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Why do dogs get bladder and kidney stones and how to treat them naturally

Why do dogs get bladder and kidney stones and how to treat them naturally


Did you know that urinary, kidney and bladder stones are some of the most common problems found in dogs?

Tens of thousands of dogs suffer from urinary tract disease and stones. It often remains undetected until pain and discomfort show up. The conventional treatment consists of a special diet, fluid therapy, hospitalization, catheterization and in some cases surgery.

This article can be used as a resource if your dog has already been diagnosed with urinary stones or if you simply want to prevent this painful and annoying condition in the first place.

Why do stones form?

There is never one single reason why urinary crystals and stones form. Most people agree that genetics and diet play a role and genes are likely to manifest when they are switched on by environmental factors – internal (hormones and regulators) or external (diet, water, stress and exercise to name a few).

High mineral content and mineral ratio disproportions such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are conventionally thought to be the most common reasons for urinary stone formation but, this is not exactly true. In fact, in some cases of crystal formation such as calcium oxalate, calcium and mineral deficiencies are the cause.

My goal today is not to repeat what you know already about urinary stones and crystals, but to give you a new perspective on why this problem troubles many dogs.

Bladder stone diversity

There are two common crystal and stone categories:

  • Triple phosphate (struvite) is formed mainly in urine that is alkaline and dissolves in acidic urine.
  • Calcium oxalate, with spiky hedgehog-like crystals and stones that are more likely to appear in acidic urine but can also be present in urine of any pH. I find these crystals much nastier because they are hard to dissolve when they form, and they usually need to be removed either surgically or crushed and blasted endoscopically. The sharp calcium oxalate spikes can cause excruciating pain and are much more difficult to treat than to prevent.

Some other less common types of crystals are cysteine, ammonium urate and silica crystals.

Beware of misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of urinary stones and crystals is usually relatively simple, but I must caution you about one frequent error. If your dog’s urine sample is concentrated and it sits in the collection jar under cool temperatures, crystals may form after the collection, the same way salty water forms crystals in the chemistry lab. This can result in a misdiagnosis.

If you suspect that this is the case, just collect another sample and have it examined right away at the in-house clinic lab. It is a good idea to give your dog some water before collection to make the urine more diluted and prevent post-collection crystal formation.

What to do if you find crystals: A Natural Approach 

If your dog is suffering from crystals or has been diagnosed with stones in the bladder or kidneys, you have most likely been given special processed food, told to provide more water or have been given medicine to adjust your dog’s urine pH.

Perhaps your dog is just recovering from kidney or bladder surgery and you are worried that the nasty stones will come back. Maybe you have already seen the same problem reoccur or you are worried about the undesirable effects of repeated surgery. Food that is heavily processed, sits on the shelves for months or years before it is sold and/or contains ingredients similar to the ones listed below is a concern:

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

When I used special urinary stone diets in the 90s, I saw they prevented stones in some cases, but my patients didn’t do well overall. They gained weight, were lethargic, appeared stiff, had digestive problems and aged faster. I started to ask, “Who on earth would feed pork fat, cornmeal and egg product to their beloved dog?” I suspected that stones were actually caused by the dog's processed food diet and didn’t like the idea of feeding more processed food. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do and then I searched for the answer in nature.


Over the years, I developed a natural, simple kidney and bladder stone treatment protocol that consisted of:

  1. Cleansing the body.
  2. Providing the right food and essential mineral and amino acid supplements, high-quality omega oils and full-spectrum organic multivitamins.
  3. Adding high-potency probiotics that are known to reduce crystal formation.
  4. Rebalancing the patient's energy through a variety of holistic techniques such as homeopathy, herbs, chiropractics, physiotherapy, osteopathy and massage to name a few.

I applied these principles to most patients with urinary tract stones and even though some had surgery before, I rarely see recurring stones after starting the above treatment plan.

Wondering why I supplement minerals in cases of urinary stones or crystals?

Conventional opinions suggest that urinary crystals are caused mainly by genetics as well as excess and imbalance of minerals in food. I now see processed food as the main cause. I have discovered that a complete, plant-based, natural diet can, in many cases, prevent crystals.

Science has made incredible progress in understanding metabolic cycles and processes, but the microcosm of the body is still not fully understood. It can be compared to someone trying to really grasp the nature of the universe. However, we know that the body works best with the fuel that it was built for. Lack of minerals, amino acids and other nutrients can throw many metabolic pathways off balance, which may cause crystals to form. It makes sense that minerals, amino acids and other nutrients are absolutely essential for your dog to have an efficient metabolism. This is the cornerstone of urinary crystal and stone prevention.

Dietary recommendations

If you are looking to reduce the chance of stones forming in your dog’s kidneys or bladder, you need to follow the following steps:

  1. Stop feeding your dog any processed food because it is, in my opinion, one of the main causes of urinary stones and crystals. It is not what nature intended for your dog. We do not put diesel fuel in your gasoline car either and the right fuel for your dog is essential for success.
  2. Start feeding species-appropriate raw or cooked food, including raw bones and some vegetables to ensure that all nutrients are represented in the most natural and wholesome form.
  3. Provide the body with all-natural, plant-based minerals and amino acids.
  4. Add high-potency probiotics, like GutSense, that are known to reduce crystal formation.

The reason for the above recommendations is simple: processed and denatured food is a major cause of many health problems in animals and people and, in my experience, urinary stones in dogs fed natural, non-processed food is very rare.

How to test for missing minerals?

In most situations, a simple hair test will give you a good idea of what your dog is missing. It is easier than ever by running a HairQ test, a simple and reliable hair test that will give you a good overall idea of your dog’s nutritional status.

General supplement recommendations

You may be still wondering why I recommend supplementing minerals to dogs that are on raw food.

Our soils and agricultural land have been overburdened with an increasing need for more food, which is transported over long distances. Minerals and nutrients are not being replenished in the fields and this results in mineral and nutrient-depleted food chains, no matter how natural your dog’s food is.

As animals and people age, mineral deficiency is a common, yet often undetected, cause of disease. The body’s metabolic cycles cannot run properly without the essential minerals, amino acids, omega oils and wholesome vitamins it needs. Some may not be produced by the body but are essential for an efficient, smooth metabolism including that of the urinary system.

A few more points about diet and water

It is not the purpose of this article to get into the preparation of a natural raw or cooked diet. However, I would like to mention a few important points.

  • Dogs do better on meats of small and medium-sized animals. Bison, buffalo and beef have never been the main source of food for dogs. These meats have a higher content of inflammatory factors such as arachidonic acid which seem to increase the chances of bladder issues and stones.
  • Raw bones are safeNever feed cooked bones.

One of the common remedies for acidifying urine is cranberry extract, which can be also used in cases of struvite crystalluria. This supplement should be seen as an adjunctive treatment, not as a complete solution to the problem. It is also important to understand that there is a difference between dehydrated cranberries, cranberry powder and extract. I personally prefer organic cranberry extract with the following dosage: 

As a preventative for recurrent UTIs / stones:

 Weight Daily dose
Up to 5 kg  (up to 11 lbs) 100 mg
6 - 10 kg  (12 - 22 lbs) 200 mg
11-15 kg  (24 - 34 lbs) 300 mg
16 - 20 kg  (35 - 45 lbs) 400 mg
21 - 25 kg  (46 - 55 lbs) 500 mg
26 - 30 kg  (56 - 66 lbs) 600 mg
31 - 35 kg  (68 - 77 lbs) 700 mg
36 - 40 kg  (78 - 88 lbs) 800 mg
41 - 45 kg  (89 - 99lbs) 900 mg
Over 45 kg  (over 100 lbs) 1000 mg

Double the dose during an acute illness or in case of urinary tract infections, crystals and stones. 

Remember that an important part of addressing crystalluria (the presence of crystals in urine) is to ensure that your dog consumes an adequate amount of fresh, ideally filtered, water.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Distilled water is NOT safe for consumption in dogs or people.

Words from one of our clients – Brooke Mitchell (July 2013)

In the process of updating this blog, I have received this wonderful e-mail from one of my clients. Her dog, Rocky, suffered from serious crystal and urinary problems since 2011 and after  bladder surgery, he had to be sedated and his bladder flushed every three months because stones continued to produce.

The following feedback truly makes my day because this is a glaring example that special processed food is horrible junk that dogs with urinary stones must avoid. Here is what Brooke wrote:

“I am so elated to inform you that Rocky went for his 3.5-month checkup and he is completely stone-free!!!! Not only are there no stones present in his bladder, he also has no crystals present in his urine!! His vet said that he has never seen his bladder look so healthy on the x-ray! His vet is so enthralled with the results, he couldn’t believe how far we have come in just 3.5 months! This is a huge accomplishment and I couldn’t have done it without Dr. Dobias and your help as well Angela! I can't thank you enough for all the help. I never knew if Rocky could actually be healed, there were so many unsure opinions of everyone before you that I spoke with. You have opened my eyes to so much more than just Rocky's health. Thank you!

Now that we have the wonderful results, I would like to move forward with the GreenMin and also giving him bones. Please let me know what dose of GreenMin to give. And I will read the bone blog.”

Forever grateful,


Your dog is worth it

I know it sometimes takes guts to be different and go against what you have been told over and over. This would not be the first time in the medical history that we need to change the way we see problems. If the information  here makes sense to you, try it. You have nothing to lose and lots to gain.


    About the author

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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