Have you noticed your dog straining to pee or having accidents around the house? Maybe your canine friend is showing signs of belly pain or is refusing to eat his food. If any of these symptoms sound familiar, your dog may have bladder stones, which is not only uncomfortable but can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Fortunately, some stones can be dissolved with a proper diet and increased hydration, and others can be prevented or greatly reduced by making simple changes to your dog's meals.
Types of bladder stones
Before you can begin treating bladder stones in your dog, you'll have to learn which type of bladder stones she's dealing with. The most common type of stone that affects dogs, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, is called the struvite stone. About half of all stones detected in canines are this type, and nearly 85 percent of female dogs are affected by struvite stones, explains VCA Hospitals.
Less common among dogs, although highly common in cats, are calcium oxalate stones, which are often the type of bladder stones in Shih Tzus and mini poodles, among other breeds. Additionally, urate, cystine, and silicate stones can affect dogs as well.
Causes of bladder stones
Different types of stones are caused by different things. Struvite crystals in dogs often come about as the result of a urinary tract infection that leads to the creation of too much ammonia. This causes the bladder to inflame and provides a larger surface for the mineral buildup, or stone, to crystalize.
The cause of calcium stones is generally attributed to high levels of oxalate in a pet's diet. Urate and cystine stones can be attributed to high levels of acid in your dog's urine, while silicate stones have been linked to corn gluten and soybean hulls. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University adds that other than struvite stones, bladder stones can be caused by genetics or nutritional deficiencies or may be symptomatic of another condition, like liver disease.
Should you be worried?
Bladder stones are not entirely uncommon, and if you spot and treat them early, they usually aren't too big of a deal. Treatment options will vary from flushing the stone out of the urethra to draining the bladder or dislodging the stone if it's preventing urine from flowing. In some cases, surgery may be required for the latter depending on where the stones are resting in the urinary tract.
Fortunately, the most common bladder stones can usually be dissolved by making an easy, temporary tweak to your dog's diet. As for the other types, a medical intervention of some type will be required, but you can prevent the recurrence of stones by taking dietary precautions.
The best dog food for bladder stones
According to Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, if your dog has struvite stones, you'll want to up her intake of water, which can be done by giving her canned wet food. The best dog food for bladder stones comes packed with minerals like phosphorus and magnesium and with limited amounts of protein. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a brand to help dissolve your dog's bladder stones, some of which create specific prescription formulas to do just that.
Calcium crystals will require a diet that provides just enough calcium and not too much oxalate, and urate stones can be prevented with a diet low in purines, which are commonly found in meat, fish, and seafood. The best food for urinary problems will need to be prescribed by a veterinarian for efficacy, and treats and other supplements, like vitamins, should be discussed before starting the new diet regimen.
With any dietary changes to treat bladder stones, you'll want to monitor the pH of your dog's urine with the help of your veterinarian to be sure that any existing stones have been eliminated.