Are Urine Crystals a Sign of Urinary Tract Infections?

Are Urine Crystals a Sign of Urinary Tract Infections?

Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on Jan 19th 2024

Urine crystals in dogs are a puzzling health issue in our canine companions.

These tiny crystals—invisible to the naked eye—cause a range of urinary health problems if not addressed properly.

The secret weapon in combating these microscopic troublemakers?

An appropriately balanced diet.

Let's discover how a few dietary adjustments can lead to a healthier urinary tract for your four-legged friend.

Dog peeing on floor

What Are Urine Crystals in Dogs?

Urine crystals in dogs are exactly what they sound like—microscopic crystals forming in dog urine.

One key aspect of canine urinary crystals is the pH level of your dog's urine: the acidity or alkalinity level.

If the pH isn't just right—around 7—it can set the stage for crystal formation.

Another factor is the concentration of certain minerals in the urine, such as calcium, phosphorus, or magnesium. When these minerals become abundant in dog urine, they may form crystals.

Furthermore, some foods, especially diets high in certain minerals or proteins, can make dog urine more likely to form crystals.

And, just like humans, if dogs don't drink enough water, their urine becomes more concentrated, making crystals more likely to form.

Are Crystals in the Urine a Common Canine Health Issue?

Urinary crystals can form in any dog's urine, but whether they become a problem or not is a different story.

Some dogs with urinary crystals never show any signs of discomfort or health issues.

In such instances, your vet may discover the crystals during a routine veterinary check-up.

However, these crystals lead to more severe health issues in other dogs, like urinary tract infections or bladder stones.

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing urine crystals. Plus, factors such as age, activity level, and overall health may influence the likelihood of urinary crystals.

6 Types of Urine Crystals in Dogs

6 types of urine crystals in dogs

Calcium Oxalate Crystals

Calcium oxalate crystals develop in a dog's urine when the pH level drops below 6.5, indicating high acidity.

Unlike other types of stones, calcium oxalate stones aren't a direct result of infections, though infections sometimes follow as a secondary issue.

Antibiotics become necessary for an accompanying urinary tract infection (UTI) to thoroughly eliminate the bacteria and prevent a recurring cycle of infection and crystal formation.

Struvite Crystals

Struvite crystals typically emerge in urine with a high pH—above 7.5.

When a dog repeatedly suffers from UTIs, struvite crystals are often found in their urine tests.

These crystals often develop if UTIs are not adequately treated, leading to residual bacteria in the urinary system.

Ammonium Urate Crystals

Ammonium urate crystals form due to excess uric acid in your dog's urine.

Certain dog breeds, such as Dalmatians, are more likely to get these crystals because of their genetic makeup.

Cystine Crystals

Cystine crystals form when there's too much of the cystine amino acid in dog urine.

Typically, cystine is processed and dissolved in the urine without any fuss, but sometimes, things don't go as planned.

Breeds like Newfoundlands, Dachshunds, and Basset Hounds are more prone to this issue.

Cystine crystals are a sign of a condition known as cystinuria, which affects how the canine body processes amino acids.

Silica Crystals

Silica crystals are a rare occurrence in the world of canine urinary health.

They form when there's an abundance of silica, a mineral, in dog urine.

Dogs who munch on foods high in silica are more likely to develop these crystals.

Calcium Phosphate Crystals

Calcium phosphate crystals form due to excess calcium or phosphate in your dog's urine.

Certain Breeds Are Predisposed to Crystals in the Urine

Breeds predisposed to crystals in the urine

  • Dalmatians: They're known for being prone to urate crystals due to a unique genetic trait.
  • Miniature Schnauzers: These intelligent, wiry-haired pups often face issues with calcium oxalate crystals.
  • Bichon Frisés: Cute and fluffy, they also tend towards calcium oxalate crystals.
  • Shih Tzus: Known for their luxurious coats and charming personalities, they're also on the list for calcium oxalate crystals.
  • Yorkshire Terriers: These little dogs are also prone to developing calcium oxalate crystals.

6 Symptoms of Urine Crystals in Dogs

6 symptoms of urine crystals in dogs

  • Frequent Urination: Your dog will start taking more bathroom breaks than usual.
  • Straining to Urinate: It will become challenging for your pup to pass urine.
  • Blood in the Urine: A pink or reddish tint in their urine is a telltale sign of crystals in the urine.
  • Painful Urination: Your dog will whimper or show discomfort while peeing.
  • Licking Urinary Opening: They might frequently lick their urinary area to soothe the irritation.
  • Urinary Accidents: Even the best house-trained dogs might start having accidents inside the house.

Dog having an accident

Will My Dog's Urinary Crystals Lead to a Urinary Tract Infection?

Urine crystals can irritate your dog's bladder and urinary tract.

This irritation leaves the door open for infections to enter. Bacteria find it easier to multiply when the urinary tract is inflamed or damaged by urinary crystals.

Also, if the crystals clump together, they may become bladder stones, increasing the risk of infections.

Diagnosing Urine Crystals through Urinalysis

You won't be able to spot these crystals with the naked eye. Instead, they're microscopic, hiding in the urine, unseen.

Discovering urine crystals in dogs is a task for a urinalysis.

During a urinalysis, the vet collects a urine sample from your dog. This sample is then examined under a microscope, where these tiny crystals reveal themselves.

If you can actually see crystals in your dog's urine, you may be dealing with a more severe condition, such as a blockage in your dog's urinary system. At that point, veterinary medicine becomes imperative.

Manipulating Your Dog's Diet to Eliminate Urine Crystals

Adjusting your dog's diet will help prevent the formation of urine crystals.

Diets rich in grains and legumes often increase urine pH due to their basic nature.

On the other hand, diets that focus on meats and organs tend to decrease the urine pH. Furthermore, advising dog parents to feed their dogs a diet solely composed of meat and organs might lead to the development of calcium oxalate stones.

Increased hydration typically leads to a reduction in urine crystals, primarily because of the dilution effect.

The more water the dog drinks, the more diluted their urine becomes, leading to more frequent bladder flushing.

Increased water drinking is crucial, as many dogs do not consume enough water, especially when fed dry kibble.

For instance, a dog should ideally drink four cups of water for each cup of kibble to ensure sufficient bladder flushing.

However, many dogs are in mild dehydration, increasing the likelihood of urine crystal formation. Dogs that barely touch the water bowl and urinate less frequently experience a heightened risk of developing urine crystals.

The Issue with Cats and a Lack of Moisture in Food

Naturally adapted to arid environments, cats typically don't consume much water.

When their diet consists entirely of dry kibble, which lacks adequate moisture, they become vulnerable to developing urine crystals.

These crystals may lead to cystitis—an inflammation caused by the crystals irritating the bladder's lining, eventually resulting in lower urinary tract disease.

Consequently, many cats are put on specialized prescription diets.

The treatment of urine crystals in both dogs and cats often equates to dietary adjustments.

While there are specific prescription diets available, their quality can be subpar.

If a prescription diet is necessary, it's advisable to choose a high-moisture canned food or even a raw diet.

How to Deal with Your Dog's Urine Crystals

Receiving a urinalysis report with oxalate crystals doesn't automatically mean antibiotics are the answer.

In such cases, we recommend getting an X-ray to check for the presence of bladder stones.

Antibiotics won't be the solution if stones are found since oxalate crystals are not caused by infection. Surgery is typically required to remove these stones.

Alternatively, some may consider a prescription diet to dissolve the stones. However, dog parents should take this method with a grain of salt.

These diets are usually low in protein and are not advised for long-term use, generally not exceeding 30 days. Furthermore, they are designed for crisis management and are effective only against struvite stones, not oxalate stones, which require surgical removal.

Following stone removal, vets usually conduct a urine culture to determine the appropriate antibiotics. It's crucial to only switch antibiotics with a clear understanding of the infection, especially considering the possibility of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This careful approach helps prevent a recurring cycle of crystal formation and urinary tract infections.

Trial antibiotics may be recommended for dogs that exhibit symptoms like frequent urination, straining, or blood in the urine yet have a negative urine culture. However, it's vital not to overload the dog's system with antibiotics without knowing their effectiveness.

In the case of struvite crystals, natural methods to lower urine pH include a high-moisture diet rich in meat or fish and adding natural acidifiers, such as:

Foods that naturally lower the pH

  • Fresh cranberries

These foods offer various other health benefits aside from balancing pH levels.

For instance, fermented raw goat's milk is a natural probiotic source that boosts the immune system. At the same time, cranberries contain compounds that prevent bacteria from clinging to the bladder walls, thereby enhancing infection resistance.

Cracking the Code: Understanding Urine Crystals in Dogs!

In the puzzle of canine health, urine crystals are the tricky pieces that require careful attention.

Understanding the causes behind urinary crystals is vital to ensuring your furry friend's well-being.

Remember, a balanced diet, regular check-ups, and plenty of water are your best tools for preventing and managing this issue.

Also, keeping an eye out for any unusual signs and staying informed will help you navigate this challenge smoothly.

For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!

Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods!

Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind.

If you want to contact one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!

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