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January 10, 2017 – Keeping our canine companions fit and trim helps keep them healthy. Unfortunately, obesity rates in dogs are climbing to alarming levels. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that approximately 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to its 2015 survey of veterinary healthcare professionals and pet owners.

Overweight and obese dogs have higher incidences of diabetes, orthopedic problems and heart disease. Now, results from a Morris Animal Foundation-funded study suggest another disease be added to the list: calcium oxalate bladder stones.

Calcium oxalate stones, rare 30 years ago, are now one of the most common types of bladder stones in dogs and people. In people, the increase in these bladder stones parallels rising rates of obesity, and human medical literature suggests a link between the two.

 Urinary bladder stones (uroliths) arise from crystal-forming substances that are excreted in the urine. These substances occur naturally in many of the foods our dogs eat. Under certain conditions, the crystals can stick together and form stones. Bladder stones are not only painful, but they can predispose a dog to urinary tract infections. Stones also can block urine outflow, which can become life-threatening if not relieved.

A research team from the University of Minnesota wanted to learn more about calcium oxalate stone formation in dogs. The team found that body condition score, which is a measure of obesity in dogs, was significantly higher in dogs with calcium oxalate stones than in leaner age-, breed-, and sex-matched control dogs. Although the link between the two conditions is still unclear, the results highlight another potential problem that can plague overweight and obese dogs.

Since 1965, Morris Animal Foundation has funded studies into urinary stone formation and prevention in both dogs and cats. Results of these studies have impacted how veterinarians prevent and treat urinary tract stones affecting their patients. Two recently funded projects continue to build on this work – finding better ways to screen at-risk dogs, and identifying possible genetic links to urinary stone formation.

Weight management of our four-legged friends is a key component of good long-term health. By preventing diseases such as urinary stones from gaining a foothold, we save our pets from discomfort and a potentially life-threatening health crisis, and ourselves from costly veterinary medical bills.

Publication reference: Kennedy SM, Lulich JP, Ritt MG, Furrow E. Comparison of body condition score and urinalysis variables between dogs with and without calcium oxalate uroliths. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;249:1274-1280.