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Kidney Stones in Dogs

Picture of a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Kidney stones can affect both humans and animals, and they can show up in our canine friends, too. Most dogs will show no symptomatology, but others aren’t as lucky. If the kidney stone grows in size, breaks, and the remaining pieces become stuck in the ureter, this can be very painful for your canine companion.

In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about kidney stones in dogs — from their types to their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Types of stones

Dogs can develop different types of urinary stones. The vet will diagnose the one your pooch has developed and establish the correct therapy depending on this detail.

For example, uric acid stones are more common in Dalmatians as their bodies have an inability to absorb uric acid.

Struvite stones mostly form whenever there is a urinary infection. These stones are composed of phosphate, ammonium, as well as magnesium. They are more common in females as the latter are more predisposed to developing UTIs.

Finally, calcium oxalate stones are more likely to appear in dogs that are hereditarily predisposed to have too acidic urine.

Causes

The most common types of kidney stones present in dogs are metabolic kidney stones. They happen because some dogs suffer from a urinary or blood imbalance, and this occurs more frequently compared to the stones that develop as a result of an infection.

Dehydration and long-term use of diuretics can be at the root of the condition, too. Diuretics can be prescribed to dogs that suffer from edemas, such as those that have heart conditions.

Kidney stones can also form due to modifications in the urine pH (which happens when the dog has an infection) or when the urine contains a too high salt concentration (which can be the result of a poor diet or, once again, an infection).

Finally, as previously mentioned, the Dalmatian has a higher chance of developing kidney stones. But so do other breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Bichon Frises, as well as Lhasa Apsos.

Symptoms

While some dogs can live with kidney stones for many years before they might be diagnosed by accident, others will exhibit a number of clinical signs. Here are some examples:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Increased or decreased urine quantities
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Repeated urinary infections
  • Painful urination

Diagnosis

If you regularly take your canine friend to the vet (meaning once or twice a year), their kidney stones might be diagnosed before your pooch starts showing any symptoms. Inactive kidney stones might not even call for any treatment, especially if they aren’t particularly large or if they’re not the kind that might break.

You can expect the veterinarian to recommend a complete blood count, biochemistry, urinalysis, as well as a urine culture (if an infection is suspected). If the blood tests and the urinalysis point out to a kidney stone pathology, your dog might also have to be performed an X-ray and an ultrasound on.

Contrast radiography can be recommended if the urinary tract seems to be blocked. Although you might be under the impression that these are a lot of tests, it’s important to know the exact type of stone, its precise location, and its size in order for the vet to recommend the right treatment.

Treatment of kidney stones in dogs

Kidney stones can be treated using medication or surgery. Nowadays, there is also the choice of opting for extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which effectively breaks up the stones into small, flushable pieces without performing any invasive technique. However, this type of therapy can be quite painful, although the recovery is far quicker and more effective.

When it comes to the medications that the vet will administer, they mostly have the purpose of dissolving the stones and making the urine more acidic. You will have to ensure that your pooch drinks plenty of water, and if they are unable to do so by themselves, the vet will institute fluid therapy, too. Antibiotics are usually recommended either to treat an infection that already exists or to prevent one. If your dog is in pain, the vet will prescribe analgesics, too.

If the kidney stones that your dog has are simply too large to be broken down either using ESWL, medications, or urohydropropulsion, an operation might be needed.

Urohydropropulsion is performed under anesthesia, and it involves flushing out the stones by pushing a saline solution into the urethra. This procedure is recommended for cases where there is a high risk of obstruction.

Recovery

Your dog’s recovery depends on two major things – the severity of the condition and the therapy that was performed. For instance, old dogs have a harder time recovering from surgery or even urohydropropulsion, whereas younger ones can be themselves again in a matter of several weeks.

Regardless of the amount of time that it takes for your pooch to recover, you should know that you have to take them to the vet on a regular basis following the treatment. Otherwise, the risk of some stones forming again can be high. It is advised that dogs that have undergone treatment for kidney stones have an ultrasound or an X-ray every three to six months.

Can you prevent kidney stones in dogs?

In some cases, yes, and in others, no. What we mean by this is that if you are the owner of a Dalmatian, for example, you might have to be prepared to treat your dog for kidney stones at one point or the other.

But generally, kidney stones can be prevented by making sure that your dog drinks more than enough water. If your canine buddy has suffered from a urinary tract infection, it might be a good idea to add some urinary supplements to their diet.

If your dog tends to beg for table scraps, make sure that you never feed them what you eat. Too much salt in a dog’s diet can eventually cause severe urinary problems, but not just — cardiac problems, too.

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