Many dogs suffer from chronic crystals in their urine that can often lead to bladder stones. What causes this problem is unknown so there is no cure. Veterinarians use special diets to help manage the problem with mixed success. Although no diet can solve the problem completely, homemade diets offer some advantages for dealing with the problem.
Urinary Crystals and Stones
Urinary crystals occur as a result of normal metabolism. What causes some dogs to have more than normal amounts of crystals in their urine is unknown. Crystals can become so dense that they form sand that irritates the bladder lining. This causes pain, swelling and bleeding. Over time the sand can form large stones that are too large to pass in the urine. These stones roll around in the bladder causing even more irritation.
There are two types of crystals and stones that cause most of the problem for dogs. One type is called struvite. The other is called calcium oxalate, or simply oxalate. They get their names from the minerals they are made from. The acidity of the urine also plays a role in the development of crystals or stones.
Struvite crystals and stones in dogs occur in urine that is more alkaline or basic. They are also often associated with chronic or persistent bladder infections. The cases associated with bacterial infection can be controlled with antibiotics. Oxalate crystals and stones form in urine that is more acidic.
Most specialty diets used to treat crystals contain ingredients that acidify or alkalinize the urine depending on which crystal type the food targets. These diets, especially the dry food versions, often fail in managing crystal and stone formation.
Advantages of Homemade Diets
Veterinary researchers now recognize that increased water intake is the best management tool for crystal formation. Excess water consumption causes more dilute urine. Crystal, sand and stone formations are more difficult in dilute urine. As the saying goes “The solution for pollution is dilution.”
Dry dog food is only 10% water while canned food and homemade diets are 65-80% water. This extra dietary water can have a tremendous impact for diluting urine. It definitely helps those dogs that drink less water. It also helps in the colder times of year when dogs do not drink as much water.
The metabolism of meat protein tends to cause acidic urine. The metabolism of plant proteins tends to cause alkaline urine. Most commercial diets, dry or wet, rely on plant protein for their foods. Homemade diets typically include more meat protein. They can be easily manipulated to provide even more meat protein. This makes them perfect for aiding dogs with chronic struvite stones not associated with infection.
Oxalate is a by-product of the metabolism of many grains and vegetables. Commercial diets rely heavily on food sources high in oxalates. Meats and oils contain no oxalates, while white rice has virtually no oxalates. A homemade diet of meat, white rice and oil is a perfect diet for a dog suffering from oxalate crystals and stones.
Owners with dogs that have urinary crystal problems should consider homemade dog food. It has definite advantages over commercial food, including special urinary diets.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN