Your veterinarian might have diagnosed bladder stones in your dog if she has made accidental puddles or had difficulty peeing. It is best to prevent stones from forming (and causing pain and discomfort), but this isn’t always easy. It is not guaranteed to work.
Stones can be of different kinds, and they form in different ways. They require different treatment methods and prevention strategies. According to Dr. Alex Gallagher of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, about 50 percent of dogs who have calcium oxalate stone recurrences within two years, despite prevention measures.
Some factors that are beyond your control can make it difficult to prevent bladder stones. Breeding factors, such as your dog’s, could put him at an increased risk of bladder stones. Vets aren’t sure why certain stones form, so prevention and treatment may be difficult. The cause of calcium oxalate stone formation is not well understood. He says that the majority of dogs with recurrences have a genetic predisposition, which we cannot identify at this point.
There are still things that you can do in order to lower the chances of an accident. The most important thing is to maintain a lean weight for your dog, provide plenty of water and feed a diet high in protein, says Dr. Meghan Glaser, a veterinarian from WVRC Emergency & Specialty Pet Care, located in Waukesha.
What Breed of Dog Is Most at Risk for Bladder Stones?
When minerals in urine crystallize, they can form bladder stones in dogs. Glazer, a specialist in emergency medicine, states that the most common stones for dogs are made from struvite and calcium oxalate. Vets say that stones made from ammonium-urate, are also relatively common.
The breed is a factor in determining the type of stone that will develop, according to Dr. Zenithson Ng. He’s a clinical assistant at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
He says that some smaller breeds have a genetic predisposition to develop calcium oxalate stone. Miniature Schnauzers are at risk, as well as Bichon Frises, Lhasa Apsos and Yorkshire Terriers. The same breeds as Miniature Poodles and Dachshunds are more susceptible to developing struvite.
Gallagher says that certain breeds are at a higher risk of developing urate stones due to a liver shunt, a congenital disorder that increases the ammonia level in blood and urine. Liver shunts can be found in many breeds including Yorkshire Terriers and Maltese.
According to him, urate stone formation can be due to an inherited disorder of uric acid metabolism. This is most common in English Bulldogs or Dalmatians.
The age of your dog is a risk factor for bladder stones in dogs
Ng, a board-certified veterinarian in feline/canine medicine, says that bladder stones may occur in any dog at any age.
He says that urates are diagnosed more frequently in older and middle-aged dogs. Calcium oxalate is diagnosed more commonly in those aged 7 to 9 and in the middle.
Gallagher is a board-certified veterinarian in internal medicine. She says that older dogs are also at heightened risk for developing conditions that predispose to the formation of stones. This includes infections which can lead to struvite stone formation and increased calcium levels in blood or urine.
Bladder Stones can be caused by certain diseases
Glazer says that certain conditions may predispose dogs to bladder stones. Glazer says that a dog with diabetes is at an increased risk of urinary tract infection and bladder stones.
Cathy Meeks is a veterinarian at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, a Tampa-based practice. She says that if a dog suffers from diabetes, the urine contains sugar, which creates an ideal environment for bacteria.
Infection is almost always the cause of struvite. Gallagher says that certain types of bacteria can produce an enzyme known as urease. Urease is a substance that increases the concentration needed of minerals to create struvite. Staphylococcus and Proteus Mirabilis are common bacteria that do this. Some Klebsiella types, as well as some Corynebacterium varieties, also contribute to the formation of struvite stones. The prevention of these stones includes treating the infection at its source and watching for any recurrences of both infection and stone.”
The key to preventing stone formation is hydration
Ng says that the best way to prevent and manage any type of stone or crystal is by keeping your dog hydrated. The importance of water intake can’t be overstated.
Glazer says that water can reduce the likelihood of bladder stones forming. Water intake increases the dilution and flushing of crystals in urine (from various sources), which allows them to be dissolved or removed from your system before they form into stones.
Ng believes that your dog must always have fresh water available. Make sure they’re well-hydrated, and give them the chance to urinate often throughout the day.
Dogs should drink approximately one ounce per pound body weight of water each day. Make sure her bowl is always clean, filled with water and easily accessible. If you give her canned foods, they contain 70-80% water.
How Diet Can Help Prevent and Manage Bladder Stones
The type of bladder stone that your dog has will determine what you should feed him.
Prescription urinary foods are tailored to the type of stones that have formed in a particular dog. The specific diets can influence the pH of the urine, the electrolyte composition, and the mineral content in the dog’s body. This may reduce the risk for further stone formation or, in some cases dissolve existing stones.
According to Meeks, board certified in veterinary medicine, calcium oxalate stones require a more basic pH. A struvite requires more acidic pH. Some stones, such as struvites, can be removed without surgery. The stones are usually caused by a urinary infection. They can be treated using antibiotics, and with a diet to make the urine more acidic.
Glazer claims that there is a link between diets high in carbohydrates (and low in protein) as well as the formation of oxalate stones in the bladder. There is also an association between obesity and these stones. It is therefore important to keep your dog lean and healthy by feeding them a diet high in protein.
Glazer says that calcium oxalate stones cannot be removed from the bladder by diet. Surgery or other procedures will need to be performed to do so. However, dietary management can help prevent a recurrence. It focuses on the management of specific electrolytes, and pH in the urine.
For struvite, the opposite is true. She says that diet does not play an important role in the formation of these stones, but if you follow a prescribed diet and treat the infection (by changing the pH level of your urine), they will dissolve. This dissolution usually occurs over a period of weeks or months. It is important to monitor the patient closely during this process as the stone can suddenly cause obstructions in the urethra.
It is important to monitor your system regularly
It is crucial to identify bladder stones early. Gallagher says that in dogs who have previously had calcium oxalate bladder stones, regular monitoring can help to detect a recurrence. This is because less-invasive removal methods (than surgery) may be available for small stones.
You should be aware of the symptoms you need to watch for in order to effectively monitor your pet. Glazer advises that you should consult a vet if your pet has bloody urine, is straining to urinate or the frequency of their urination changes. The most worrying symptoms are straining or an inability to pee. This indicates that immediate medical attention is needed.
You should let your dog go to the bathroom frequently, but also be sure to monitor her urination. Ng says that if dogs do not get walked, but are only allowed to pee, the first or subtle signs (or other urinary abnormalities) of stones may be missed. They will not receive attention until they show severe symptoms.
Ng adds that a yearly check-up at the veterinarian is also an important part of prevention. If there is any concern, your vet may give you recommendations.
You may be unable to prevent your dog from getting bladder stones if her breed or age predisposes her. You can reduce the likelihood of these stones occurring and spare your dog unnecessary suffering.