Struvite Crystals… Pesky Buggers

What causes Struvite crystals?

Struvite crystals are also known as magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals, The causes of struvite crystals include extremely alkaline urine (often from a biologically inappropriate diet), high steroid use, abnormal retention of urine, a urinary tract infection, or another disorder of the urinary tract.

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Crystals under the microscope

Symptoms of Struvite Crystals

Some pets with show no symptoms, but common symptoms include frequent urination, straining to urinate, an abnormal urinary stream (for example, the dog lifts his leg and maybe a few drops come out, and then a few drops more), urinating in inappropriate places (especially if it’s an indoor kitty), cloudy or bloody urine, and oftentimes, increased thirst.

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Treating Crystals

The first thing to do for a pet with crystals to create a healthy urine pH that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. Everything above 7 is alkaline, and everything below 7 is acidic.

Dogs and cats, as carnivores, should have a slightly acidic urine pH, optimally between 6 and 6.5. We want to maintain the urine pH at no more than 7, because a higher pH will predispose the animal to developing struvite crystals.

Some pets are genetically predisposed to producing a protein called cauxin, which is excreted into the urine, causing sterile crystals or sterile struvite crystalluria. This means the crystals can form without the presence of infection. These animals are very prone to chronic cystitis, as these sharp crystals cause microtrauma to the lining of the bladder that results in discomfort and irritation.

To reduce urine pH – which is the goal in most struvite situations – you must feed your pet a Veterinary Prescription food like Royal Canin Urinary S/O.

Creating more dilute urine by offering a moisture-rich diet is critical to avoiding a recurrence of crystals. A species-appropriate diet in combination with infection management is often effective at dissolving struvite crystals, but it can take a few weeks to several months for the crystals to completely disappear.

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Crystal formation chart

Why is it important to treat for struvite crystals?

If left untreated, struvite crystals will aggregate and form struvite stones. These stones can become lodged in the urethra or the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder). In most cases, the stones must be removed surgically along with any stones that don’t dissolve despite dietary changes and medical management.

Surgery to remove a bladder stone is known as cystotomy. Depending on the patient and the location and size of the stone, there are some other less invasive procedures that might be appropriate. These include a technique called laser lithotripsy that breaks down stones into smaller pieces that can then be voided out, and a procedure called voiding urohydropropulsion, which is a technique that involves manually expressing stones out through the urethra while the patient is sedated.

If your pet has been diagnosed with struvite crystals or stones, it’s imperative that you continue treatment until the condition is resolved, and then incorporate a proactive prevention plan to avoid recurrence.

A urinalysis should be completed monthly until all the crystals are dissolved and then every six months to ensure your pet isn’t brewing additional crystals or stones

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Me hoping I don’t end up in the dog house with crystals in my urine!!

To make sure your furry friend like me doesn’t get urinary crystals, you can take precautionary steps to avoid them, like giving your dog filtered water!

There you have it!

Straight from The Dog’s Mouth,

Love, Sequoia

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