Passing a kidney stone is one of the most painful and feared conditions a human may suffer from, and it's no different if your dog passes one. But kidney stone formation is not just a painful business - it's a potentially lethal one. The creation of these hard, jagged lumps of mineral deposits and detritus can cause serious damage to your dog's renal system and urinary tract, and may require surgery to remove.
Some breeds of dog are more prone to developing kidney stones than others, due to differing internal organs and genetic inheritance. However, even if your dog is naturally at risk, kidney stones are by no means an inevitability. Proper diet is possibly the most effective way to prevent kidney stones forming, and by feeding your dog a diet low in the chemical and minerals that cause kidney stones you can greatly increase your chances of your dog never knowing the agony of passing a stone.
No two kidney stones are ever the same, and when it comes to dogs there are actually four distinct varieties of kidney stone that you'll want to prevent:
Urate stones are small, brown, and usually smooth, and are formed when the dog's body and bloodstream contain excessive amounts of uric acid, a chemical derived from the purines in meat during the digestive process. This uric acid is what is responsible for gout in humans, but in dogs the uric acid tends to crystallise in the urinary tract rather than within joints. The small stones can cause urination to be painful and bloody, and if they grow large enough they can lodge in the bladder and cause dangerous levels of urine retention.
When it comes to preventing the formation of urate stones with a controlled diet, the two most important modifications you should make are a decrease in meat protein and an increase in water intake. Red meat especially contains large amounts of purines, and while dogs naturally require high levels of protein for a healthy diet, you can provide protein with specialised dog foods containing eggs, soy protein and rice.
You can also provide meat-free, protein rich treats - peanut butter is a permanent favourite, but make sure it contains low amounts of sugar and does not contain artificial sweeteners, which can be dangerous to dogs. To increase water consumption, try feeding your dog wet pack or canned mixes instead of dry kibble, and make sure your dog can drink whenever it wants to.
The formation of these stones is linked to urinary tract infections, and cannot be affected by a change in diet. If you think your dog is developing struvite stones, please ask your vet for advice and treatment options.
Calcium oxalate stones
These nasty little jagged lumps are formed when the dog's blood calcium and blood oxalate levels are high, and the pH levels of its urine are low and acidic. This combination of internal factors can be caused by unsuitable diet, and may also be caused if your dog suffers from a hormonal or metabolic illness, for instance Cushing's Disease. These stones cannot be dissolved once they have formed, and are rarely passed successfully because of their spiky shape - if you suspect your dog is suffering from calcium oxalate stones, get it to a vet as soon as you can.
As with avoiding urate stones, calcium oxalate stones can be avoided with proper hydration. Drinking plenty of water also helps to keep urine pH levels stable. As for avoiding high levels of calcium and oxalate intake, there are a number of options available:
- Switch from dry to wet dog food, which generally contains less calcium-rich filler and binding material.
- Feeding your dog a meaty diet is fine, but try to avoid the inclusion of organ meats, particularly liver which is very high in oxalate.
- Avoid foods particularly high in vitamin C, or that contain lots of plant material, which tends to be rich in calcium.
Cystine stones are quite rarely seen, and are small, extremely hard stones formed from cystine, an amino acid that is naturally present in canine and human bodies. Cystine stones only affect dogs who suffer from the genetic condition known as cystinuria, which prevents the dog's body from transporting and processing cystine effectively.
Preventing cystine stones in a dog suffering from cystinuria will require a special therapeutic diet specially tailored to your individual dog's needs. Consult extensively with your veterinarian and, optionally, a veterinary dietician, to form a suitable diet plan and obtain specialised dog food and treats. Keeping your dog hydrate can, as with all kidney stones, drastically reduce the likelihood of them occurring.
To learn more, contact a company such as Geelong Farm Supplies with any questions you have.