Dogs, like humans, can suffer from bladder stones (otherwise known as canine urolithiasis, cystitis, urethritis, or kidney stones). This condition, in which excessive amounts of "stones" or crystals gather in the urinary tract, causes urinary tract irritation and pain during urination. Most often the stones are formed in a dog's bladder, but they can form in the kidney or the urethra as well. Once formed, they then aggravate the urinary tract lining and can lead to blood in the urine and pain. In some instances the stones will actually block the stream of urine, thus making urination painful and even impossible.
To understand and treat canine bladder stones:
- Types of stones. Struvite bladder stones form when there is some sort of infection in the urinary tract -- for instance, a Staph infection or a Proteus infection. Most common in female dogs and otherwise rare, the stones are composed of Magnesium, Ammonium, and Phosphate.
Calcium Oxalate bladder stones are rare in female dogs and have been linked to a hereditary condition with dogs that have defective nephrocalcin (the substance that normally breaks down calcium deposits).
Uric Acid stones are the third type of bladder stone, formed almost exclusively by the Dalmatian breed because Dalmatians' livers cannot absorb uric acid.
- Symptoms. Since dogs cannot speak, as an owner, you need to be aware of any changes in behavior, appetite and temperament. Frequent urination can be a sign of a bladder stone. Blood in your dog's urine, or "dribbling urination" can be telltale signs of a partially blocked or impaired urethra. If your dog shows signs of strain, depression, vomiting or weakness, take him to the vet immediately. Even if bladder stones are not responsible, the behavior may signal a serious problem.
- Diagnosis. A veterinarian will examine your dog through abdominal palpation to determine the existence and location of stones. A culture will determine the types of crystals in the system.
- Treatments. If your dog has a partially blocked or blocked urethra, the veterinarian will have to empty the bladder, which she can accomplish through surgery. However, the more common remedy to cleanse the bladder is by feeding your dog a special diet with dissolving agents in it. These agents will dissolve the kidney stones through chemical reactions, causing them to pass in liquid form through your dog's system. If the condition is very serious, the doctor may perform the surgery for an immediate fix. If there is an infection, antibiotics will also be administered. Typically your dog will start feeling better within ten days if he is fed the low mineral, low protein diet with dissolving agents.
- Dangers. Why are bladder stones so dangerous? If a stone blocks the passage of urine, toxins in the waste become trapped in the body and are poisonous to the animal. Without proper attention, your dog's life could be in danger.
- Age matters. Although dogs of all ages can suffer from bladder stones, the condition is most typical in dogs over the age of two years.
- Diet. If you feed your dog a mineral-rich diet, you can contribute to the formation of bladder stones. Diets high in calcium and magnesium have been linked to bladder stones in dogs. High levels of protein also can be blamed, in some instances, for the formation of tough stones.
- Small guys. Smaller breeds experience bladder stones more often than larger breeds. The Pug, Pekingese, Yorkshire terrier, Beagle, Dachshund, and Welsh Corgi are just some of the breeds that are most susceptible.
- Males. The urethra of the male is longer and skinner than the female, thus rendering males more susceptible to blockage from bladder stones.
- Exercise. Dogs that do not have a good exercise regimen can lay susceptible to bladder stones or kidney problems. If your pooch is confined during the day and does not have ample time several times a day to dispose of his waste, crystals can form easily. Take your dog out at least three times a day.
- Prevention. As mentioned above, diet and exercise are factors in the formation of crystals. Stay away from high mineral and protein diets (always include fiber and the other good stuff) and make sure you give Fido plenty of exercise at least three times a day. It will not only help to keep bladder stones away, but it will make him a happy pet. Always have plenty of water (clean) for your pet, as the more water he drinks, the less concentrated the urine is and clean the urethra passage will be kept. Look into special diets and dog food that are marketed as bladder or kidney stone preventative. Ask your vet what brand he or she thinks is most effective.