Some crystals form naturally in your pet’s urine, but sometimes they can become problematic, requiring a visit to your veterinarian. Completing a urinalysis is necessary to diagnose and treat this issue. Every patient is different and requires a full work up to help resolve and prevent reoccurrence.
What are urinary crystals?
Urinary crystals can be found in the urine of cats and dogs, which can be abnormal depending on the clinical signs the pet is presenting such as:
- Inappropriate elimination
- Dribbling or straining to urinate
- Blood in urine
- Discomfort while urinating
- Vocalizing in the litter box
- Inability to urinate
Crystals form in the urine depending on urine pH, which is the measurement of the urine’s degree of acidity or alkalinity. Crystalluria (crystals in the urine) can be associated with urinary infection, bladder stone formation, or diet-related factors. Several types of crystals form in feline and canine urine depending on pH, breed, diet, even certain diseases, and toxicities, and each requires specific treatment.
How do you get a diagnosis?
If your pet is having urinary issues, your veterinarian will first start with a urinalysis. A sample is collected by:
- Free flow in a clean sealable container
- Nosorb litter provided by your veterinary team
- Cystocentesis – the collection of urine with a needle through the bladder wall
- Urinary Catheterization
When performing a urinalysis, the technicians look at a fresh, clean urine sample and evaluate colour, odour, turbidity, specific gravity, which tells us a little bit about hydration status, and chemical evaluation. A microscopic evaluation of the urine is performed when the urine is spun at high speeds in a centrifuge separating it into a liquid portion and sediment portion. Along with crystals, the sediment will show white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria, cells that line the urinary tract and much more. In prolonged, severe cases where crystals are non-responsive to treatment, a radiographic image or ultrasound exam may be necessary for diagnosing the formation of stones in the bladder.
What is the treatment?
Treatment of urinary crystals is unique to each patient, requiring a good relationship with your veterinarian to create a plan specific to your pet.
Treatment methods include:
- Urinary prescription diets
- Surgical removal of bladder stones
- Increase in water intake
- Pain control
Urinary issues have a large range of severities – some requiring lifelong management. Early detection and treatment are essential for your pet to have the best outcome possible. Urinalysis rechecks and follow up visits are often required to ensure your pet is not having a reoccurrence. Some cases are very serious if left untreated and may be fatal.
Written by Quiana Woolaver, RVT