Your dog’s urine naturally contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. When these become concentrated, they can sometimes come together with other minerals to form crystals. Although dogs can be perfectly healthy when they have crystals in the urine, they may be at increased risk of developing bladder and kidney stones.
A stone in the urinary system is painful and can be dangerous-imagine a rough-edged, little rock squeezing its way through those narrow and fragile tubes. Not only is that eye-wateringly painful, but it can also damage the tubes as it passes through. Just to make things more complicated, there are a few different types of stone, each with their own causes and treatments. The most common stones are made of struvite and calcium oxalate. Dogs can also get stones made from uric acid, calcium phosphate, silica and cysteine. Small dogs seem to be the most prone to urine crystals and stones. It’s thought that one reason for this is their lower thirst drive when compared with larger dogs. Drinking plenty of water helps to flush the crystals through the system so a dog that doesn’t drink enough is already at risk of a problem.
Urinary crystals can also cause irritation and lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI) which means an infection anywhere from the kidneys through to the bladder. Our quick guide will help you get to grips with how to recognise a urinary problem in your dog, how to get it sorted and what you can do to help maintain their urinary health.
Signs and symptoms of a UTI/urine crystals in dogs
A few crystals in the urine will usually go completely under the radar. If you’re wondering whether you can see crystals in dog urine, then the answer is not with the naked eye. However, there are other signs you can look out for. A dog with a urinary problem such as a UTI or stones will have trouble going to the toilet. They might wee frequently (although not much wee is produced), appear to strain and be in pain when trying to urinate. They may also lick their urinary opening excessively. Look out for blood in the urine, as this is a sign of infection. Cloudy urine is another indicator that all isn’t well, as is drinking more than usual. If your dog starts to have out-of-character wee-related accidents in the house, this may be due to a UTI. Sometimes a dog will appear to be incontinent when they have a urinary problem, trickling little bits of wee around the house. Just like when humans have a urinary infection, a dog may be out-of-sorts and perhaps reluctant to go for a walk or eat. If anything just doesn’t seem right with their waterworks, take them to their vet who will test their urine and get to the root cause.
What causes a UTI/urine crystals in dogs?
Sometimes bacteria (which can be from poo) can accidentally enter the urinary tract (this is more common in females because of their anatomy) where they can cause a UTI. Another trigger for a UTI can be when a dog has to cross their legs for too long: putting off going to the toilet for extended periods can concentrate the urine and increase the risk of a UTI as well as crystal formation. Anything that irritates the urinary system, including crystals, can set off a UTI.
There’s a bit of a genetic element to this too, some breeds are just at a higher risk of urinary problems than others. For instance, it’s a fact that a number of small breed dogs including the Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier and Dachshund are more susceptible to struvite crystals.
The pH of the urine is important in determining urinary tract health too. Dog’s urine should be slightly acidic, so at a pH of about 6.5 to 7. If it goes above neutral (pH 7), this increases the chance of struvite crystal formation. Specific ingredients in the diet like grains and certain groups of vegetables can raise the pH of urine and cause problems.
UTIs/urine crystals in dogs treatment
If a UTI is diagnosed, your vet will most likely treat the infection with an antibiotic. Crystals in the urine don’t necessarily indicate a health concern so a specific treatment isn’t usually required. However, your vet will find out what sort of crystals they are, to understand which type of stone they might go on to form and will give advice on how to help prevent this from happening.
There’s no doubt that drinking plenty of water is key to flushing the urinary system, which helps prevent crystal formation, washes away existing crystals and cuts down the chance of a UTI. But what if your dog is disinclined to drink? Another great way of getting moisture into their system is through their food. The best food for keeping that urinary tract in tip-top condition is Pure Pet Food. Try one of our diets, designed to leave you in control of the re-hydration levels. Why not give Turkey Terrific, Chicken Dinner or Fish Supper a go? With all the nutrients they need, sourced from a handful of fresh and natural ingredients, our minimally processed recipes are dried and ready for you to prepare in your kitchen just by adding warm water. There are no grains in our diets either, helping to keep that urine pH-balanced. A carefully picked selection of vegetables in our recipes also helps keep that urinary system pH on track.
Ensure your dog has plenty of opportunities to take a wee, if they need to be left at home alone for a whole day, try and arrange for someone to come and let them out to spend a penny.
Other dog's stories
When we put our hearts and souls into what we do, hearing about the positive effects our products have on your pets gives us a warm, fuzzy glow. We’ve heard about dogs whose wonky water-works have been coaxed into better shape after trying our diets. Check out our Success Stories for yourself to see how dogs with urinary health problems have benefitted.