Bladder stones are fairly common in domestic pets, and are often linked with urinary tract infections in dogs and cats. Changes in the pH balance, over-saturation of urine with crystals, and water re-absorption by the kidney tubules are the other major causes behind the formation of bladder stones. Diet, decreased water intake, frequency of urination, and genetics are some of the other secondary factors that contribute to the formation of bladder stones.
Concentration and pH balance play an important role in the type of stone that is formed. Calcium oxalate and urate stones are formed when the urine is acidic to neutral. Struvite stones are generally formed in neutral to alkaline pH environments. Although dependent upon pH of the urine, cystine stones, calcium phosphate stones, and silicate stones are more breed-specific and are caused due to a defect in renal tubules. The extent of urea in the body is another factor that plays a significant role in the formation of calcium crystals that ultimately result in bladder stones.
A confirmation of the type of bladder stones can only be obtained by testing the bladder stones in a laboratory. These can be obtained for examination by two methods. Trying to flush out a stone is one option, but this method is likely to work only if the stones are small. The only other option that can yield a stone sample for testing is the intrusive surgical method.
Treatment of bladder stones can range from dissolving and flushing to surgical treatments. Dissolving calcium oxalate stones is not possible. Flushing is possible only if the stones are small in size. But if the stones get dislodged from the bladder and travel in the urethra to block the passage, surgical treatment becomes necessary.
Even after surgical treatment, a large proportion of the dogs develop calcium stones again. Therefore, preventive measures become extremely important in controlling this recurrent condition.
A controlled diet is extremely important. Foods that have low levels of calcium are recommended. Since calcium stones generally form under acidic conditions, foods that create an acidic environment inside the body should be avoided. The final solution is to give your dog a balanced diet that maintains a pH scale of 6.4 to 6.6. An imbalance in pH implies that the digestive system is working at low resistance levels.
Make all efforts to increase your dog's intake of water. High levels of water can help keep concentration at low levels, thus preventing the formation of calcium crystals. Water also helps in reducing the risk of canine or urinary feline urinary tract infections.
Regular urinalysis (say once every two months) can help in monitoring the pH levels of urine. Taking radiographs once a quarter can allow you to see whether new stones are beginning to form. These can be treated immediately by flushing before matters get out of hand and the stones become large.
Once your dog has suffered from calcium bladder stones, administering potassium citrate is also helpful. The potassium citrate ensures that the calcium binds with the citrate to form calcium citrate, a compound that is dissolvable in urine.