Imagine a hard stone scraping your bladder's or kidneys' insides. Those stones, looking pretty much like stones you'd find in your driveway, form from struvite or calcium oxalate in the body. While an infection causes most stone formations in canines, that's not true of cocker spaniels.
The scientific name for stones is uroliths. In cocker spaniels, struvite stones are the likeliest culprit. Struvite stones consist of magnesium, phosphate and ammonium. They form when the urine is too alkaline. Some genetic lines of the cocker spaniel can form stones through a metabolic process that doesn't require bacteria to start an infection that normally results in stone formation, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Female dogs are much more likely to develop stones than males, but if your male cocker spaniel is affected, stones can be more dangerous. Because his urethra is narrow, a stone is more likely to cause a life-threatening obstruction.
If your cocker spaniel is suffering from stones, she'll urinate frequently, sometimes having accidents in the house. There's often blood or pus in the urine, and it might smell especially strong. She'll lick her genitals, trying to ease her discomfort. Your dog might even cry out while urinating. Your normally energetic cocker spaniel becomes lethargic. If stones are lodged in her kidneys rather than her bladder, she'll drink a lot of water. If a blockage occurs and your dog can't pee, that's a veterinary emergency since an obstructed animal can die within a few days.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vet will take X-rays or ultrasounds of your dog's bladder and kidneys to see where stones are located, along with their size and number. He'll also perform a urinalysis. Sometimes, struvite stones will dissolve eventually if your dog is fed a special diet. She can't eat any other foods or treats during this time. You'll bring her to the vet regularly for X-rays and ultrasounds so he can see if the diet works. This treatment can take six months or longer. If your dog has large numbers of stones and is in pain, or if your vet doesn't see any evidence of the stones dissolving after a few weeks, he will recommend surgery to remove them. If your dog is blocked, emergency surgery or a procedure to force the stones out of the urethra must be done.
Since dogs prone to stones often have recurrences, your vet will prescribe a veterinary diet that contains little phosphorous, magnesium and calcium to prevent future stone formation. It also promotes acidity in the urine. Your cocker spaniel will eat this diet for the rest of her life.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.