Bladder stones occur when bacteria and urinary sediment collect and form crystals. They can obstruct your dog's ability to urinate. These painful stones often form after an infection and can lead to blood in the urine or even blockage in the urethra. All dog breeds are susceptible. Advanced cases usually require surgery. But the right food can help break down the stones.
Types of Stones
Many bladder stones are struvites, composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. They form in alkaline urine, usually after a bladder or urethral infection. Uric acid stones, on the other hand, form in acidic urine and typically result from a genetic predisposition: Dalmatians and bulldogs, for instance, are particularly prone to uric acid stones. Calcium oxalate stones, formed when urine in the bladder is high in calcium, citrates or oxalates, must be removed surgically.
Commercial Prescription Foods
Your vet can prescribe one of several commercially produced dog food formulas to speed up the breakdown of bladder stones. The formula depends on what kinds of stones your dog develops. For instance, while struvite stones form in alkaline urine, they dissolve in acidic urine. The dog with struvites requires a diet low in magnesium and protein. Your vet may prescribe Hill’s Prescription Diet s/d or Royal Canin Urinary SO 13. Or she may prescribe Hill’s Prescription Diet u/d for uric acid stones, which respond best to a low-purine diet, such as Hill’s u/d.
Never change any aspect of your dog's diet without consulting your vet. Unless your vet recommends otherwise, the best approach to helping to treat bladder stones is a balanced diet consisting of no more than 35 percent protein from extra-lean beef, ground turkey or chicken, fish, eggs and dairy. If you need to offer lower-purine or lower-protein diets to your dog, adjust ingredients gradually and with your vet's consent. Slightly cutting back on animal-derived foods can help, but drastic changes in the balance of proteins to carbohydrates and fats can be disastrous to your dog's health.
Low-protein diets may help break down struvite stones and crystals in the short term, but simply being on a low-protein diet will not prevent bladder crystals, struvite or otherwise. In fact, no diet known can prevent post-infection crystals from developing in the bladder. Also, long-term low-protein diets are nutritionally incomplete and can, after a few months, become harmful to an adult dog's health. Likewise, low-purine diets can be nutritionally incomplete and should never be used long-term.