If you own a mini schnauzer, it’s important to be prepared for urinary stones and urinary tract infections. These are so common among mini schnauzers that one of my favorite vets once likened mini schnauzers to cats, who are also extremely prone to urinary stones and UTI infections.
Urinary stones are caused by many things, and I completely agree that breed disposition is one factor. I’ve owned so many dogs of various breeds in the past 50 years, but it was only in a mini schnauzer, poodle, and cats that I encountered urinary stones. However, many mini schnauzers owned by friends have had urinary stones and UTIs. Of course, other breeds have it too. Just last week, I saw a shih tzu and beagle at the vet’s clinic recuperating from cystotomy (surgery to remove stones), and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the dogs and their owners. Having been through this, I know they are in for a long and sometimes frustrating journey.
In fact, one of the reasons I’ve written this blog is to inform pet owners whose dogs have urinary issues that in all likelihood, your dog’s UTI is not going to be a one-shot affair. In other words, if the infection resolves now, there is a great likelihood it will recur in the near future, despite all the steps you’ve undertaken.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned in dealing with UTIs and urinary stones in pets:
Do comprehensive testing. If you see your dog straining or see blood in its urine, take your pet to the vet. Vets differ in their approaches and in making a diagnosis. Some would just take a simple blood count, while others would order a comprehensive blood chemistry panel. Some would do a urinalysis and urine culture; others do not offer these in their clinics. Some vets would do an X-ray and palpate for stones, but some, especially those in small clinics, may not have an X-ray machine. As much as possible, go for the most comprehensive check that you can have so that you can have baseline information — a comprehensive blood panel, an X-ray, a urinalysis and a urine culture. Yes, it will be expensive, but this will help your vet zero in on the right treatment for your pet. You’ll also find out if other organs have been affected, or if there are other hidden issues that you need to address. Your vet will guide you in these.
There are different kinds of stones, and each one is treated differently — One of the reasons I suggested doing all the tests above is that it is very important to know which type of stone your pet has in order to treat this effectively. There is the struvite stone, which is usually caused by a bacterial infection and thrives in higher urine pH environments. There is also the calcium oxalate stone, which forms in a low urine pH environment — yes, the exact opposite. Although the only way to know what type of stone there is is through a lab test of stones from your dog (assuming he has been operated on), a vet can make a theory on what type of stone your dog has based on the x-ray image and correlating this with the results of the other tests run.
The role of diet– The first thing that vets and pet owners will look at at the first instance of a urinary stone or UTI infection is the diet. Indeed, there are very low-quality dog food that may contribute to the development of urinary stones. However, even dogs on a high-quality diet may still get urinary stones. In many instances, a change to a veterinary prescription diet will be required. Urinary diets may help dissolve stones, but unfortunately, they do not work on all types of stones. If and when you do the dietary route, make sure to have before and after imaging done to measure the size of the stones. This will let you know if the urinary diet, and all other medications you are using, are effective.
Urinary supplements – You’ll find so many urinary supplements in the market, and some of them actually help. What I’ve found highly useful was Rowatinex and the urinary bladder supplement of VetriScience. Others swear by cranberry supplements, sambong, and Shilintong. However, it’s a case-to-case basis and something effective in one pet may not work for another. Other times, you might feel that you’re just throwing darts in the dark.
Have water available at all times — Besides having numerous water bowls and water bottles for your pet’s easy access to water, you might need to find creative ways to add water to your dog’s diet. This means going for wet food — canned veterinary products (which are unfortunately not very palatable), or home cooked food (Pet Grub has a special urinary diet for dogs). You can also find some recipes on the internet — just check them out with your vet before proceeding.
Pay attention to your pet’s antibiotic intake – Chances are, your pet will be given antibiotics for an active urinary tract infection, as this is the way to deal with a bacterial infection. At the very first instance this happens, make sure to keep a record of what antibiotic your pet has been given. Also ask if a culture can be done so that the next time your pet will need an antibiotic, your vet will know which one to dispense. Unfortunately, repeated use of antibiotics can make your pet resistant to these. This means that an antibiotic that used to work for your dog may no longer work this time. I have encountered this in one dog (yes, a schnauzer), but thankfully, my vet (who said he had learned to do this from the painful experience of others) had done the culture so he knew exactly what to give her next.
Stones recur – I’ve said this so many times in this article, and I have to repeat it again. Stones can recur. One mini schnauzer owned by a friend had stones less than six months after surgery; another had three surgeries in a 2.5-year span. My poodle had his urinary stones removed at age 3, and he had them back four years later. Since he is now a senior and we are cautious about letting him go through surgery at his age, my vet has inserted a catheter to help with his urine flow in one instance when he was straining, and thankfully, it worked. Hopefully, your pet doesn’t need a repeat surgery. But sometimes, you cannot forego surgery, so work closely with your vet.
Be proactive — The thing with recurrent UTIs and urinary stones is that you have to actively manage them to either prevent another episode, or be able to treat them effectively. It is an unending journey, but bear in mind that urinary stones and recurrent UTIs can lead to kidney problems and other complications. A urinary obstruction is also an emergency, and the sad thing is that dogs and cats can die when these are left untreated. That’s why it’s important to work very closely with your vet. Your vet is your strongest ally in this battle.
Treating recurrent UTIs and urinary stones is not the easiest thing to do, but just keep going. It is an arduous task, but for as long as you manage it well, and keep complications at bay, you can look forward to enjoying joyful moments with your pet.