How should you feed a dog that is prone to developing bladder stones?
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How should you feed a dog that is prone to developing bladder stones?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Bladder stones in dogs can form when there is a high level of certain types of minerals present in the dog’s urine, which over time, form crystals in the urine that can cluster together and form hard “stones.” These stones can lead to obstructions of the bladder, an increased risk of frequent, recurrent or severe urine infections, and cause a lot of pain and distress as well.

While some stones are small enough for your dog to pass naturally without the need for veterinary intervention, others grow to a size large enough to block up the urinary tract, causing an obstruction or making passing the stone challenging or impossible. In cases such as these, your vet will need to take a different approach to getting rid of the stones – which may involve using medications to soften them and help them to pass, laser treatment to break the stones into smaller particles so that they can be eliminated naturally, or even surgical intervention in serious cases.

Once a dog has developed bladder stones once, they will be more at risk for developing them again in the future – and what and how you feed your dog, and how much water they drink too, can all have an effect on stone formation.

Feeding your dog a certain type of diet can help to prevent bladder crystals and stones from forming, and make them smaller and so, easier to pass if they do – and this is something that you will need to discuss with your vet, in order to determine the most appropriate diet for your dog and how to proceed.

In this article, we will look at some of the dietary factors that can contribute to the prevention of bladder crystals and stones, and how to feed a dog to help to control and reduce them developing in future. Read on to learn more.

More about bladder stones in dogs

Not all bladder stones are the same – the type of stones that any given dog develops will depend on the type of minerals that build up into high enough concentrations to crystallise and cause a problem. This is important, because the minerals that the stones are made from will affect what type of food and approach is necessary in order to reduce and prevent them from occurring.

Some of the simpler and often, smaller types of bladder stones in dogs are composed of phosphorous and magnesium, which causes struvite crystals and stones, whilst calcium, on the other hand, can lead to calcium oxalate stones, which can be larger and more complex.

This means that when it comes to your dog’s diet, there is not just one correct approach to reduce bladder stones, and what constitutes the right approach will depend in large part on the type of stones that your dog develops.

Working with your vet to analyse the makeup of the stones that your dog has or had in the past will help you to ascertain the best dietary approach to prevent further stones developing in the future.

The right diet for a dog with bladder stones

First of all, it is important to understand that whilst dietary changes can help to prevent stones from developing in the future, it is not sufficient to treat and remove any stones that are already present.

When you know the type of stones your dog develops, the diet that you feed to your dog can help to manipulate the pH level of your dog’s urine, and the trace elements of minerals that are present in it, which helps to prevent future stone formation.

One of the core elements of dietary control of bladder stones in dogs is water intake – if your dog doesn’t drink enough fluids, their urine will be more concentrated, further contributing to the build-up of minerals that cause stone formation.

This means that encouraging your dog to drink more water and feeding wet food or food with water added to it is one of the most effective ways of controlling stone formation, and something that your vet might well recommend.

Your dog may well also need to be fed a special veterinary prescription diet that is designed for the type of stones that your dog develops, and which will reduce the levels of trace minerals that cause the formation of the stones in question, and that also, is of the most appropriate pH to counteract the problem.

This again means that there isn’t a one size fits all canine diet for bladder stones, and there are several different options available, depending on the problems that they tend to develop.

For example, dogs that develop calcium oxalate stones will need a diet that potentially has a higher than normal level of fibre and sodium chloride, which dilutes the urine, and low to moderate amounts of meat protein, phosphorus, and calcium.

On the other hand, dogs that tend to be prone to developing struvite stones and crystals will need a diet that promotes an alkaline pH in the bladder, and with a lower level of protein than most regular commercial diets.

It is also important to think about other factors that can impact on your dog’s diet – such as anything they scavenge outside of the home, treats that you give to them, and any table scraps they eat.

You may have to use a muzzle on your dog to keep them from scavenging, and feed only treats that your vet recommends as suitable to match with their dietary requirements.

Often, this will mean that some of your dog’s favourite treats – like bones, jerky, rawhide, and things like pig’s trotters won’t be suitable, and for dogs with calcium oxalate stones, steering clear of calcium-rich dairy products like cheese and milk may be indicated too.

In some circumstances, your vet may advise you to use certain types of supplements for your dog as well – including products designed to alter the pH of the urine, like apple cider vinegar.

However, you should never add supplements or make changes of any type to the diet of a dog with bladder stones that are being managed with food without speaking to your vet first, as this may well do more harm than good.

Over time, your vet will monitor how the diet you have chosen is working out for your dog, and whether or not it is helping to prevent stone formation – which in combination with drinking plenty of water, is the key to keeping your dog comfortable and healthy for life.

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