Dogs can develop stones just like humans. A large part of therapy for struvite crystals in dogs is the diet. If your dog is suffering from urinary tract stones, this article explains in detail the basics of diet for dogs with struvite crystals and guidelines on the best feeding practices.
Table of Contents
What are Struvite Crystals in Dogs?
Struvite stones, or urinary tract stones, are one of the several types of stones (urolithiasis) that can form in a dog’s bladder. They are formed from struvite crystals, which are a normal occurrence. However, when these crystals group together and form large stones in the dog's urinary tract, that is when the problems occur.
Female dogs are more susceptible to this problem. It's observed that only 15% of male dogs will suffer from urinary tract stones. In most cases, struvite bladder stones are caused by a urinary tract infection. However, a small percentage of less complicated cases has seen metabolic or sterile struvite stones, which aren't caused by an infection. These stones tend to dissolve faster, but they are treated the same way as any other type of struvite crystals in dogs.
Struvite stones are formed in alkaline urine, and one of the things you will have to do to treat and prevent them in the future is to find ways to make your dog’s urine more acidic. This is where adjusting to a diet for dogs with struvite crystals will help. This article will not cover the condition, so if you want to learn more about this type of urinary tract stones in dogs, see the Merck Vet Manual guide here.
Here's what a dog's bladder stone looks like:
Feeding Dogs with Struvite Stones
For the rest of the article, I'll discuss feeding guidelines and diet for dogs with struvite crystals, and how you can improve your pet's condition. Make sure you consult with a vet before you make any dietary adjustments like these.
Low-Protein, Higher-Sodium Diet
One way to help with struvite crystals in dogs is through a low-protein diet because protein is very taxing on dog's kidneys. Be aware that feeding dogs low protein diets does not mean they will not develop urinary tract stones. However, a few studies with cats have shown that high protein diets may increase the risk of bladder stones.
While a low protein diet isn’t meant to prevent stone formation, it may speed up their dissolution in theory. The low-protein diet should be accompanied by antibiotic treatment.
Most low protein dog foods have a protein content that is around 25 percent, so look for foods that have at least two times less the amount of protein, around 10-15 percent. If you are cooking for your dog, try to stick to this percentage as well (more on this below).
Your dog should drink plenty of water. Struvite crystals are formed in the alkaline urine, thus drinking more water will help his urine get more diluted and acidic. One way to get your dog to drink more water is to increase his sodium intake.
Do not overdo on either water or sodium, however. Too much salt can be dangerous to dogs, and too much water may result in water intoxication. This is why it's important to consult with a veterinarian to keep monitoring the dog's condition.
Furthermore, some dogs, especially those that have a history of kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure, should avoid the high sodium diet. The diet is not good long-term. Using only for a brief amount of time until your dog’s struvite stones dissolute and then put him on a regular, well-balanced diet.
Minerals to Avoid
Some minerals contribute to the formation of struvite crystals in dogs. Avoiding the below mentioned minerals is good for both prevention and therapy of urinary tract stones. Note that the minerals are important to the overall health of the dog, thus their restriction should only be temporary and closely monitored.
Phosphorous is found in foods like eggs, milk and fish in different amounts. Either track the amounts and adjust the diet as necessary, or avoid these foods altogether.
Magnesium is mostly found in vegetables, especially in spinach and broccoli. You should also avoid green beans and whole grains, at least while your dog is in therapy. After that, include these things in moderation because they are good for your dog’s digestion and they will help him stay healthy. Seafood is also rich in magnesium.
Ammonia is naturally found in beef, as well as other animal proteins. It means that low-protein diet will already decrease ammonia levels for your dog. However, you should also avoid cheeses of any kind and processed food. Don’t feed your dog human food as well.
Diet for Dogs with Struvite Crystals
Remember that even after your dog gets rid of struvite bladder stones, you may need to monitor the diet to avoid their reoccurrence and formation. In addition to regularly checking pH levels of his urine, you should also make a diet according to his needs.
If you're making homemade dog food for struvite bladder stones, or simply want to give your dog treats and snacks, the below foods are the best when dealing with this condition.
Foods to Include
Cranberries are good for urinary tract infection prevention, which makes them good for preventing the formation of struvite crystals in dogs. They stop bacteria from adhering to the tissue that lines the urinary tract and bladder. You can also use fresh and natural cranberry juice or cranberry capsules.
Probiotics are good for your dog because they increase the number of good bacteria in his digestive tract. You can use probiotic supplements, or use natural foods like yogurt. Just add a few tablespoons of yogurt to your dog’s meal. However, probiotic supplements will have higher concentration and may benefit the dog more.
Carrots, apples, sweet potato, pumpkin, and other fruits and vegetables should be a part of your dog’s diet. These foods are rich in Vitamin C which has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Even though dogs produce their own vitamin C, the amount may not be enough to prevent the formation of bladder stones. Feed these foods in moderation because they are also known to alkalize your dog’s urine.
Use unrefined sea salt instead of refined table salt when you cook for your canine because this salt has more minerals and trace elements than refined salt. Remember, a little salt is good for your dog because it makes him drink more water and urinate often; however, too much salt can be dangerous to dogs.
Include uva ursi in your dog’s diet. Uva ursi is an herb which is widely used for bladder infections because it has strong antibacterial properties. Be careful if you use this herb and follow the label directions carefully. Uva ursi should only be used for short periods of time because it can irritate the kidneys if you use it on a regular basis.
Traditional bone broth is also a good thing to feed to your dog for preventing bladder stones. Just simmer any bones, whether it is chicken or beef in water for a day, and add some vegetables to improve the nutritional value of it, like carrots or potato.
Foods to Avoid
Limit the intake of dairy products. Giving your dog milk or cheese in small amounts is fine, but if your dog is prone to struvite bladder stones formation then you should try to keep dairy products to a minimum. Try to stick to low-fat cheeses, like cottage cheese.
Avoid feeding your dog high-protein diets. You shouldn’t keep your dog on a low-protein diet for a long time, thus proper balance will be key. If you feed your dog a low-protein diet with around 10-15 percent of daily protein intake when he has struvite bladder stones, you should keep his protein intake at around 20 percent (not higher) even after his bladder stones are diluted.
Grain foods, like wheat, rice or corn, should also be limited, if you haven't already done so. Some of these foods, such as rice, may be healthy and useful in the diet otherwise.
Homemade Dog Food for Struvite Bladder Stones
Cooking for a dog who has or had struvite bladder stones can be a bit of a challenge. Even though your dog’s diet can’t completely prevent the formation of struvite stones, it can certainly play a major role in their occurrence. This simple recipe of homemade dog food for struvite bladder stones is one of my favorites, but you can find more searching online, Top Dog Tips database of homemade dog foods, or creating one yourself.
Low-Protein Dog Cookies
These cookies are great for your dog because they are low in protein and also contain some vegetables, and full of nutrients.
- 2 1/2 cups of rice flour (you can also use white all-purpose bleached flour)
- 6 tablespoons of low-sodium and low-fat chicken broth
- 1/2 cup of cold water
- 1 cup cooked winter squashes, sweet potatoes and zucchini, ground up
Combine chicken broth, flour and vegetables in a mixing bowl and pour cold water over it to form dough. Pat this dough until it is half-inch thick and cut it into any shape that you want.
Once cut, put these cookies on a non-stick sheet and put it into a preheated oven to bake it. Bake at 350 ºF for around 20 minutes. Let the treats cool off and serve them to your dog. You can store them and use them later as well.
Structuring a diet for dogs with struvite crystals and feeding your ailing pet the right way can certainly help to deal with this condition, and prevent it in the future. Making your dog drink a lot of water is also key, because you need to make him urinate more. Constant urination will stop the formation of struvite crystals in dogs, and can help your pet dilute them faster.