for example after being hit by a car), benign or cancerous tumors, and various causes of kidney enlargement. In Lexie’s case, the enlarged kidney is called hydronephrosis.

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at