This question about urinary crystals in dogs and dog treats came from a website visitor:
Q: I have an 11-year-old Bichon who has just had surgery for a bladder mass and calcium oxalate stones. The mass is benign, thank God, but caused by irritation from the stones. He also has just been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease but has not yet started on medication. He is on a Royal Canin SO14 diet. He is very spoiled and certainly loves his treats. His favorites are a piece of lunchmeat turkey after his 2 daily walks. For his last little “piddle” walk of the night, for years he’s gotten a 1/3 piece of a “Snawsome”. He really loves that one! Now the vet says he can no longer have ANY treats other than his food or I could try making treats out of the canned version of the prescription food. I am afraid this will not be acceptable to him.
Do you have any suggestions as to what types of treats may be acceptable? I have never seen anything about not giving my dog protein until looking at your website. I would appreciate any advice you could give me. Thanks so much!
Carol from Washington state
A: Carol, thank you for your question.
You are referring to the webpage about struvite urine crystals in dogs on this website where we discuss certain foods that will acidify urine. This is useful for pets who make struvite crystals because struvites will dissolve in acidic urine.
We contacted a vet, Ron Hines, DVM, Ph.D., whose website contains extremely useful information about urinary crystals in dogs, and we refer you there for details: 2ndchance.info
As a layperson and a dog owner of a dog with struvite urine crystals, I will offer a “lay” interpretation.
There are two main types of urinary crystals: struvites and oxalates.
Struvites form in alkaline urine (pH > 7.0). Oxalates form in acidic urine (pH < 7.0). Numerous crystals bind together and form a bladder stone.
As Dr. Hines explains in an article about oxalate stones, oxalic acid is produced ordinarily either from the diet or innately. The problem occurs when oxalic acid binds with calcium and forms stones. These stones will not dissolve! The urine of dogs that form these kinds of stones tends to be acidic in nature. The bichon breed unfortunately is known to be susceptible to producing calcium oxalate stones due partly to the breed’s own genetics, although there are other factors involved as well.
Two other strikes for your little guy: males in their midlife years are at high risk.
Dr. Hines writes, “I only wish we had more to offer dogs and cats that develop oxalate stones. They just will not dissolve in pets once they have formed!”