Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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Bladder & Kidneys FAQs


 What are bladder stones?

They are mineral crystals that form in the kidney and move to the bladder where they are referred to as “bladder stones.”  Dogs tend to have either struvate or urate bladder stones.  The latter, termed hyperuricosuria, are the kind reported in Aussies.

 What are urate bladder stones?

Crystals formed from uric acid grow in the kidney and pass to the bladder, and sometimes out of the urinary tract.

 How do I know if my dog has urate stones?

Dogs with urate stones may have bloody urine, urinate frequently, or strain upon urination.  You may see gritty material in the dog’s urine.  Your vet will examine the dog and may run blood or urine tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms.  Positive diagnosis is made with ultrasound or contrast radiography.  It can be confirmed with a DNA test.

What does it mean for my dog if it has urate stones?

Urate stones can be painful and even life-threatening.  In some cases surgery may be needed to remove stones.  The disease cannot be cured but can be managed with medication, diet, and regular veterinary monitoring.

How common are urate stones in Aussies?

They are rare.

Are urate stones inherited?

Yes, it is recessive.  Affected dogs have two copies of the mutation, so both parents are carriers.

 Is there a DNA test?

Yes.  There is a test for hyperuricosuria (urate bladder stones).  Dogs with two copies of the mutation will be affected, those with one are healthy carriers, those with none are clear of the disease.  If a dog is tested and found to have two copies of the mutation, its parents are obligate carriers and do not require testing unless you suspect they might be affected.  Breeding quality offspring and full siblings of any dog with two copies should be tested.  If a dog has one copy, its parents plus full siblings and offspring who might be bred should be tested so their status is known.  The full siblings, offspring and parents of any relative found to have the mutation should be tested if they are to be used for breeding.

What do urate stones mean for my breeding program?

Affected dogs and those tested and found to have two copies of the mutation should not be bred.  Breeding relatives should be tested as outlined above to determine their status.  Dogs with one copy of the mutation should be bred to clear-tested mates with preference given to clear-tested offspring to carry on with.

What is renal dysplasia (RD)?

RD is a developmental defect of the kidneys; one or both fail to mature properly resulting in a loss of function.   

 How can I tell if my dog has RD?

Symptoms vary widely and can include excessive drinking or urination, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, ulcers, pale gums, weakness, stunted grown, poor condition, dry coat, weight loss, or abnormal heat cycles in females.  Blood and urine tests for kidney function can indicate whether RD is possible, but the only way to positively diagnose it is with a renal biopsy.

 What does it mean for my dog if it has RD?

Depending on how bad the defect is some get sick and die young, those less affected may sicken and die in the prime of life, and some will live longer and die of something else, though RD may shorten the dog’s lifespan.

 How common is RD in Aussies?

Uncertain, but probably rare.  Only 1% of dogs in the ASHGI health survey were reported to have any kind of kidney disease.  ASCA did a mini-survey on kidney disease and just under a third of those who had a dog with kidney disease said the dog had renal dysplasia.

 Is RD inherited?

Yes, though mode of inheritance isn’t clear and possibly involves incomplete penetrance.

 What does RD mean for my breeding program?

Affected dogs should be withdrawn from breeding.  Parents, offspring, and full and half siblings should be bred to mates that do not have any recent family history of RD or unspecified kidney disease.