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Crystals in Dog Urine: A Painfully Common Health Condition

Pups, much like humans, commonly form crystallized minerals in their urine. At best, these flush away naturally, but at worst, they can turn into infections and painful stones that make urinating almost impossible. Learn more about the crystals' causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of this sometimes excruciating canine condition.

Few things are worse than watching your sick dog in pain, and being unable to help.

Urine crystals don't always make our dogs sick, but even if you suspect your pup has a mild case, it's crucial to keep a close watch on the issue before things worsen. 

Vitamins and minerals float through our dogs' bodies constantly. Still, occasionally, something goes wrong, and an essential micronutrient, like calcium, can form hardened crystals and stones within the bladder or urinary tract. 

Some factors make some pups genetically predisposed to the condition, so we're lifting the veil to help you learn more about causes, treatments, and prevention - plus all the signs and symptoms you'll need to recognize when urine crystals become an issue. 

What are Urinary Crystals in Dogs?

Sometimes, dogs form crystallized and concentrated minerals within their urine, causing a condition called crystalluria. There are several types of crystals made of various mineral compounds, and when left unchecked, they may cause bladder or kidney stones in dogs. 

These dogs may form as the result of a disease, but they sometimes form for no reason at all. 

The crystals form with rough edges that cause our pups a lot of pain as they squeeze through the narrow tubes of the urinary tract, as you'd imagine. If you've ever known a person that's suffered from stones, they will adamantly tell you that the pain can be downright excruciating. 

On top of the pain, dog crystals in the urine may also lead to a urinary tract infection.

Common Types of Urine Crystals

Just like rocks out in the natural world, crystals within a pup's body can form from several different mineral types. 

Here are a few of the crystals in the urine: 

  • Magnesium Ammonium Phosphate also called Struvite
  • Calcium Oxalate
  • Cysteine
  • Silica
  • Ammonium Urate also called Uric Acid
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Xanthine

The two most common stones a dog forms contain struvite or calcium oxalate. 

Usually, the cause of struvite crystals in dog urine are issues with the bladder and a urinary tract infection. A UTI causes a high pH in urine as harmful bacteria invades - this higher pH also allows struvite stones to develop much more quickly than usual. 

The reasons for calcium oxalate crystals are much less clear, and a shared or direct cause is hard to find. These crystals tend to form a little easier when a pup eats higher doses of calcium and has more acidic urine.

Crystals in Dog Urine: Symptoms & Signs

When your pup is acting off, it can be challenging to determine what's going on with them. If you suspect your pup has urine crystals or dog UTI symptoms, take a look for any of the signs below:

  • Frequent urination
  • Passing urine that's dark, bloody, or concentrated
  • Difficulty, pain, and straining while urinating
  • An uneven and altered urine stream
  • Excessive or increased thirst
  • Pain to the touch in the tummy and bladder area
  • Poor appetite

While these symptoms are all pretty standard, dogs and cats can sometimes form crystals in the urine and exhibit no symptoms at all!

Risk Factors of Urine Crystals

We seem to find a load more urine crystals in dogs depending on a few factors, namely, breed, gender, and size. 

Small dogs seem to be more prone to develop urinary and kidney stones than larger dog breeds. Though it's just a hypothesis, experts think this may be because they tend to have a smaller drive to drink, and we know that water helps flush crystals through the system before they get large enough to cause problems. 

Males seem to suffer more from calcium oxalate dog crystals in urine, while females tend to form crystals made of struvite instead. 

There are plenty of breeds that form calcium oxalate crystals at much higher than average level:

  • Shih Tzu
  • Chihuahua
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Maltese
  • Bichon Frise
  • Dachshund
  • Pug

Most Common Causes of Crystals in the Urine

What foods cause crystals in dog urine?

On top of the genetic predispositions, a pup's diet commonly influences the formation of crystals in dogs' urine - highly-processed dog food full of grains and fillers can increase a dog's risk of crystal formation. 

Imbalanced urine pH can cause issues, as well as urine that doesn't contain enough water within it. If your pup continually holds their pee for too long or develops a UTI, their risk factors go way up. 

Crystals in Dog Urine: Treatment & Exam

Getting a Vet Exam

If you suspect your pup has crystals in the urine, you need to take them to the vet for a proper examination and professional diagnosis. 

First, your vet will take a fresh urine sample and examine it under the microscope for signs of crystals and identify the type that's afflicting your canine friend. The sample may also show blood cells and bacteria, two common symptoms your pup may be dealing with an infection. If a urinary or other form of infection is present, the vet will take a culture to help determine the right course of antibiotic treatment. 

For bladder stones, your doggo may need an x-ray or an ultrasound of the abdomen. 

Common Treatments for Urine Crystals

Tiny crystals in the urine that don't accompany an infection may need no treatment at all - some dogs form these crystals and pass them painlessly, causing no harm. 

When the crystals in the urine cause blockages, infections, and bladder or kidney stones, they'll need to be treated before the matter gets even worse. 

  • In some cases, you may adjust the pH of your dog's urine back to normal levels through a specialized prescription diet and increased water intake. 
  • For infections, antibiotics can help kill off the harmful bacteria that causes urine crystals
  • If stones develop, your dog may need surgery to remove the stones or break them down into smaller pieces that more easily pass through the urinary tract naturally.
  • You may want to invest in a cone if your pup won't stop licking the area, especially if they have a UTI - the extra bacteria can make matters much worse
  • Get a soft bed a dog ramp (click here for our favorite option) to promote rest and healing 

Typical Costs of Urine Crystal Treatment

The treatments of urine crystals can range pretty significantly, depending on your pup's particular situation. 

For the assessment alone, you're likely looking at $100-$200. Urine cultures can be as high as $250, and an x-ray or ultrasound will set you back up to $450.

If your dog needs antibiotic treatment, expect to pay $50-$75, and a prescription diet tends to cost $25-$75 per month, depending on your pup's size and dietary needs. 

Crystal surgery takes us into a whole new ballpark - if your dog's stones need removing through surgery, you'll pay $750-$2000, depending on the technique required.

Final Notes & Preventive Measures for the Future

  • If you're not sure your puppy's urine crystals are severe enough to head to the pet, do it! Any good vet won't judge you for being proactive about your dog's health, and it may help you avoid paying for costly surgery in the future that can be pretty distressing for your pet. 
  • A prescription diet doesn't always stop when your dog's urine crystals disappear - prescription diets are a great preventive measure for the future, too.
  • Beyond the diet, keep feeding your dog foods with a high moisture content to increase fluid intake.
  • If your dog isn't a big drinker, leave water bowls everywhere around your house and give your pup plenty of positive encouragement and reinforcement when they drink from one. 
  • Some vets may recommend preventive medications, but these don't always work and can cause the urine pH to flip to the other end of the spectrum and become too alkaline instead of acidic, so take that advice with a grain of salt. 

We wish your pup a speedy recovery from this painful issue!

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