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