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Diet for dogs with calcium oxalate bladder stones
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Updated January 2018
Bladder stones (also called urinary calculi) are a common problem for dogs.And as with most health issues, some breeds – including Yorkshire terriers, miniature poodles and Shih Tzus – are more susceptible to developing them. It’s also interesting to note that bladder stones tend to be more common in male dogs.
While there are several different types of bladder stones, calcium oxalate stones are one of the more common types that dogs develop.
These stones form when two chemicals – calcium and oxalic acid – bind together in urine. Normally, calcium and oxalic acid mutually co-exist in your dog’s urine and don’t bind together. But under certain conditions, for example if the urine pH is too acidic, the two bind to form a compound called calcium oxalate. This compound can’t be dissolved or excreted, and so becomes lodged in the bladder. High levels of these chemicals in the urine also increase the likelihood of them binding together to form calcium oxalate stones.
Stones: The signs and symptoms
A common sign of stones in your dog’s bladder is difficulty urinating (also called dysuria). Urinating becomes difficult because the presence of stones in the bladder cause it to swell and become inflamed, or the stones are physically obstructing the bladder both of which mean urine isn’t able to pass through to the urethra and be expelled.
Haematuria (the presence of blood in the urine) is another sign that your dog might have calcium oxalate stones. This happens because the stones rub against the bladder wall, causing damage, irritation and bleeding.
It’s also important to be aware that calcium oxalate stones can sometimes be asymptomatic, meaning your dog doesn’t present with any of these or other symptoms.
If you do notice anything unusual about your dog’s toilet behaviour and observe any blood in their urine, speak to your vet immediately.
How stones are treated
For the majority of dogs, calcium oxalate stones are removed via surgery, which is considered the simplest, most direct way to remove them.
While there can be other options to remove stones (see below) surgery tends to be the only option when stones are bigger and when there are a lot of them. It is also the recommended method of removal for male dogs because there’s a higher risk the stones will cause obstruction and damage to the bladder.
Surgery doesn’t always remove every trace of the stones which is why following surgery, vets tend to ‘flush’ the bladder to remove any lingering traces of them. But unfortunately even with flushing, it can be impossible to remove everything, meaning some traces of the stones remain. This is why it’s very common for calcium oxalate stones to form again and again. There are however measures dog owners can take to decrease the likelihood of this happening (see below).
If they are small enough in size (and there aren’t very many of them) calcium oxalate stones can be removed just by flushing the bladder. This procedure is usually done when the dog is heavily sedated or under anaesthetic.
Stones can also be removed via a cystoscopy, a procedure where a cystoscope is passed up through the urethra and into the bladder to break down the stones. This produces stone fragments that are then small enough to be expelled naturally through the urine. Again, this procedure will only work if the stones are small and there aren’t many of them.
This is not an exhaustive list of how calcium oxalate stones can be removed. Your veterinarian will talk through the different options with you to find the one that’s most suitable for your dog.
Nutritional management of Calcium Oxalate stones
While it can be difficult to completely prevent your dog developing calcium oxalate stones (particularly if they have a genetic predisposition to it), there are some things that you can do to decrease your dog’s chances of developing bladder stones, and to prevent them coming back in dogs who have previously had them.
Keeping your dog well hydrated is vital. This dilutes their urine, which in turn dilutes the levels of chemicals that promote stone formation, and so decreases the chance of your dog developing bladder stones.
You can help your dog drink more water by placing a few bowls of fresh water in different locations around the house. Always make sure the water is fresh and that you change it regularly.