Kidney stones aren't just an uncomfortable problem for dogs. They can also be life-threatening. As kidney stones grow, they become highly painful blockages in the ureter (the passage between each kidney and the bladder). Over time, if the blockage persists, it can lead to hydronephrosis—a condition that causes the kidney to become swollen and scarred, eventually causing the kidney to fail. Kidney stones in both ureters can cause severe problems even quicker, completely disrupting the flow of urine.
That's why it's important to catch and treat kidney stones early. But how can you tell if your dog has one? Here's a simple guide to finding and diagnosing canine kidney stones.
Check the Urine
Since kidney stones affect the urinary system, the best way to spot them is to look at your dog's urine production. Specifically, there are two elements you need to pay attention to. The first is how often your dog pees. If you find your dog asking to go out less or not urinating as much as usual on their walks, this could be a sign that they have a blockage in their ureter. The second sign of kidney stones is blood in the urine. Since dogs often pee on grass or dark ground, it can be hard to tell if they have any blood in their urine. One way to check is to put a white puppy pad down before your dog pees, then look for any redness on the pad. You can also gather your dog's urine in a disposable container while they pee.
Look for Behaviour Changes
Oftentimes, kidney stones don't cause immediately obvious changes to the urine. On top of that, many dogs won't show signs of pain when they only have a small stone. If your dog isn't displaying such symptoms, another thing to look out for is behaviour changes. Dogs with kidney stones can start to become lethargic, preferring to rest to avoid pain and recharge their ailed bodies. They also tend to suffer an appetite decrease, often accompanied by weight loss and sometimes vomiting.
Call a Vet
Of course, even if you notice urinary issues or behaviour changes in your dog, kidney stones aren't always to blame. Blood in your dog's urine can be caused by infection or other urinary tract disorders, while behaviour changes accompany numerous illnesses. The only way to be certain of whether your dog has kidney stones or not is to call a vet for diagnostic tests. Vets can perform urinalysis and blood tests to look for signs of kidney problems in the red and white blood cells. They can also perform X-rays or ultrasounds to examine the kidneys, look for any malformation and locate stones. If any stones are found, your vet will then be able to advise you on treatment. Surgery is sometimes necessary, but more often than not these stones can be dissolved and managed with non-invasive treatments like dietary changes and antibiotics.