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essential nutrition advice for your pet.

Using Diet to Treat and Prevent Bladder Stones

Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Using Diet to Treat and Prevent Bladder Stones

October 12, 2012 / (11) comments

Some of the most dramatic X-rays I’ve ever shown clients are those that reveal the presence of large stones in the bladder of a dog. Up until they see the X-rays, many of these folks are a little annoyed at their pets. This isn’t too unreasonable considering they’ve typically been dealing with their dogs having accidents in the house or needing to go outside on an hourly basis. However, after seeing the X-rays, most owners are shocked that their pets haven’t been acting even sicker.

Bladder stones are a collection of minerals and other materials. They start out small but over time can grow in number and/or size. Dogs with bladder stones typically have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Urinary accidents
  • Frequent attempts to urinate without producing much urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Discolored urine
  • Licking around the urinary opening

These clinical signs can be seen with other diseases affecting the urinary tract (infections or tumors, for example), so the diagnosis of bladder stones has to be confirmed with either an X-ray or ultrasound.

Most bladder stones in dogs are made from struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, or cystine crystals. In many cases, the specific type of crystal involved can be seen in a sample of urine viewed under the microscope. If struvite is the diagnosis, a veterinarian can recommend a prescription diet that will dissolve the stones and crystals. Otherwise, surgery or other procedures like lithotripsy (breaking up the stones with ultrasonic shock waves) will be necessary to get the stones out of the bladder.

Once the stones are gone, diet plays an important role in preventing their return. Manufacturers have formulated special foods that deter the formation of struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, and cystine crystals. Encouraging water intake is also important since crystals are less likely to form in dilute urine. For this reason, many veterinarians recommend the canned versions of these foods over the dry.

Because diets designed to prevent bladder stones have to be fed over the long term, they must be nutritionally balanced. The MyBowl tool is to be used only for healthy, adult dogs; so if your pet has a history of bladder stones, consult your veterinarian. Your pet’s doctor is in the best position to recommend a nutritionally complete, well balanced food that will help keep your pet healthy.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: DSC3 by jiahung li / via Flickr

Comments  11

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  • Bladder Stones
    10/12/2012 11:25am

    It's difficult to imagine the pain caused by bladder stones.

    I've heard of breaking up stones in humans with sound waves, but wasn't aware this technology had been utilized for critters. Great news that sometimes surgery can be avoided!

  • Here we go again...
    10/12/2012 01:11pm

    You write: "Your pet’s doctor is in the best position to recommend a nutritionally complete, well balanced food that will help keep your pet healthy."

    If by "your pet's doctor", you mean, a typical general practice veterinarian, then NO, he or she IS NOT in any position to make such a recommendation. These vets are not trained adequately in school to know much of anything about companion animal nutrition beyond Hill's Science Diet, since Hill's provides the nutrition course book and curriculum. And, worse yet, if he or she is a board certified nutritionist, run away faster. The veterinary nutritionists are worse because they speak with greater authority about the wonders of fattening corn, grains, and by-products over fresh meats and vegetables.

    So, if you want to find a vet who would be in the best position to recommend a nutritionally complete, well balanced food that will help keep your pet healthy, ask a vet who also is trained in and practices holistic veterinary medicine.

  • Why?
    10/12/2012 02:58pm

    You are very comfortable in your ignorance, Rod. Your approach is "you are wrong, I am right", which shuts down any sort of productive or open minded discussion. Why do you bother "participating" here?

  • 10/12/2012 07:33pm

    Yes, 'Science matters', Rod does seem to have a vituperous streak in him that closes his brain to new ideas. I have blocked him from my email updates so don't have to read the fluff he posts that NEVER has science behind it.

    In reality, there have been a number of good nutrition courses being offered at veterinary training institutions of various types, so younger veterinarians, as well as those taking post graduate upgrades may have enough nutritional information under their belts to give reasonable advice. I would assume that at this point in time such courses are still elective, so one must learn to assess what a veterinarian's interests are to figure out what they do or do not understand about nutrition.

    Clearly, Rod has never once opened a textbook related to dietitian's training or anything similar as he has never understood my responses when it comes to nutrition related issues. Closed minds can't learn and we will have to just ignore him.

  • 10/13/2012 01:30am

    My dog doesn't have stones but does have recurring UTIs with struvite crystals present in her urine. I'd like to feed a urinary protective diet but my pup has food allergies and can't tolerate chicken or beef based diets, so my question is what, nutritionally, can be done for her? Currently I've been adding canned food and water to her dry dog food and also giving a cranberry supplement (even though the science isn't really there to back that up, I figure it can't hurt and it might help). The whole thing is very frustrating for both my pup and I, she's had 6 UTIs in the past 12 months and a urine culture showed no growth.

  • 10/13/2012 04:00am

    Hi MaggieC; We had the same problem with our foster dog in that he couldn't eat most normal dog food formulas. We ended up finding that Eukanuba had a couple that worked to keep him from developing an uncomfortable, constant itch. They were a fish blend and the Kangaroo and oatmeal blend.

    Marvistavet is usually a very good website to check for these issues, but they recommend Hills for urinary tract problems. The canned contains chicken fat and the dry contains chicken by-products. Your dog may be able to handle the chicken fat, but I rather doubt it. They did show a d/d product with fish and potato, but personally I would choose Eukanuba as they use calcium carbonate while the calcium phosphate in the Hills products may perpetuate the crystal formation. Don't use the Lamb and Rice in Eukanuba as there is chicken fat in that one, too, if I remember correctly.

    So sorry to read you have such a complex problem. It is so difficult trying to find the right foods, let alone worry about crystals. Perhaps the cranberry will help. It is likely that it won't do harm if you have the money to waste on it. (-: Good luck.

  • Bladder stones in dogs
    11/15/2012 02:28am

    We have had 3 dogs to have bladder stones and can not figure out why they keep getting them and how to prevent them. I tried the prescription type food but the dogs just would not eat it and I know that they say a dog will eat if they get hungry but mine would go days with out eating. I have a dogs who will be going on friday for bladder stone surgery so I really want to know about other food beside prescription food she also was having a itching problem until I started feeding grain free food and no chicken or beef just fish and potatoes brown rice.

  • 11/16/2012 06:53pm

    I'm afraid I can't make a specific recommendation re. your dogs' cases since I don't know their particulars, but you should certainly talk to your veterinarian. Depending on the types of stones that your dogs have, there may be medications that can be prescribed that have a similar effect as a therapeutic food but that don't necessitate your changing their current diets.

  • 01/14/2017 09:32pm

    hello I have 4 min pins 1 female 3 males 1 male recently had surgery to remove bladder stones n now another male has been xrayed and has 1 stone in bladder...does your dogs still have reoccuring stones n what have u fed them after surgery ?

  • 01/17/2014 12:54pm

    My Multi-poo just had stone removal surgery. The vet recommended Royal Canine perscription food. She did not like it and obviously did not work to break the stone up. The stone is not back from the lab yet so don't know what type it is. I saw a post that there may be a medicine she could take instead of changing food. Is this true? Her stone was huge. It was bigger than a marble. I could not believe that was in her! Any recommendations for a food? She was on a chewy & crunchy type food that was lamb and rice and really liked it. Also was wondering if anyone knows if there is a food I can make at home for this type of problem? Any help and or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

  • 01/17/2014 05:22pm

    The answer is going to depend completely on what type of stone your dog developed. Wait for the analysis to come back and then your veterinarian should be able to make a few recommendations.