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Dogs can develop several types of urinary tract stones. We commonly see struvite stones, which often form in conjunction with bladder infections. We also see calcium oxalate stones. Any dog can get these, but small breeds such as Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos and Yorkshire Terriers seem to be predisposed to them, as are Miniature Schnauzers and Bichons Frises.
Some breeds are known for a predisposition to certain types of stones. Male Dalmatians are prone to urate stones, and Scottish Deerhounds and some Dachshunds and Bulldogs are likely to develop cystine stones.
If we suspect bladder stones, blood work and radiographs can help us to make a diagnosis. Occasionally, though, stones are difficult to find. Then we use more sophisticated procedures such as radiographs with dye, ultrasound or cystoscopy, which lets us take a look around inside the urethra and bladder.
Making a correct diagnosis is important. We never want to assume that a dog has a garden-variety urinary tract infection and miss the real problem.
Once we have a diagnosis, we can prescribe a specific antibiotic in the case of an infection or recommend a special diet to dissolve stones. Sometimes both are needed. For instance, struvite stones usually dissolve easily with an appropriate diet, and antibiotics may be needed to treat an accompanying urinary tract infection.
Can you do anything to prevent UTIs or stones in your dog? It’s not a silver bullet, but I always recommend a drinking fountain for pets. Getting more water into your dog is never a bad thing. Many pets are attracted to running water, so a fountain may encourage them to drink more. And for certain types of stones, we definitely want to see the dog drinking plenty of water and urinating frequently, because that’s going to wash the crystals out before they can get together and start turning into stones.
Sometimes nutraceuticals can be helpful adjuncts to UTI treatment. My colleague Mary H. Bowles, DVM, an internal medicine specialist at Oklahoma State University, says that based on successful studies in women, your veterinarian may recommend probiotics to help prevent recurring UTIs. Probiotics are thought to help by displacing the bacteria causing the infection and enhancing the immune system’s response to infection-causing bacteria.
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