Symptoms of Struvite Stones in Dogs

Struvite stones in dogs sometimes occur without creating symptoms, but they usually cause a few symptoms that observant owners should notice quickly. Let’s learn more about how struvite stones form, the symptoms they cause and available treatments so you’ll be aware of what to be on the lookout for in your dog.

How Canine Struvite Stones Form

Struvite stones are responsible for about half of all canine bladder stone problems. They are most often created after your dog has a urinary tract infection caused by one of two kinds of bacteria: staphylococcus or proteus. These bacteria react with other components in your dog’s urine to create struvite stones from magnesium, ammonia and phosphates normally found in canine urine, and the bacteria also create a more alkaline pH level in your dog’s urine. In acidic urine (urine with a pH level of 7.0 or lower), the struvite crystals do not begin to form into stones, but stone formation begins when urine pH levels rise into alkaline levels above 7.0.

Most struvite stones form in a dog’s bladder, although they can also form in his kidneys. When they develop in the kidney, they are called nephroliths or, more commonly, kidney stones.

Dogs that do not have adequate opportunities to relieve themselves throughout the day may be prone to developing struvite stones as the urine remains in the dog’s bladder longer, allowing for the potential buildup of minerals that lead to stone formation.

Canine Struvite Stone Symptoms

Symptoms of canine struvite stones include:

  • bloody or foul-smelling urine
  • frequent bladder infections
  • lethargy
  • licking at the genitals
  • loss of appetite
  • pain in the hindquarters
  • pain or difficulty in urinating
  • passing small amounts of urine

Some breeds may be at slightly higher risk of developing struvite stones. Breeds with a tendency toward developing these stones include:

  • bichon frise
  • dachshund
  • English cocker spaniel
  • Labrador retriever
  • lhasa apso
  • miniature schnauzer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire terrier

Female dogs are also more likely to develop the condition than male dogs, and the condition is most common in middle-aged dogs (those between 5 and 7 years of age).

Diagnosing and Treating Canine Struvite Stones

Your veterinarian can use x-rays and ultrasound to determine whether your dog has struvite stones. Struvite stones are radio-opaque, so they can be seen on an x-ray. Depending on the severity of the blockage of your dog’s urinary tract, he may require surgery, his bladder may need to be flushed using a technique called voiding urohydropropulsion or his condition may be managed through dietary changes and supplemental medication. Unless they are life-threatening, struvite stones can usually be dissolved in a few months using special diets.

Once the initial stone is removed from your dog’s body, your focus will then shift to preventing future urinary tract infections to reduce future stone formations. This can be achieved by monitoring the pH level of your dog's urine, feeding him a specialized diet and increasing his water consumption, either by allowing him access to ample amounts of drinking water or by switching his regular diet from a dry to a canned product.