Humans aren’t the only ones who get kidney stones. Dogs can suffer from them, too! But what’s worse than dog owners going through it themselves is watching their beloved pups endure the pain.
Owners who understand how kidney stones form in dogs are better suited to take action before stones have a chance to develop. Take a look at what causes canine kidney stones and how to tackle the problem.
How kidney stones form
Kidney stones occur in dogs when there’s a high concentration of calcium in the blood and urine. Examinations of affected dogs have revealed that stones are commonly made of calcium deposits that have collected in the kidneys. Additionally, urine with a high pH level indicates an overproduction of uric acid, which is another prominent chemical in the makeup of kidney stones.
Dogs that experience recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more likely to develop kidney stones throughout their life. Both ailments are caused by highly concentrated and acidic urine, which means a UTI could indicate the presence of kidney stones. It’s worth noting that kidney stones themselves may become infected, which poses more of a threat to a dog’s health.
Some dog breeds are predisposed for developing kidney stones. Which type of stone is likely to occur can depend on the breed. For example, kidney stones with high amounts of calcium and oxalic acid are usually found in the Lhasa Apsos and Miniature Poodles. Stones mainly composed of uric acid tend to develop more in Dalmatians and English Bulldogs. Yorkshire Terriers are predisposed for both types of kidney stones.
Dietary habits also play a huge role in the development of kidney stones. Unsurprisingly, dog foods that exceed the recommended daily intake of calcium increase your pup’s risk of forming stones, even if they’re not one of the susceptible breeds mentioned above. Other risk factors include diets that contain too much protein and oxalate-rich foods such as nuts, brown rice, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Treatment options for kidney stones
The level of treatment might depend on which chemicals are present in the kidney stones and the severity of your dog’s condition. Some kidney stones are considered “inactive,” which means they pose no immediate harm to the dog. Inactive kidney stones won’t grow, get infected or obstruct the urinary tract. These stones are often dissolved with prescribed medications that dog owners can administer at home.
Some cases are more severe than others and require immediate removal. Vets might recommend surgery to remove the kidney stones, followed by a few days in the hospital to make sure there were no complications. A less invasive option is a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). During the ESWL procedure, sound waves break the kidney stones into small particles that are easier to pass through the urinary tract.
Tackling kidney stones requires more than initial treatment, though. Once the stones have been detected, they tend to be a recurring presence in a dog’s life. Your vet will follow up treatment with regular examinations that occur every three to six months. Exams may include an ultrasound, X-rays of the abdomen and a urine sample for lab testing. Even kidney stones that are lying dormant need to be monitored for any potential changes.
Can kidney stones be prevented?
Owners can help protect their dogs from kidney stones by implementing good dietary habits. Every dog is different, so your should consult a vet before switching up your pup’s kibble. The Lhasa Apso and Miniature Poodle breeds should generally avoid calcium and oxalate-rich foods. Dalmatians and English Bulldogs are better off consuming uric acid in moderation. There are also a few dog food brands that make kibble specifically for dogs susceptible to kidney stones. It’s also very important to encourage your dog to drink lots of water every day to reduce urine concentration and flush out the urinary tract.
Sometimes, kidney stones arise despite all your efforts to create a healthy lifestyle for your dog. In this case, it’s best to have your vet check for stones during annual checkups. Kidney stones are much easier to treat when they’re caught early on, because they won’t have a chance to cause problems like infection and internal bleeding. Dogs with kidney stones often don’t show any symptoms until they start causing problems, so you wouldn’t know if they’re present unless the vet looks for them.
Kidney stones are painful, but your pup will be fine as long as they receive the necessary treatment. Owners who are concerned about their dogs’ health should consult a vet about risk factors associated with their dog’s breed and which foods are best suited for them. The road to better kidney health begins with help from a pup’s loving human companion!