Kidney stones are bothersome for not just us humans but are painful and a nuisance for dogs also. It is formed mostly because of diet and hereditary. These two factors play a major role both in occurrence and treatment of the stones as they can delay the recovery process. This is why diet for a dog that is either prone to or is already affected with bladder or kidney stones is most important. Here we will see about kidney stones, its symptoms, cause, treatment methods, diet, and other preventive steps to ensure that the stones do not bother your loved ones.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are scientifically named Nephrolithiasis. The kidney stones are formed by the accumulation of excessive minerals in urine that crystallize to form the shape of stones. Kidneys filter the urine and as the urine with the stones are filtered, it obstructs the path and causes pain and other discomforts. The stone forming minerals are many. Knowing which types form as stones are important in effective treatment and also to avoid foods that might increase these minerals in the body.
The size of the stones varies, some are small, and some are larger. In some cases there could be multiple stones as well. Usually the stones are formed only in one of the kidneys but in rare cases both the kidneys are attacked by the crystallized minerals. The common minerals that crystallize to form the stones are calcium, silica, magnesium, phosphorus, ammonia etc. The stones are categorized according to the mineral deposit it has.
The Kidney Stone Symptoms
- Blood in urine is the most common symptom. The stones make the bladder walls bleed.
- Frequent urination is seen in affected dogs. There will be increased water intake as well. Keep an eye on its water bowl to check this.
- Decrease in urine quantity because of the smaller stones that cannot pass through and blocks the urethra and might even lead to complete blockage of urine passage.
- Licking the genital region more often is a symptom of kidney stones presence.
- Lethargy and depression is another sign of kidney stones. The dog will be silent and does not show any interest for anything.
- The dog yelps with pain while urinating, as the stone passes through the urine and also because of the size of it, making it difficult to pass out of the urethra.
- Smelly urine with presence of blood or pus is another problem.
- The bladder area will be tender to touch
- The dog shows pain in the lower back area where the stone is rubbing against the kidney or bladder wall. It is this same rubbing that causes the bleeding and the subsequent presence of blood in the urine.
- In rare cases there might not be any symptom at all for the kidney stones.
Causes of Kidney/Bladder Stones
- Struvites are the magnesium ammonium phosphate stones. These stones favor alkaline pH of the urine. Bacterial infections, especially of the urinary tract, make the urine alkaline and may encourage such stone formation. The stones are formed as large single ones or smaller multiple stones. Some may attain the size of the bladder itself. Struvites are seen more in female dogs and in pregnant dogs.
- Uric acid stones are found in acidic urine and will be brown in color. The altered metabolism of purines results in such stone formation. Dogs that have liver disease are at greater risk of developing these stones because of the inability to convert the uric acid. Breeds like Dalmatians and Bull dogs are inherited with these risks. Small puppies have more protein in their system than grownups and having a liver disease in them makes it more possible for such stone formation.
- Calcium oxalate crystals are the most common kidney stones in dogs. These stones are formed in acidic urine with more calcium deposits. Certain cancer and Addison’s disease increase the chances of calcium oxalate crystals in urine.
- Calcium Phosphate stones are formed in alkaline urine where calcium deposition is higher. This is found more in some particular dog breeds.
- Cystine stones are seen in acidic urine and are caused by more amount of cystine in urine. The condition occurs when the kidney tubules fail to reabsorb the cystine from the urine and the diet has more protein content. Certain medicines also produce this compound and are excreted through urine to form the crystals. This is also common in some breeds and in Newfoundlands it is inherited as an autosomal trait or as a sex linked inheritance in male dogs.
- Silicate stones are formed in dogs that consume more corn gluten and soybean. This diet with acidic to neutral nature of urine also causes stone formation. Breeds of dog like Labrador, German Shepherd and Golden Retrievers are more prone to such stone formation.
Diagnosis and Treatment
For diagnosis a physical examination of the dog is done. The familial history of the dog is also taken into consideration. Past medical history of it is also essential part. The doctor may take X-rays, blood test for counts, and abdominal ultrasound is also performed as part of diagnosis. Urine analysis is also done to determine the presence of minerals and which type it is. Urinalysis also reveals of any bacteria present.
- Non-surgical Method: This is the most commonly used treatment method for kidney or bladder stones. This method may be adopted for treating smaller stones. By this method the stones are forced to pass out of the bladder. This is done by liquid treatment by flushing out the stones. The method is called urohydropropulsion.
- Surgical removal is done for larger stones that cannot possibly be removed through the urethra. The bladder has to be cut open to remove them. It is also important as the stones may gradually come down to block the passage completely. If the stone is blocking them the surgery is the only option and that too needs to be performed immediately. The dogs usually recover faster after the surgery. But the risk factor is that the dogs with some kind of medical condition cannot undergo anesthesia and the surgery will be impossible.
- Ultrasonic dissolution of the stones is another method. This method uses high frequency ultrasound waves to break the stones into tiny pieces and flushing them out of the bladder. This method is safer as there is no risk of anesthesia and brings immediate results. But due to lack of availability this method is not the popular method to remove kidney stones.
Food to Prevent Kidney Stones
- Struvite stones favor alkaline urine so making the urine more acidic helps dissolve them. A diet that is low in protein, phosphorous and magnesium helps get rid of struvites. Increasing salt intake helps increase the water consumption and helps dilute the urine as well to increase the frequency. More urination helps rid of smaller stones.
- A diet that is low in purines help prevents uric acid stones in those breeds that are targeted.
- Low protein diet and urine alkalanization is a method to prevent the cystine stone formation. Cystine is an amino acid and low intake of protein reduces the chances of its formation. But continuing such low protein diet is not healthy for the dogs so there should also be some measures to increase the acidity of the urine as a prevention or dissolution of these stones.
- Avoid plant protein like rice or soybean to prevent silica stones. Breeds like Miniature Schnauzer and Pekingese has more silica in their system they need to dilute their urine to expel as much of silica as possible. Drinking more water helps in this task.
- Increase in magnesium and phosphorous in the diet can help reduce the chances of calcium oxalate crystal formation.
- Avoid including beans, soy, tofu, nuts, etc in the diet. High protein diet increases the urine acidity and makes way for stones that favor acidic urine. For breeds of dog that are prone to kidney stones formed in acidic urine should be on a low protein diet.
- Including dietary supplements in the diet improves the resistance to the kidney stone formation. Vitamin D help in calcium absorption reducing the chances of calcium oxalate and phosphate stone formation.
- Addition of omega 3 fatty acids is a great relief to prevent kidney stone formation. Adding probiotics in the canine diet also benefits in preventing bacterial infections that may lead to stone formation.
- Add more salt in the diet to increase the urination and try expelling as much extra minerals as possible. This when followed by increase in water consumption can surely help in both preventing and treating kidney stones.
- If the dog suffers from larger stones, then try distilled water for them to avoid any minerals. Avoid artificial and processed food that encourages the mineral formation.
The Bottom Note
A dog breed that is prone to particular kidney stone formations does not mean that it will have stones; such breeds when kept on a proper diet and made to drink plenty of water will surely keep the stones at bay and help them lead a better life. Certain stones are formed in some particular breeds only so it is easier to determine which type of stone it is and can help in easier treatment. Stick to a veterinarian’s recommended diet to help with treatment as well as prevention against kidney stones in dogs.