If your dog strains to pee or blood appears in the urine, he could suffer from bladder stones. Take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible for an examination. Depending on the diagnosis, your dog might require surgery for stone removal. One type of stone sometimes dissolves through prescription diet therapy, but there's no guarantee. Your vet likely will put your dog on a permanent new diet to avoid future stone formation.
Struvite stones, the most common type of canine bladder stone, can sometimes be removed through diet rather than surgical means. Through urinalysis, which shows the presence of crystals, the building blocks of stones, and by using an X-ray or ultrasound, your vet may be able to see the stone. Positive identification of a stone must be done in a lab, meaning without surgery, the only option requires flushing out a stone via a catheter. If the stones aren't large and aren't blocking the urethra, which is a veterinary emergency, your vet might prescribe a diet designed to increase acid levels in the urine, eventually causing the stones to dissolve. While your dog likely will stay on a special diet for the rest of his life, the prevention diet differs from the dissolution diet.
Calcium Oxalate Stones
If your dog's bladder stones consist of calcium oxalate, you don't have the option to dissolve them through diet. They require surgical removal. A high percentage of dogs with such stones develop them again, even with dietary changes. That's because, unlike struvite stones, calcium oxalate stone development isn't usually related to diet, but might result from genetic or metabolic issues. Your vet will prescribe a diet low in calcium and oxalate -- a naturally occurring substance -- to minimize the odds of new stone formation.
While prescription diets are available in both canned and dry forms, the former is preferable. That's because it's important that dogs prone to stones consume as much water as possible to keep urine diluted and prevent stone formation. Nutritionally balanced prescription diets for bladder stones contain low levels of protein, phosphorous and magnesium, all of which aid in stone development.
While convenient, prescription diets aren't cheap and not all dogs find them palatable. Ask your vet about preparing home-cooked meals for your dog that are both nutritionally balanced and low in protein, magnesium and phosphorous. Your vet might refer you to a veterinary nutritionist, who can design a diet based on your individual dog's needs. Some examples of foods used in homemade bladder stone prevention diets include plain cooked turkey or chicken, rice, pasta and eggs.