In Minnesota, 1 Million Urinary Stones and Counting

The Minnesota Urolith Center has analyzed animal bladder stones since 1981.

The Minnesota Urolith Center has left no stone unturned in its quest to reduce urinary disease in cats and dogs.

Researchers led by co-director Jody P. Lulich, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, reported this month that they had analyzed 1 million bladder stones, or uroliths, since the center opened in 1981.

Located at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, the Urolith Center provides veterinarians around the world with free analysis of suspected stones as small as poppy seeds to as large as gravel or even bigger.

“In the past, stones were thrown away or even taken to school for show and tell, but it is increasingly accepted that analysis provides valuable data to improve the health of companion animals and is vital to prevent recurrence,” said Dr. Lulich, a professor in the department of veterinary clinical sciences.

Identifying urinary tract-obstructing bladder stones—struvite? calcium oxalate?—is only part of the mission. The findings have led to surgery-free therapies such as improved canine and feline diets.

Food manufacturer Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. of Topeka, Kan., which makes stone-fighting formulas for dogs and cats, provides financial support to the Urolith Center.

“Our close partnership with the [center] shows the value of collaboration between industry and academia to veterinarians, pets and owners worldwide,” said Jolle Kirpensteijn, DVM, MS, Ph.D., the chief professional relations officer at Hill’s.

The volume of stones examined under microscopes and with other equipment adds up quickly. Two-thirds of the samples analyzed in 2014 originated in the United States. Altogether, uroliths came from 86,875 animals and 55 countries.

The Urolith Center has uncovered trends, Lulich said.

“For instance, while New Zealand and Australia are on the same continent, separated by only 2,000 kilometers of the Tasman Sea, the types of stones that are submitted differ,” he said. “In 2014, the most common stones from dogs in Australia were struvite, while the most common stone in New Zealand dogs was calcium oxalate.

“Mining data from different geographic locations may help us better understand the risk factors and causes for different stone types.”

About 6,900 samples were submitted to the Urolith Center in May. The average turnaround time was 17 days. 

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