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Kidney Stones in Dogs

Nephrolithiasis in Dogs

Nephrolithiasis, or kidney stone formation, is a medical condition where clusters of crystals or stones develop in the kidneys or urinary tract of dogs. The kidney is a complex organ composed of numerous nephrons, each comprising blood capillaries and tubes that filter fluid to produce urine. These tubes eventually connect to ducts that lead to the renal pelvis and then into the ureter. Kidney stones or fragments can traverse this intricate system, potentially leading to severe complications.

Both dogs and cats can develop kidney stones, with certain breeds being more prone to specific types. For instance, calcium oxalate nephroliths, consisting of calcium and oxalic acid, are more prevalent in breeds like Lhasa Apsos, Yorkshire Terriers, and Miniature Poodles. Conversely, urate nephroliths, containing uric acid, tend to affect breeds such as Dalmatians, Yorkshire Terriers, and English Bulldogs.

Symptoms and Types

In many cases, dogs with kidney stones exhibit no obvious signs, and the presence of nephroliths is often discovered incidentally during diagnostic procedures for other medical issues. However, some dogs may display symptoms such as blood in the urine (hematuria), vomiting, recurring urinary tract infections, painful or difficult urination (dysuria), and frequent urination with small volumes of urine produced (polyuria). Additional symptoms may manifest, albeit varying based on the type and location of the stones.

It’s worth noting that certain kidney stones may be “inactive,” meaning they are not infected, not progressively growing larger, and not causing obstruction or clinical symptoms. In such cases, inactive kidney stones may not necessitate immediate removal but should be periodically monitored, for instance, through urine analysis, to detect any changes.

Causes

Several factors can contribute to the formation of nephrolithiasis and uroliths in dogs. These include the oversaturation of stone-forming materials in the urine, elevated levels of calcium in both urine and blood, diets that lead to high urine pH (alkalinity), and recurrent urinary tract infections.

Diagnosis

Providing your veterinarian with a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, detailing the onset and characteristics of symptoms, is essential. Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination, along with utilizing ultrasound imaging and performing urinalysis. However, to confirm the diagnosis, determine the mineral composition of the stones, and devise an appropriate treatment plan, samples of nephroliths need to be collected for analysis. This is typically achieved through a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), wherein stones are fragmented within the urinary tract using sound waves.

Treatment

For dogs diagnosed with inactive kidney stones, many can be managed at home with appropriate medication aimed at dissolving the stones. Dietary modifications are also essential, tailored to the specific chemical composition of the kidney stone.

In severe instances, the dog may necessitate prompt removal of the kidney stone(s) and hospitalization. Several options exist for kidney stone removal, ranging from surgical intervention to extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

Living and Management

Given the tendency for kidney stones to recur, consistent monitoring is crucial. Veterinarians typically advise abdominal X-rays and/or ultrasound scans every three to six months following the initial treatment. Additionally, periodic urine analyses are often suggested to track any changes.

Prevention

For dogs prone to nephrolithiasis, implementing special diets and dietary management can be instrumental in preventing the formation of stones.

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