Kidney Stones In Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

kidney stones in dogs
kidney stones in dogs

Not only humans but dogs can develop kidney stones as well. In terms of medical science, the veterinarians refer to this problem as Nephrolithiasis. According to the medical community, there can be a dense deposition of excessive salts and minerals within the kidneys of your dog. It can further take the shape of stones and cause various health diseases associated with this issue. Sometimes, if proper treatments are not given to the dogs on time, kidney stones can be a painful thing. So, if your dog shows any symptoms of developing kidney stones or already has been diagnosed with it, this article can provide some help.

Here, you can get some idea on how to identify the various causes and signs, which can clearly indicate that your dog is having a kidney stone problem. This article will also cover a few treatments and medications that have helped many dogs to get rid of this painful situation. So, if you are looking for some solid info on the issue of kidney stones in dogs, go through this content.

What Do You Need To Understand Regarding Kidney Stones In Dogs?

For those who are not aware of this medical condition in dogs, almost every dog is susceptible to develop kidney stones. If your dog falls under one of the few specific breeds, he or she is more likely to develop certain types of stones inside their kidney. To name a few breeds that have a higher risk of developing kidney stones, you can consider Shih Tzu, Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, and Lhasa Apso. Now, before discussing the major symptoms & diagnosis tools to identify kidney stones in dogs, let’s check these important details first.

What Do You Mean By Kidney Stones And How Does It Develop?

As discussed above, veterinary experts refer to this disease as Nephrolithiasis, where nephro means kidney and with means stone. These stones are formed as masses inside your dog’s inner lining of the kidney due to the collection of dissolved minerals. If the deposition continues and is not diagnosed in an early stage for treatment, it can develop into stones of various shapes and sizes. So far, doctors have found these stones up to a size of a golf ball, which has a sharp and crystalline formation. The shape of these stones can determine the condition of your dog and helps the veterinarian to understand which treatment can be useful.

If your dog develops kidney stones, it can be quite painful for them. It can further lead to urinary tract obstruction, infection, inflammation, and critical tissue damage. Sometimes, the dog can develop these stones in the ureters, urethra and in the bladder also. These stones can result due to several types of mineral formation and can be classified into different categories.

Types Of Stones Formation In Dogs

If your dog is suffering from bladder stones, it occurs mainly due to the precipitation of minerals (mostly salts). It can be a single stone, a group of stones and also a large structure. These can develop into structures having a diameter of up to 3 to 4 inches as well. The veterinary expert identifies the type of salt present in the stones to confirm the category of kidney stone. So, if your dog has developed stones, know that he/she is having an issue that most dogs are diagnosed with. Hence, there is no need to panic; get advice from a vet expert for dealing with these kidney stones.

In dogs, you can observe mostly metabolic, calcium oxalate and struvite stone formation. If they have metabolic stones, it occurs due to imbalances in their urinary system or blood. The mineral types that are responsible for forming kidney stones in dogs can be classified as the follows.

Calcium Phosphate

If your dog is suffering from calcium phosphate urolithiasis, the stones form inside the urinary tract. However, there are cases when the dog can develop calcium phosphate stones inside the kidneys, instead of the urinary bladder. The number of stones, its exact size, and the location can’t be detected without proper diagnosis.

Symptoms Of Calcium Phosphate Stones In Kidneys

There are a few typical symptoms to identify these stones. It includes pain and blood during urinating, dribbling and polyuria problems.

Cystine

If your dog is diagnosed with cystine stones, it mostly occurs in the urinary bladder. These stones result due to a genetic abnormality in dogs, which prevents them to reabsorb cystine from their own kidneys. Some veterinary experts believe that this particular stone problem usually results due to inheritance. Also, males are more susceptible to develop cystine bladder stones, which is very rare as compared to other stone formation.

Symptoms Of Cystine Stone

A few symptoms of cystine stones match with usual bladder cystitis or infection. So, your dog can show signs of dysuria if he/she develops cystine bladder stones. Hence, you can find them straining while urinating and you can even observe blood in it. This issue of Dysuria results because of swelling of the urethra or bladder walls and inflammation. It further can cause muscle spasms and difficulty in urinating. The flow of urine can become slow or stagnant due to the presence of cystine stones. They can also have hematuria, which occurs when there is friction between the bladder wall and the stones. It can be quite irritating for the dogs and can damage the issues if left untreated.

Uric Acid

In many Dalmatians, the issue of urate crystals is quite common. They can develop urate bladder stones due to a genetic imbalance or abnormality. It further produces defects in the metabolic activities regarding the uric acid level in their bodies.

When a veterinary doctor diagnoses your dog with urate bladder stones, it means the urine has become extremely concentrated and highly acidic in nature. It can occur if the dog is suffering from any severe liver disease for a long time (for example portosystemic shunts). In case you have a Dalmatian breed, make sure to test for liver shunt problem by consulting a veterinarian.

Symptoms Of Urate Bladder Stone

For dogs who develop urate bladder stone due to portosystemic shunt, they can have neurological impairment. It means they can show various symptoms like head pressing, disorientation, dullness or seizures. Sometimes, these stones can develop as radiolucent, which even experts can’t detect with simple radiographs. This is when they go for a contrast radiographic study or perform an ultrasound on your dog’s bladder.

Calcium Oxalate

For dogs who develop calcium oxalate stones, their urine can be slightly acidic and consist of wastes. These waste products can include dissolved mineral salts along with a few more compounds. The issue of calcium oxalate stone is one of the most common problems in male dogs, who belong to the middle to senior age level. Most veterinarians find these stones in breeds like Miniature Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu.

Symptoms Of Calcium Oxalate Stone

Mostly, your dog becomes susceptible to calcium oxalate stones if you have overdosed them with antibiotics for any particular medical reason. Sometimes, a certain breed of dogs can develop calcium oxalate stones due to genetic reasons as well.

Struvite

Some vet experts term it as magnesium ammonium phosphate or triple phosphate stones. This disease is most common for breeds like Lhasa Apso, Cocker Spaniels, Bichons, Miniature Poodles, Shih Tzus, and Miniature Schnauzer.

When your dog develops struvite stones, it means there is a high concentration of ammonia, magnesium and phosphate elements in the urine. It can become so critical that all these elements combine to take the shape of crystals. If not treated in time, these crystals can inflame your dog’s bladder and cause irritation. Overall, these struvite stones can block the urinary tract and this problem is mostly observed in female dogs.

Symptoms Of Struvite Stones

In case your dog doesn’t show any of these signs or their reports do not confirm anything, look for some common symptoms. Hence, you can check a few signs like an abnormal urinary stream, and frequent urination. For some dogs, these symptoms can be bloody or cloudy urine and selecting inappropriate places for urination.3

Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis Of Kidney Stones In Dogs

In the above section, you have come across the details regarding stone formations in a dog’s kidney and bladder. Now, this info is exclusively for pet owners who are looking for symptoms to identify kidney stone issues in dogs. According to vet experts, stones may not always show up as specific symptoms. So, let’s check a few common signs that can confirm infections or other disorders in your dog’s kidneys, bladders, and urinary tract.

Symptoms Of Kidney Stones In Dogs

These signs can also help you to know if your dog has any chance of developing kidney stones.

  1. There will be blood in your dog’s urine and he will face pain during urination.

  2. You may find them urinating in odd places and sometimes straining to do it.

  3. They may show symptoms of abdominal pain and urinate very frequently but in a small amount.

  4. Your dog can develop recurrent infections in his/her urinary tract and they tend to lick the genitals quite often.

  5. A few of them can have fever, lethargy, and pain.

  6. Some dogs can show symptoms like vomiting, poor appetite, and weight loss.

Possible Causes Of Kidney Stones In Dogs

Your dog is prone to calcium phosphate stones if his/her diet consists of excessive calcium. Also, it can occur if you are feeding them too much of the mineral supplements like Vitamin D.

Sometimes if he/she is suffering from various kidney issues including infection or disorder, they can get these stones. Even if the pH of your dog’s urine is lower than 6, it can trigger the process of calcium oxalate stone formation.

Some dogs can develop this problem after suffering from metabolic diseases for a long time. This includes Hypercalcemia and Cushing’s disease, which indicate a high level of calcium in their blood.

If your dog develops struvite stones, it can be due to several reasons. It includes causes like using a high level of steroids, infection in his/her urinary tract, and abnormal urine retention.

Sometimes, the veterinary doctor can confirm that extremely alkaline urine has caused this problem in your dog. So, if this is the reason behind struvite stones, it means you have fed an inappropriate diet to your dog.

This issue can trouble your dog if he/she had very little water consumption in the past. Also, it is possible that you have not given them enough wet or canned diet.

According to veterinary experts, the amount of nephrocalcin, a substance in urine, decides the possibility of developing stones in dogs. So, if your dog has an inappropriate level of nephrocalcin in the urine, calcium oxalate stones can affect him/her kidneys.

How Veterinarians Diagnose The Dogs To Confirm Kidney Stones?

As discussed in the above sections, sometimes, the diagnosis of kidney stones may not be an easy task for doctors. However, there are certain cases when the expert can simply examine your dog and feel the stones inside. For the radiolucent stones (urate), the veterinary professionals diagnose kidney stones by studying images. These images can be fetched after conducting tests using abdominal X-ray, contrast radiography or ultrasound equipment. These techniques are helpful to provide the outline of the stones in your dog’s kidney.

In the case of cystine stones, the experts can detect it with the help of clinical symptoms, breed info, and urinalysis results. A certain breed of dogs can produce only a specific type of stones. Hence, veterinarians may ask you various details regarding your dog’s breed and medical history to determine the kidney stone type and its underlying causes.

If your dog has developed oxalate or struvite stones, it will be visible on the radiograph. For very tiny stones, the diagnosis can be quite challenging. Many veterinarians rely on modern diagnostic tools to confirm kidney, bladder, and urinary stones. So, they note the CBC (complete blood count) and observe the blood chemistry data on the electrolyte panel.

Some even follow the urination pattern and other associated symptoms to diagnose your dog for kidney stones. In addition to it, they can suggest microscopic urine examination for diagnosing kidney stone problems in dogs.

There are experts who may want to refer to your dog’s biochemistry profile to determine the level of blood calcium. Any biochemical changes can provide a useful clue to confirm the underlying causes of kidney stones.

Some veterinarians can also check if there is any symptom of urinary tract blockage or kidney damage that can generate stones. Sometimes, checking the level of urea in your dog’s blood can also be helpful in diagnosing kidney stones.

How To Cure Kidney Stones In Dogs?

There are two types of treatments available to cure kidney stones in dogs. One is surgical and the other one is the non-surgical method to give relief to your dog from these stones. The issue of kidney stones can be very painful and even life-threatening for dogs at certain times.

Let’s take the example of a male dog who has developed stones that can obstruct his urinary opening. If proper treatment is not given to him, it can lead to not passing of urine at all. So, if the issue is mild, some veterinarians may suggest you a few medications to dissolve the stones. They can ask you to wait until the stones pass out of your dog’s body organically. Otherwise, they may try to dislodge the stone by an alternative approach, where it will be flushed back into the bladder. In case the doctors fail to dislodge the kidney stones like this, they may need to perform a surgical procedure to create a new urinary opening for the dog.

Now, let’s have a look at the treatments recommended by most veterinarians to cure kidney stones in the dogs.

Recommended Treatments For Dogs To Get Rid Of Kidney Stones

If you do not want your dog to suffer anymore due to kidney stone problems, consult a veterinary professional and ask about these following treatments.

Dietary Regulations

It is very important to feed your dog a proper diet that can reduce the risks of developing any stones in the kidney, urinary tract or bladder. Hence, you can increase the quantity of water intake in your dog to prevent stones due to urinary disorders. So, you can give them canned food that has proper moisture and nutrients. Otherwise, simply add water to both canned as well as dry food to keep them hydrated enough. For dogs who develop kidney stones due to high blood calcium, there is no need to feed them excessive calcium-rich food. To deal with urate stones, try to give a low-purine diet instead of fish, seafood, and meat. If you don’t have much idea, consult your vet expert and ask them to suggest a therapeutic diet for treating kidney stones in your dog.

Proper Medication

It is highly recommended to the dog owners to take the opinion of a veterinary professional before purchasing any medicines for curing kidney stones given in any article including this one.

Many dogs have responded well to Diuretics, as it is effective in flushing out the toxic substances from the kidneys. It affects the body in such a way that your dog will begin to excrete a lot of water, potassium, sodium and chloride salts that are produced in the kidneys. So, many vet experts may suggest medicines like Spironolactone, Chlorothiazide, Hydrochlorothiazide, and Furosemide.

Some of them can also prescribe antibiotics to cure urinary tract or kidney infections in your dog. Hence, you can investigate Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, Tetracycline, Cefixime, Gentamicin, and Clavulanic acid containing medications.

You can also give a few antifungals to combat fungal infections in your dog’s urinary tract. These medicines are mostly needed when the kidney stones develop due to pH imbalances in the urine. So, the doctor can suggest  DL-Methionine or Ammonium Chloride for balancing the urine pH of your dog. Otherwise, you will be asked to give the dog Potassium Citrate to raise the level of pH in his/her urine. A few antifungal medicines used for veterinary treatments include Fluconazole, Itraconazole, and Ketoconazole.

Urohydropropulsion

This treatment can be useful in curing kidney stones that are relatively small. However, the doctor will recommend Urohydropropulsion only when the risk is quite high regarding the obstructions in your dog’s urinary tract. For performing this procedure, the dog will be given heavy sedatives or general anesthesia. Then, the veterinary professional will take a urinary catheter and insert it into the dog’s body through the urethra. Once its inside, the doctor will locate the stones and flush them out of the system using a sterile saline solution.

Surgical Procedure

Surgeries are mostly recommended by the veterinary expert when the risk of urinary blockage due to kidney stones is very high. Also, if the stones are larger in size and can’t be taken out using Urohydropropulsion, your dog will have to undergo surgery. So, if the above treatments fail to cure kidney stone issues in your dog, you can choose this for saving the dog. Sometimes, there can be a necessity to remove a kidney or taking out the urethra and bladder surgically.

Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

kidney stones in dogs

This method of ESWL (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy) is quite useful in removing kidney stones. Many doctors choose this treatment for dogs when there is no need for any invasive surgery. In this technique, the professionals will make use of high-energy sound waves for the treatment. These waves can easily break down the stones into much smaller pieces. After it gets small enough to be removed from the kidneys, these pieces are flushed out of your dog’s urinary tract.

Further, you can consult veterinarians who will suggest precautions to follow during or after the kidney stone treatment of your dog.

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