The Minnesota Urolith Center (MUC) is celebrating two milestones: the analysis of its 1.5 millionth urinary stone and 40 years of delivering stone analysis to veterinary healthcare teams around the world. Part of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, the MUC aims to reduce the incidence of urinary disease and enhance the care of pets with urinary disorders. Since 1981, the MUC has maintained the largest database of animal bladder stones and analyzes nearly 90,000 samples annually. Since its inception, the Center has analyzed more than 1.5 million uroliths from more than 100 species of companion, farm, exotic, aquatic, and wild animals. With support of its long-term partner Hill’s Pet Nutrition, the MUC provides the veterinary profession with free stone analysis and science-supported recommendations to help deliver optimal care to their patients.
In addition to the individual dogs and cats helped by the MUC, the epidemiological data gathered during the last 40 years has sparked the development of minimally invasive therapies for dissolution of struvite uroliths, progress on the genetics of stone disease and, more recently, a collaboration with Washington University to adapt burst wave lithotripsy for cats with ureteral stones.
“Our partnership with the MUC helps ensure the best care for pets, with an emphasis on the nutritional management of urinary stones over options, such as invasive surgery,” Dr. S. Dru Forrester, Director of Global Scientific Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, said. “We are proud of the work done by the MUC team, which has helped improve the lives of millions of pets and encourage all veterinarians to take advantage of its free service to enable them to best manage their individual patients.”
“During the last few years, we have seen the incidence of struvite stones increasing yet it is a stone that can be dissolved medically,” MUC Director Professor Jody Lulich said. “We are also seeing a global rise in canine cystine stones; over 4,000 dogs were diagnosed in 2020 — eight times higher than 20 years ago. Understanding risk factors and causes of stone types is key to their treatment and prevention. Our analysis highlights important trends that inform efforts to improve the health of companion animals and help prevent recurrence.”
We asked Dr. Lulich to reflect on the achievements of the MUC.
TVP: Can you tell us about the history of the MUC?
Dr. Lulich: In 1981, Dr. Carl Osborne established the Minnesota Urolith Center at the University of Minnesota to investigate the causes, cures, and prevention of urolithiasis. Today, the Urolith Center is the largest veterinary stone analysis laboratory in the world. Using state-of-the-science diagnostic techniques, the Center currently analyzes almost 90,000 stones per year submitted by veterinarians from 70 countries throughout the world.
These are just a few Minnesota Urolith Center milestones:
• The first group to develop the safe and effective technique of retrograde urohydropropulsion.
• First to develop and recommend the technique of decompressive cystocentesis for the management of urethral and urinary bladder flow obstruction.
• First to develop the technique of voiding urohydropropulsion for the nonsurgical removal of small urocystoliths.
• Developed a technique for non-surgical retrieval of urocystoliths with a transurethral urinary catheter.
• Developed nutritional dissolution techniques for struvite, urate and cystine urolithiasis.
TVP: The MUC has developed a multi-language smart phone app (MN Urolith). Tell us about the app and how it works.
Dr. Lulich: We also have a feature of the app on our website. The app was developed to put service and results at everyone’s fingertips. It is not only a learning tool for veterinary students and veterinarians but it’s also a way to instantly provide results to clients in the exam room. It is constantly changing and being upgraded. We listen to what the profession wants.
TVP: How important is the support from Hill’s Pet Nutrition?
Dr. Lulich: It is very important, not only as a great financial supporter but as a creative and intellectual partner. We have the same mission and collaborate on science and service. They provided the creative impetus for us to create our app.
TVP: Forty years is a long time to be doing anything. Why is this work so important to the team at MUC?
Dr. Lulich: It is important to the team because we feel as if we are making a difference in the lives of pets every day. We have pets of our own and empathize when one is in trouble. It has always been our life time goal to make the surgical removal of stones of mere historic interest. We have accomplished a lot but we still have a lot of work to do. We hope that one day we can dissolve calcium oxalate stones a common cause for pain in dogs and renal failure in cats.
Read about Feline Struvite & Calcium Oxalate Urolithiasis.