Bladder Stones in Dogs
& Home Remedies to Prevent

Bladder stones in dogs are a common condition encountered by many pet owners. These stones can be small enough to be flushed out when your dog urinates, but many times become too large and need treatment.

Bladder stones are one type of “uroliths,” a term that encompasses stones that develop anywhere in your dog’s urinary system. Urolith stones can occur in the kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra.

It’s important to note that bladder stones are not the same as kidney stones; many articles on the internet use the terms interchangeably which can be very confusing to the reader.

To learn about kidney stones, how they form, and natural ways to prevent them, you will want to read my article about home remedies for kidney stones in dogs. If your dog has been diagnosed with bladder stones, read on to learn how you can help your dog.

IMPORTANT!

Stones can cause complete blockage of the urethra. If your dog isn’t able to urinate, it’s a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary treatment. A plugged urethra can cause a ruptured bladder or kidney failure.

Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Dogs with bladder stones may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • licking the genital area frequently
  • blood in the urine
  • urinating very small amounts more frequently
  • remaining in the urinating position for a long time
  • straining to produce urine
  • dog seems uncomfortable or in pain while urinating
  • cloudy and foul-smelling urine that may contain blood or pus
  • pain in the lower back
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite

What Causes Dog Bladder Stones?

Bladder stones occur when small crystals that have formed in the urine start to stick to each other. If the pH or mineral content of your dog’s urine encourages crystal formation, more and more crystals keep forming and binding to other crystal formations, forming bladder stones.

Bladder stones can be caused by a variety of issues, including:

  • High alkaline or high acidic diet
  • Hereditary issues
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Certain medications
  • Certain supplements
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Types of Bladder Stones in Dogs

Different types of bladder stones require different treatment approaches, so it’s important to first have your vet identify which type of stone your dog has. Your vet will look at your dog’s urine pH, age, breed, and sex to determine what kind of stone it is, plus they will check to see if your dog has a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Struvite Stones in Dogs

dog struvite stones next to ruler to show size
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The most common type of bladder stone is called a struvite stone.

Roughly 85% of struvite stones occur in female dogs; they are most common in smaller breeds.

Struvite stones in dogs usually occur when they have a UTI, large amounts of crystals are present in the urine, and urine pH is alkaline.

A key part of treating struvite stones is treating the dog’s UTI and preventing more UTIs from occurring. Things such as cranberry capsules, probiotics, and apple cider vinegar all help prevent UTIs.

In cases where no UTI is present, treatment is focused on reducing the alkalinity of the urine with a goal of a neutral 7.0 pH.

Changing your dog from a commercial food to a home prepared diet can be a huge help in changing the urine pH. Reducing carbs, grains, starches, potatoes, and feeding fresh meat and vegetables can help reduce alkalinity. Read more about the pros and cons of homemade dog food to see if it is right for your dog.

It’s important to remember that crystals in the urine do not necessarily signal the presence of bladder stones; about 40% of healthy dogs have crystals in their urine and have no adverse symptoms.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

calcium oxalate stones next to ruler to show size
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Although calcium oxalate stones are much less common than struvite stones in the bladder, they do occur. They are more likely to occur in male dogs.

These risk factors increase the chance of calcium oxalate stones:

  • low physical activity
  • dry food diet
  • overweight
  • neutered
  • use of corticosteroids like prednisone and cortisone for inflammatory illnesses

Each of these factors can cause more concentrated urine, which encourages stone formation.

Calcium oxalate stones form in acidic urine that is generally between 5.0 and 6.5 pH. A common recommendation for calcium oxalate stones is to use diet or medications to achieve a urinary pH close to 7 (neutral).

Conventional and holistic vets agree that these stones are very hard to dissolve and many times require surgical or endoscopic removal. Even if the calcium oxalate stones are surgically removed, however, the recurrence rate is 60% within three years, making preventative measures extremely important.

Home Remedies for Preventing Bladder Stones in Dogs

Important Disclaimer: I am not a vet. Not even close! My degree is in marketing. My goal is to share my own personal experience and information I have gathered; not to give medical advice.
If you think you want to try something you read about here, talk to your vet! But first read this and many more articles to empower yourself for a good discussion in which you can ask your vet great questions about what you want to try.
Knowledge is power – never forget that!

If your dog is at risk for developing bladder stones, changing diet, supplements, and water intake can significantly reduce the likelihood of bladder stone formation.

Urinary pH

Urinary pH is an important piece of the puzzle. Understanding why underlines the importance of working with your vet. To treat a bladder stone, you first must have your vet determine the type of stone you are working with, and your dog’s pH will be an important indicator.

Acidic urine contributes to calcium oxalate stone formation, while alkaline urine contributes to struvite stone formation. You can’t start to change your dog’s diet until you know what pH issue they have.

Because urinary pH varies throughout the day, you want to test at the same time each day. Most vets recommend testing the first urine each morning.

I find it easiest to use a shallow tupperware container, I slide it under while my dog is peeing to catch some urine, then dip my strip in the urine I collected.

I tried sticking the pH strip directly in the urine flow and it was too hard to see if I was getting urine on the pH strip or not.

Whether your dog’s urine is too acidic or too alkaline, the goal will be to use foods and supplements to bring your dog’s pH closer to 7.0.

These pH strips are easy to use and will help you determine if your dog’s pH is in the desired range.

**Note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them. By using the link to buy the products you are helping support happyynaturaldog.com**

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM uses acupuncture and/or herbal remedies to address bladder stones in dogs. I read stories online of both humans and dogs benefiting from TCM treatment of urolith stones (stones in the urinary system). Those wishing to explore this option should find an experienced TCM veterinarian in their area to evaluate and recommend treatment for their dog.

Exercise

Exercise can help your dog as well. It results in your dog drinking more fluid and urinating more, which will keep the dog’s urine dilute as well as flush out bacteria before UTIs and crystals have time to form.

Should I Use Prescription Food for Bladder Stones in Dogs?

canned dog food in a bowl
photo by mattycoulton

Peter Dobias, a holistic veterinarian in Vancouver, B.C, speaks of his time as a conventional vet where he noticed that even though dogs eating prescription food had fewer stone formations, their overall happiness/healthiness declined and it affected their quality of life.

He began to see that processed food, whether formulated for bladder stone treatment or purchased from the pet store, can cause its own set of issues.

The protocol he developed involves detoxifying the body, providing natural, unprocessed food along with mineral and amino acid supplements, probiotics that reduce crystal formation, omega oils, and multivitamins. He recommends combining this with holistic treatments such as chiropractic, massage, homeopathy, herbs, and more.

Dr. Dobias tells a story of a dog named Rocky, who had such severe bladder stones that he had to be sedated to have his bladder flushed every 3 months. After food and supplement changes under Dr. Dobias’s guidance, Rocky’s stones disappeared.

Food Supplements

If your dog is prone to bladder stones, there are specific supplements that help create a healthy urinary tract that is inhospitable for crystal formation.

Cranberry Capsules

Cranberry helps prevent UTIs by preventing bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract and the bladder. When the bacteria can’t adhere, they are flushed out when your dog urinates.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The benefits of Apple cider vinegar for dogs include its ability to function as a natural antibacterial and antiseptic agent that can help alleviate symptoms and reduce discomfort caused by a UTI.

If your dog is prone to struvite stones, adding one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to their food or water each day will help to lower the pH of their urine.

It’s important not to start adding this to your dog’s food until you can confirm that your dog’s urine is alkaline. You will also need to monitor your dog’s urine pH every few days using pH strips to make sure their urine doesn’t become too acidic, as that can cause calcium oxalate stones to form.

Do not use apple cider vinegar if your dog has calcium oxalate stones.

Probiotics

Establishing healthy flora levels in the body has been shown to decrease the likelihood of UTIs. In addition to strengthening your dog’s immune system, probiotics keep levels of infection-causing bacteria low.

Vitamin C

Many veterinarians recommend vitamin C for dogs who are prone to bladder infections and struvite stones because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Dogs (unlike humans) manufacture their own vitamin C, but the amount they produce may not meet their needs if they are under stress or fighting infection.

DO NOT give your dog vitamin C if they are prone to calcium oxalate stones.

Homemade Dog Food for Bladder Stones in Dogs

Note: Before feeding homemade dog food for bladder stones it’s important to have your holistic vet approve your food plan. Your vet will make sure you are not missing any important nutrients that your pet needs.

Learn more about the pros and cons of homemade dog food to decide if you want to try it for your dog.

Note about dry food ingredients:

If you aren’t able to make homemade dog food at this time in your life and need to buy commercial food, Dr. Peter Dobias recommends avoiding the following ingredients:

  • Chicken By-Product Meal
  • Brewers Rice
  • Corn Gluten Meal
  • Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid)
  • Dried Egg Product
  • Calcium Sulfate
  • Lactic Acid
  • Chicken Liver Flavor

Struvite Stone Food    

When making a homemade diet for struvite stones you want to increase protein from eggs and meats and lower the carbs, grains, starches, and potatoes in the diet. Doing this will make your dog’s urine more acidic.

Add fresh vegetables; boiling them first.

Calcium Oxalate Stone Food

Homemade food for dogs that are prone to calcium oxalate stones can have higher carbohydrate levels, as carbs help increase urine pH. Higher alkalinity will discourage crystals from forming.

You will use less protein, as protein increases the concentration of oxalate in urine.

Vegetable and fruit for this diet need to be low oxalate:

  • green peas
  • red pepper
  • turnip roots
  • iceberg lettuce
  • acorn squash
  • cucumber
  • cauliflower
  • zucchini
  • cantaloupe
  • honeydew
  • nectarines
  • watermelon
  • peeled apples
  • cherries
  • mangoes

Boiling the vegetables will further reduce the oxalate levels (more so than steaming).

Use your homemade food to increase your dog’s daily fluid intake!

In any homemade diet, make the dog food “soupy” by adding extra water. As we discussed above, increased water intake is a key factor in preventing bladder stones regardless of the type.

Water Intake: How it Reduces Bladder Stones in Dogs

Water is considered to be the cornerstone of bladder stone prevention. It dilutes the urine and increases the frequency of urination, both key elements in reducing the risk of stone formation.

In addition to adding water to your dog’s homemade food each meal, you can encourage your dog to drink more fluids by keeping bowls filled with fresh water. You can also add low- or no-salt broth to their drinking water to make it more appealing.

It is equally important to make sure your dog is given frequent opportunities to urinate each day; if your dog has to hold his urine for a long time it gives crystals and stones the opportunity to form.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Progress

Once you start your dog on their new diet, your vet will have you keep track of their morning urine pH to see if it moves closer to the target range.

If you see it getting too high or too low, it’s time to check in with your holistic vet to see if you need to make any dietary or supplement changes.

You will also want to do a monthly urinalysis until progress is made, and possibly repeat x-rays or ultrasounds to monitor any changes in stone size or frequency.

Can Home Remedies for Bladder Stones in Dogs Help Prevent Them?

Working with a holistic veterinarian to identify natural remedies for bladder stones can be effective. A healthy, homemade diet with increased fluid intake is a great start, and additional treatment using TCM can further address body imbalances leading to bladder stone issues.

Have you had a dog with bladder stones? I would love to hear your story, and the treatment method(s) that worked for you, in the comments below.

Until next time-

Naturally,

Karen

Want to save this article for future reference? Save this pin to your Natural Dog Health board!

Bladder Stones in Dogs

Share with others!

Check Out These Additional Posts!

Karen Pedersen Written by:

Karen is an independent copywriter who loves dogs and everything about them. She is married to Scott, has 4 kids, and likes to take a natural and holistic approach to living and pet ownership.

8 Comments

  1. Kim
    April 20, 2022
    Reply

    Thank you. After my then 6 year old female Bichon undergoing two bladder operations in 18 months due to Struvite crystals I made water access and peeing access a priority (she has pup mats at home..so she can pee whenever she needs to and has access to water always, upstairs, downstairs and whenever we are out and about. She does have a dried food that is bladder health specific. However I will occasionally add non salt broths of my own making to give it more taste and variety. She’s been free of bladder trouble for 3 years now and long may it continue.

    • April 20, 2022
      Reply

      Hi Kim, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with your Bichon, that is amazing that you have turned it around and she has made it 3 years with no issues! Do you mind if I add your story to the “Water Intake” section of this article? I think it’s so helpful for others to hear how someone implemented a solution and how it helped their dog.

  2. June 5, 2022
    Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful article. My dog has been struggling with UTI again and again and more frequently over the last few years. He has four heart conditions, under active thyroid, and in general weak health. I have tried homemade diet without guidance and went off it because I know nutritional needs are of utmost importance. He has a lot of food allergies. Currently he is on a canned food which I now realize is insufficient due to its ingredients. I have been monitoring his urine pH and now have correlated the infections with acidic urine. I could really use a recommendation for a holistic dog doctor online for consult. Very hard to find them in my local area in person. I am disabled and unable to create homemade foods. Even though I know this would be the best way to go. I could use guidance, finding a food to supplement with herbs, real foods, and the teas and extra liquids that I am currently giving him. Him. I am a formally trained beginner level herbalist and some of the natural remedies I’ve been using have been helping to prevent quite well. However, we seem to always end up back with UTI. Thank you for any help that you can direct my way in getting my dog seeing someone professional for these issues or even reference material that she might guide me to. My best- Opal

    • June 5, 2022
      Reply

      Hi Opal, I’m so sorry your dog is struggling with UTIs. I don’t know any holistc vets I can personally recommend that do online consults, but I googled “holistic vet online consultation” and there were a bunch of options so I would try that! Since you posted this on the bladder stones article I also want to be sure you have seen my UTI article (https://www.happynaturaldog.com/are-home-remedies-for-dog-utis-effective/). Give that a read, it will give you a list of possible options to consider and discuss with an online holistic vet. Please stay in touch and let me know what you tried and what helped your dog’s UTIs, good luck to you!

  3. Janice Schrack
    July 28, 2022
    Reply

    We are still trying to figure calcium bladder stones out along with how to treat them. Joe is an 11 year old poodle and the first of -6 puppies since we bred his parents to have this problem. In December Joe had blood in his urine and the first stones were found and removed surgically, then in June blood again so the second surgery. Hills was recommended along with potassium citrate. I already have a 16 1/2 year poodle(joes dad) on heart medicine so I started researching dog foods. First thing I saw was not to use any organ meats which is the 3rd ingredient on the hills c/d so at this point I’m making my own food with a small amount of hills in it to make my vet happy but was so glad to hear about the strips which are ordered. I know the internet can be dangerous so I’m checking daily on different sites to attempt to get the best information for my babies.

    • August 7, 2022
      Reply

      Hi Janice, So sorry for the delay in replying, I had one all typed up and must have thought I hit submit and didn’t! I’m so sorry your poodle is dealing with bladder stones. Sounds like you are being an amazing dod mom and learning all that you can to help your babies. Do you have a holistic vet who can help you formulate a diet for each of their issues?

  4. Karen
    August 7, 2022
    Reply

    Our rescue dog has been getting org ACV in her food 3x daily since May. She had a resolved/resolving UTI or inflammation which I started the ACV and cranberry comfort (herbal anti microbials/cranberry/diuretic). She had the symptoms of UTI, peeing in house, distress, licking. No bacteria in that sample but blood, RBCs and WBCs. After she was better switched to org cranberry powder but still using ACV.
    Her pH was 7.0 then and 8.0 last week.
    I have been trying to figure out shes more alkaline. Shes raw fed, minimal fruits/vegs.
    I read a few sites stating, although ACV is acidic it actually raises pH in urine when its metabolized. Mind blown!
    Her healthy meals are raw, pumpkin, zucchini, kefir, food based joint/vit/min suppl, cranb powder, cranberry comfort, med mushrms, boswellia, rose hips, acv, nettle leaf, nettle infusion. Then I add another 4oz water. Her late night snack is raw meat with maybe 2T apples or kiwis. Certainly not enough fruits/vegs to alkalinize her pH.
    Raw feeding group say likely infection and do antibiotics/Rx diet. Not an option as thats junk and no bacteria present.
    Thoughts on the ACV? I ordered pH strips to test and was considering dl-methionine to lower her pH. My Vet tech friend suggested xrays/ultrasound.
    She rarely drinks water since on raw except after her evening play. I add 4oz liquids to meals but incr to 6oz and 6 oz liver powder water btwn meals to incr hydration.
    Shes active, plays, no signs of UTI.

    • August 7, 2022
      Reply

      Hi Karen! Wow, you are really on top of everything and have obviously done a lot of research into natural ways to help your dog resolve whatever is going on. If I were in your shoes I would be trying to make an appointment with a holistic vet, either in person or doing a phone consult, just to have a medically trained person reading through all that you have tried and figuring out why symptoms persist with no bacteria present – and if they need to run some tests to rule out other things like bladder stones, etc. Please keep us posted, I hope you get some answers soon and can get this issue figured out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

New Blog Notification Sign UpReceive email notifications when new articles are published!