Bladder & Kidney Stones

Bladder and kidney stones and urine crystals in dogs – natural approach

by Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

Processed food is a major cause.

An insight into why dogs are prone to urinary crystals and stones and what I have discovered over the years in clinical practice

What you will find this article:

  1. Foreword
  2. Why do stones form
  3. The most common stones
  4. Why are stones often misdiagnosed?
  5. What to do when you find crystals/stones
  6. Myths about mineral supplements
  7. Diets for dogs with stones
  8. How to test for missing minerals?
  9. General supplement recommendations

If you are you wondering why I decided to write about stones, I have two reasons. One, urinary, kidney and bladder stones are one of the most common problems found in dogs. Two, I got inspired to write this blog by hiking with my long time Swiss friends, Sandra and Thomas and their three children, Celia, Simon and Tobias who speak only French and very little English.

As you can see, the scenery of the Canadian Rockies is breathtaking. It is an incredible masterpiece that nature created from seemingly uninspiring, simple, grey rock, which in French, as I learned from Celia, is called ‘pierre’.  However, there are two sides to most things in life and ‘pierre’ is no exception. Pierres can form breathtaking mountain ranges and they can also cause pain and suffering when they happen within the kidneys or bladder.

1. Urinary stones cause unnecessary suffering

Thousands and tens of thousands of dogs suffer from urinary tract disease and stones. They often remain undetected until pain and discomfort show up. The main conventional treatment consists of special diet, fluid therapy,  hospitalization, catheterization and in some cases surgery.

My intention is that this article be a good resource for you if your dog has already been diagnosed with urinary stones or if you simply want to prevent this painful and annoying condition in first place.

2. 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  what I remember from genetics class is that genes can only manifest when they are switched on by environmental factors – internal (hormones and regulators) or external (diet, water, stress, 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.

3. Bladder stone diversity

There are two common crystal and stone categories:

Triple phosphate (struvite) that 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 more nasty because they are hard to dissolve when they form and they usually need to be removed either surgically or crashed 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 cystein, ammonium urate and silica crystals.

4. Beware of misdiagnosis

While diagnosis of urinary stones and crystals is usually relatively simple, 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 results in relatively common 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 dilute to prevent post collection crystal formation.

5. What to do if you find crystals

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

Perhaps your dog is just recovering from a kidney or bladder surgery and you are worried that the nasty ‘pierres’ 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 these 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 to use special urinary stone diets in the 90′s, I saw that they prevented stones in some cases, but my patients didn’t do well over all. They gained weight gain, were lethargic, appeared to be stiff, had digestive problems and aged faster.  I started to ask: “Who on Earth would feed pork fat, corn meal and egg product to their beloved dog?”

I suspected that stones were actually caused by the dogs diet of processed food 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 simple treatment protocol that consisted of:

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

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

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

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

While science has made incredible progress in understanding metabolic cycles and processes, the microcosm of the body is still not fully understood.  It could be compared to someone trying to really grasp the nature of the universe.

However, we know that the body works best with the fuel (food) 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 efficient metabolism.   This is the corner stone of urinary crystal and stone prevention.

7. Dietary recommendations

If you are really looking to reduce the chance of finding “pierres” in your dog’s kidney’s or bladder you need to follow the following steps:

  1. Stop feeding 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 ideally 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 acid source.
  4. Add high potency probiotics 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 on dogs fed natural non-processed food are very rare.

8. How to test for missing minerals?

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

9. General supplement recommendations

You may be still wondering why I recommend supplementing minerals to dog 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 to the fields and this results 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.  Some may not be produced by the body but are essential for 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 preparation of natural raw or cooked diet.  However, I would like to mention a few important points.

  • Dogs do better on meats of animals that are medium or small sized. 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.
  • Feeding raw bones is safe.  Never feed cooked bones.

One of the common remedies for acidifying urine is cranberry extract.  I have no problem using it especially in the case of struvite crystals.  However,  this should be seen as an adjunctive supplement and not as a cure to the problem.  Remember that your dog also needs an adequate amount of fresh, ideally filtered water.

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 had suffered with serious crystal and urinary problem since 2011 and after a bladder surgery, he had to be sedated and his bladder flushed every three months because stones continued to produce.

The following feedback l truly makes my day because this is a glaring example that special processed food is a horrible junk that dog’s 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 check up 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 cant 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 Rockys health. Thank you!

Now that we have the 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 to 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 above here makes sense to you, try it. You have nothing to lose and lots to gain.


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