I have learned so much over the past 17 plus years as a pet parent, and I have discovered so much more in the world of canine nutrition since I embarked on self-study almost five years ago, which led to more ‘formal’ study to obtain certification as a canine nutritionist, which is very close to happening for me. I know that may sound crazy to some, as commercial food diets have become so mainstream for our furry companions, we typically don’t consider a dog’s diet to be overly important, but it is. A healthy, nurturing environment is just as necessary for a dog as it is for a person. The typical hectic, on-the-go lifestyle of most individuals these days is very stressful, and I believe this is evident in especially the food choices we make as humans. The faster and more convenient, the better.
It is a sad fact that our companion pets can suffer from the same maladies we do…such as cancer, obesity and diabetes and a plethora of other numerous diseases and concerns. One I want to discuss today is oxalate bladder crystals. My friend, Martha inquired about what I knew about calcium oxalate stones. I have blogged about stones in general back in May of 2012, but since there are six types of stones (three that affect the bladder; struvite, urate which are uncommon and oxalate), I wanted to be more in depth regarding this type. It is very important that you know what kind of stone you are dealing with, as treatment can be different, and many times opposite. Along with my canine lesson I just finished (through my E-training For Dogs), I have spent several hours today researching further information, six to be exact. This is also a learning process for me that builds on my canine lessons, and helps me to help dog owners obtain understandable insight and bring it in useable form.
There are high risk breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzers, Lhasa Apsos, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Poodles, Shih tzu’s and Bichon Frise’s, however any breed of dog can develop stones. 73% of oxalate bladder crystals occur in male patients, usually in an age range from 5-12 years. First an x-ray or ultrasound would be needed so it can be determined where the stones have developed, how many there are, and how big they are. Oxalate stones need an acidic pH environment to form. A diet of foods that encourage more alkaline urine is necessary; however, existing oxalate stones cannot be dissolved by diet change, surgical removal is necessary. Statistics show that 50% of dogs with surgery to remove these stones will develop new ones within 3 years. That seems rather grim, but take heart…it is at this point you need to be very vigilant about proper nutrition. It will require life-long prevention to maintain a balanced pH so they do not re-form. Left unchecked these stones can be life-threatening, especially in males because of their anatomy.
So, how might you know if your dog has developed these crystals or stones? Well, sometimes there are no symptoms, but usually straining to urinate (and nothing coming out), blood in the urine (which can be difficult to detect when your dog relieves itself on the grass), and recurrent bladder infections.
Okay, so now you’re probably thinking I’ve got a ‘special needs’ dog now that I’ve discovered this. Well, to a point, as I feel most dogs do have special needs just naturally. It will require some cooking on your part to help ensure proper maintenance. It’s really no more than how you would change or restrict your own diet if you were diabetic. But let’s not panic…it’s not the end of the world…it doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s why I’m blogging about this…to guide you in what you need to do. This will be somewhat lengthy, but hang in there with me; diet can be used to manage this problem, once the problem has been removed.
So, we need to focus on developing more alkaline urine. Here are some vegetables you can add to your dog’s diet: broccoli, celery, garlic, barley grass, carrots, lima beans, zucchini, cauliflower and potatoes. I always encourage organic, especially when it comes to thin-skinned or no-skinned veggies and fruits. These can be fed raw, but lightly steamed is encouraged…and I make a habit of sprinkling organic dried parsley on a lot of the food I prepare for my dogs. Fruits can also be in the offering: kiwi, apples, pears, peaches, papaya, watermelon (remove the seeds of course!), pineapple and oranges. You do want to watch meats, as most are acid producing. You can include liver, organ meats and fish (not shell fish) and eggs for protein sources. Moderate amounts of chicken, turkey and lamb are permissible. But no red meats (i.e., beef, buffalo or venison) You can also include lentils and brown rice in the diet. For alkaline dairy consider raw milk (usually referred to as ‘pet milk’, check with a local dairy farmer about acquiring this), and yogurt (the plain, organic variety).
This really isn’t rocket science, so we need not to make it complicated. You will want to decrease the magnesium in foods, and those that are higher in this mineral include whole grains (which dogs don’t require anyway), nuts (which most people do not include in their dog’s diet, and only certain ones are recommended), meats, green beans, spinach, squash and sweet potatoes.
I also did some research on dry dog food, and I found an excellent source that will ease some of the food prep. Life’s Abundance Premium dog food is formulated to provide a urine pH of 6.6, which falls within the necessary formulation level of 6.4 to 6.6. It is available through their website www.lifesabundance.com. You know if you have read many of my blogs how snobbish I can be when it comes to kibble, so when I do give one a ‘thumbs up’, it passes my strict standards! If you are curious about price, a 20 pound bag is about $37. That is reasonable to me for a quality dry dog food. What about treats you ask? I researched those too! These should be grain-free and I found a great product. Nature’s Variety (www.naturesvariety.com) carries ‘Instinct Grain-Free Biscuit Treats’. The website has a ‘find a store’ locator so you can purchase them most likely not far from your home. Fruits and veggies mentioned above can also be used for treats.
Here is a great recipe that comes from my E-training For Dogs from this lesson and is formulated for oxalate bladder crystals:
2 eggs (scrambled, over easy or hard boiled) or ½ cup meat from approved meats listed above
1 cup cooked brown rice or lentils
½ tsp. garlic powder
6 Tablespoons chicken broth (preferably low-sodium and organic)
1 cup cooked vegetables (from above list)
Feeding amounts should be proportionate to your dog’s size. (i.e., under 5 pounds, ¼ cup, 5-10 pounds, ½ cup, etc.)
I hope this article has proved useful to any pet parent dealing with these types of stones in their dog. Most of us consider our pets to be family, so going the extra mile to give them quality of life by providing a proper diet, especially when one is suffering from a condition such as this doesn’t seem to be, in my opinion, out of the ordinary.