Urinary issues are a common concern that our veterinarians see patients for here in Regina. While inappropriate urination can stem from many different causes, one of those causes can be due to the presence of crystals and stones in the urinary tract. This "gem show" can be a bit of a chicken and egg game as to which happened first! Sometimes the crystals and stones form because the patient has a urinary tract infection, other times the crystals and stones develop first and then lead to an infection. A bit of detective lab work by our veterinarians can usually help determine the underlying cause.
The development of crystals and stones in the urinary tracts of dogs and cats is often due to multiple reasons. There can be a genetic component where we know certain breeds of dogs and cats are prone to the development of specific types of crystals and stones. Formation can also be due to diet and subsequent pH of the urine causing crystals to precipitate. Underlying urinary tract infections and systemic diseases (diabetes, Cushings, chronic kidney disease) can also contribute. Obesity and inactivity with a sedentary lifestyle often means that patients hold their urine for longer periods of time providing more opportunity for crystals to form. Some patients also don't drink water well and have very concentrated urine which makes them more prone to crystals forming....it's a long list of potential causes! Certainly as pet owners, we have the opportunity to impact some of these categories such as exercise, diet, water sources etc but unfortunately we cannot change our pet's genetics. Here is an x-ray below of a dog with stones in its bladder:
Caught early, many times with appropriate modifications we can prevent crystals from progressing into the development of actual stones. However, once stones have formed, often the recommended treatment is surgery (cystotomy) to have the stones removed and analyzed. Urinary stones can be sneaky; they can be made up of more than one type of mineral! Sometimes even if we see crystals of one type in the urine, the stone can be made of a different type entirely, making actual analysis of the removed stone very important. In certain breeds that have developed urinary tract stones once, they are at high risk for doing so again. This is where routine follow-up and monitoring of urine, along with x-rays of the bladder, become important in the long term treatment and management of our patients.
If you have any suspicion of an abnormality with your pet's urination, the best first step is to have your pet examined by one of our veterinarians. Wondering what diets may be best to help reduce the likelihood of crystals forming for your pet? Be sure to ask one of our registered veterinary technicians for a suggestion!