How to Help a Dog Who Has Kidney Stones


We all know how painful kidney stones can be for us humans, but they can cause just as many problems for your dogs, too. The small deposits of minerals can break off and cause a great deal of pain for your pup as he tries to use the bathroom.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to treat your dog’s kidney stones. The severe cases might require surgery, but the smaller, harmless stones may only need a watchful eye.

What Are Dog Kidney Stones?

Yes, dogs can get kidney stones. But what are they and how do they form? In the simplest terms, kidney stones are bits of minerals that form in a dog’s kidneys, says Alicen Tracey, DVM and a member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board.

Stones can form because of an imbalance in the dog’s blood or urine—metabolic stones—while others form because of an infection in the kidney, writes Celeste Clements, DVM. Chronic infections often lead to the formation of struvite stones in dogs. Calcium oxalate stones tend to develop due to combination of the dog’s genetics, diet, and environment. Clements writes that female dogs more commonly form stones than male pups.

Kidney stones become dangerous when they grow too large or break apart, allowing smaller pieces to enter and get stuck in the dog’s ureter—the corridor to the bladder, Clements says. That’s when it can really hurt your dog—even causing death if not treated quickly and correctly.

Difference Between Dog Kidney Stones and Bladder Stones

The difference here is the location. While the bladder and kidneys are both part of a dog’s urinary system, bladder stones form in the bladder and kidney stones form in the kidney, VCA Hospitals says.

Signs of both kinds of stones will appear in the urine—blood or crystals for instance—but they still come from different places.

Signs Your Dog Has Kidney Stones

It might not be obvious that your dog is suffering from kidney stones. Some of the signs your dog has them mimic other maladies like kidney disease and diabetes. As you’ll hear everywhere on this website, consult your veterinarian to determine whether kidney stones are present. Here are some common signs and symptoms, per Tracey and Clements:

  • Increased urination (but sometimes with little pee produced)
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss, anorexia
  • Depression
  • Blood in urine
  • Difficulty or pain urinating
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Crystals evident in urine

According to Clements, some smaller dog breeds are considered more susceptible to kidney stones, too, including:

  • Lhasa apsos
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Miniature schnauzers
  • Shih tzus

Tracey adds that Dalmatians can sometimes be predisposed to kidney stones as well because they have a genetic mutation that makes it hard for them to process one of the acids that can lead to stones.

So: If you have one of these breeds and the dog is experiencing some of the above symptoms, it’s time to set up a vet appointment.

Chalabala / Getty

How to Treat Dog Kidney Stones and Struvite Stones

Your vet can use a variety of methods to determine whether your dog has kidney stones. Depending on the material they’re made of, some stones will show up on an X-ray. Urate stones won’t show up on that scan, Tracey says, so an ultrasound might be in order to make sure those aren’t present.

Blood tests can also find indicators that kidney stones might be present, and a urine sample can yield crystals or other other signs that minerals are present.

If a stone is causing enough pain or damage to your dog’s kidney, a surgeon can remove it, Tracey says. (This is a good time to remind you to make sure you can afford vet visits, and you should maybe consider purchasing pet insurance.)

Thankfully, there are less-invasive options. Your dog’s veterinarian can usually prescribe medicine or a kidney-friendly food that helps the stones dissolve, Tracey says. If the stone isn’t causing pain and allowing urine to flow as normal, it instead might just be monitored by your vet, Clements writes.

Kidney stones can be recurring, too, and Tracey says any dog owners who’ve needed treatment for kidney stones should expect to deal with it again. But, as always, your veterinarian will know best.

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