Your dog’s urine naturally contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. When these become concentrated, they can sometimes come together with other minerals to form crystals.
Although dogs can be perfectly healthy when they have crystals in the urine, they may be at increased risk of developing bladder and kidney stones.
A stone in the urinary system is painful and can be dangerous-imagine a rough-edged, little rock squeezing its way through those narrow and fragile tubes. Not only is that eye-wateringly painful, but it can also damage the tubes as it passes through. Just to make things more complicated, there are a few different types of stone, each with their own causes and treatments.
The most common stones are made of struvite and calcium oxalate. Dogs can also get stones made from uric acid, calcium phosphate, silica and cysteine. Small dogs seem to be the most prone to urine crystals and stones. It’s thought that one reason for this is their lower thirst drive when compared with larger dogs.
Drinking plenty of water helps to flush the crystals through the system so a dog that doesn’t drink enough is already at risk of a problem.
Urinary crystals can also cause irritation and lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI) which means an infection anywhere from the kidneys through to the bladder.
Our quick guide will help you get to grips with how to recognise a urinary problem in your dog, how to get it sorted and what you can do to help maintain their urinary health.
Sometimes bacteria (which can be from poo) can accidentally enter the urinary tract (this is more common in females because of their anatomy) where they can cause a UTI.
Another trigger for a UTI can be when a dog has to cross their legs for too long: putting off going to the toilet for extended periods can concentrate the urine and increase the risk of a UTI as well as crystal formation. Anything that irritates the urinary system, including crystals, can set off a UTI.
There’s a bit of a genetic element to this too, some breeds are just at a higher risk of urinary problems than others. For instance, it’s a fact that a number of small breed dogs including the Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier and Dachschund are more susceptible to struvite crystals.
The pH of the urine is important in determining urinary tract health too. Dog’s urine should be slightly acidic, so at a pH of about 6.5 to 7. If it goes above neutral (pH 7), this increases the chance of struvite crystal formation. Specific ingredients in the diet like grains and certain groups of vegetables can raise the pH of urine and cause problems.
A few crystals in the urine will usually go completely under the radar. If you’re wondering whether you can see crystals in dog urine, then the answer is not with the naked eye. However, there are other signs you can look out for.
A dog with a urinary problem such as a UTI or stones will have trouble going to the toilet. They might wee frequently (although not much wee is produced), appear to strain and be in pain when trying to urinate. They may also lick their urinary opening excessively. Look out for blood in the urine, as this is a sign of infection. Cloudy urine is another indicator that all isn’t well, as is drinking more than usual.
If your dog starts to have out-of-character wee-related accidents in the house, this may be due to a UTI. Sometimes a dog will appear to be incontinent when they have a urinary problem, trickling little bits of wee around the house.
Just like when humans have a urinary infection, a dog may be out-of-sorts and perhaps reluctant to go for a walk or eat. If anything just doesn’t seem right with their waterworks, take them to their vet who will test their urine and get to the root cause.
If a UTI is diagnosed, your vet will most likely treat the infection with an antibiotic. Crystals in the urine don’t necessarily indicate a health concern so a specific treatment isn’t usually required. However, your vet will find out what sort of crystals they are, to understand which type of stone they might go on to form and will give advice on how to help prevent this from happening.
There’s no doubt that drinking plenty of water is key to flushing the urinary system, which helps prevent crystal formation, washes away existing crystals and cuts down the chance of a UTI. But what if your dog is disinclined to drink? Another great way of getting moisture into their system is through their food.
The best food for keeping that urinary tract in tip-top condition is Pure. Try one of our diets, designed to leave you in control of the re-hydration levels. A carefully picked selection of vegetables in our recipes also helps keep that urinary system pH on track.
Ensure your dog has plenty of opportunities to take a wee, if they need to be left at home alone for a whole day, try and arrange for someone to come and let them out to spend a penny.
Ingredients play a key part in preventing urine crystals and UTIs in dogs. Dog food for dogs with crystals in urine should avoid certain ingredients that raise the Ph of a dog’s urine, which puts them at risk of infection. Pure offer grain-free dog food and these recipes contain carefully selected, fresh vegetables that will provide your dog with plenty of vitamins and minerals but make sure their Ph balance is, well... balanced.
Another factor in UTI prevention dog food is that it will help to hydrate your dog. Increased water consumption helps to flush existing crystals out and prevent new crystals from forming. Proper hydration will also lower the risk of UTIs and developing bladder and kidney stones.
Kibble (dry dog food) has very little water content, and if your dog hasn’t got a huge thirst drive, it will leave less water to flush out those pesky crystals and put them at higher risk of a UTI.
Pure is perfect for helping to keep your pup hydrated and their urinary tract in good condition. You can add more water to their food to encourage your dog to take in more fluids while eating their dinner, which is certainly more appetising than a bowl of plain water.
We’ll create a healthy personalised plan to suit your dog’s individual needs and bring out the best in them. Not only will your plan be tailored to your dog, but our recipes contain quality, healthy ingredients to deliver paw-some nutrition to keep your pooch fit as a fiddle. If your pup is healthier, their immune system is stronger, and they are less likely to face future illness and infection. A good diet makes a healthy and happy dog.
Suave schnauzers Lulu and Sooty have had great success starting a Pure diet, which is proving to be a fantastic UTI prevention dog food. They both suffered from other conditions like allergies and pancreatitis, and prescription diets weren’t meeting their needs.
But with a personalised plan from Pure, their bladders and kidneys are in perfect shape and they no longer have urine crystals. (They’ve been licking their bowls clean as well, so they’re loving the delicious recipes too!)
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.