The condition of crystals in dog urine is known as crystalluria. It carries a risk to development of renal or kidney stones in dogs. However, the occurrence of crystals in dog urine and the associated symptoms has no direct association with kidney stones formation or the tendency to do so. It only poses an increased likelihood of renal stones formation.
Unusual urination habits or changes in the urination pattern of a dog can help gauge the presence of crystals in dog urine. The associated symptoms include frequent urination, dribbling of urine, and bloody urine, etc. The medical condition needs the immediate attention of a vet as the crystals can clog the flow of urine resulting in fatality of the affected dog.
Crystals in dog urine may be an indication of other underlying conditions. Hence, proper detection and diagnosis is essential to formulate a treatment plan. Investigation of urine can help in diagnosis of conditions that carry an increased risk to stone development, estimation of the minerals components of such stones, and finding the efficiency of therapies used to dissolve the crystals and prevent the development of stones.
Crystals in dog urine that affects dogs with normal anatomical and functional urinary tracts are not dangerous as they get removed before becoming big enough to cause urinary dysfunction. In such cases as well, they pose increased threat to kidney stones development.
Normal elimination of crystals in dog urine often does not need treatment. However, treatment may be required in the following cases:
- Struvite stones, i.e., a high percentage of magnesium ammonium phosphate or calcium oxalate crystals are observed in healthy dogs. Yorkshire terriers, shih tzus, miniature schnauzers, cocker spaniels, miniature poodle dogs, bichons, and Lhasa apsos are at increased risk to developing calcium oxalate crystals.
- Crystals in dog urine occur without any accompanying symptoms
- New instances of crystals are seen in dogs with previous or current cases of renal stones.
- Crystallized xanthine stones typically occur in Cavalier King Charles spaniels; cystine crystals in urine usually affect English bulldogs, Dachshunds, and Newfoundlands; and ammonium crystals in urine normally occur in English bulldogs and Dalmatians.
Some of the common causes/conditions of crystals in dog urine are listed below:
- Presence of crystallogenic particles in high concentration in urine. Urine concentration if often determined by water levels in urine and the rate of urine elimination.
- Solubility of the crystallogenic particles with urine
- Imbalance of urine pH levels, i.e., imbalance in the alkaline and acidic levels in urine.
- The kind of diet that the dog consumes. Hospital diet is usually different from home diet.
- The time when urine sample is collected, such as after a meal or after fasting.
- Intake of certain medications which may get excreted with urine.
Also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate stones or triple phosphate, struvite stones are crystals or stones that form in the bladder. Normal elements of dog urine such as ammonia, magnesium, and phosphate combine together when present in high concentrations leading to irritation and inflammation of the bladder. Mixing of these crystals with mucus can develop into a plug which obstructs the urinary tract. The crystals may also bind with each other to form struvite stones; it often affects female dogs in the age group of 6 to 7 years than others.
- Some dogs may experience asymptomatic struvite crystals/stones, while others may elicit symptoms like cloudy urine, passing urine in unusual places, minimal urine elimination, frequent urination, elevated thirst, and increased strain when passing urine.
- Struvite crystals in dog urine may occur due to an inappropriate diet the causes increased alkalinity of urine; UTI/urinary tract infection; increased use of steroid medications; other urinary tract conditions; and anomalous urine retention.
Diagnosis of struvite stones
- A physical examination may help detect bladder enlargement due to inflammation. Sometimes, a vet may palpate the abdominal walls and actually feel the struvite stones.
- Urinalysis is one of the best tests to determine the presence of crystals in dog urine. In this test, the urine sample is check for protein, blood, ketones, glucose, and bilirubin content. It also helps measure urine concentration, often responsible for stone development and overall health of the kidneys. It can also help detect an underlying infection, inflammation, and/or WBCs content.
- Urine sensitivity and culture test will help determine the presence of bacterial infection and/or only inflammation along with stones or crystals. Each of these instances require a different treatment and/or management plan. Bacteria can aggravate an underlying case of struvite stones and hence very important to treat.
- Ultrasound and x-rays can be used to ascertain the shape, size, and location of stones and crystals in dog urine.
Treatment of crystals in dog urine
Any kind of urinary blockage require emergency medical care and treatment. Minor or incomplete obstructions of the urinary system that allows urine to pass can be corrected via diet modifications and medications; but first, consult a vet.
Treatment of crystals in dog urine is focused on controlling or removing the underlying causative diseases and risk factors, promoting frequent and complete vomiting, reducing crystal levels by increasing the volume of urine, changing the diet, and relevant drug therapy in some cases.
- Dogs are generally carnivorous and may have slightly acidic pH levels. However, a starch-abundant diet or a grain-based diet can result in slightly alkaline pH levels. The goal of treatment is to maintain the pH levels at 7, which is neither acidic nor alkaline, to resolve and prevent the formation of struvite stones and crystals in dog urine.
- Avoid dry pet food as it increases urine concentration and instead opt for moisture-abundant species-appropriate diets to maintain normal pH levels. For example, alkaline pH levels can be reduced via intake of a grain-free, low-carb, potato-free diet as well as fresh or canned foods with high moisture content.
- Dogs with a genetic predisposition to cauxin protein production may suffer from crystals in urine, without any underling infection. Associated cystitis and bladder lining trauma, irritation and discomfort are often treated with holistic medications, including cranberry extract and glucosamine, etc.
- If crystals do no dissolve via medical therapy, then the condition is treated via invasive surgery, or via less invasive surgical procedures called voiding urohydropropulsion and/or laser lithotripsy.
Regular checkups are needed till the vet determines that crystals in urine is fully resolved.