Urinary problems in our dogs and cats are so common, and sometimes can be tough to deal with. Both males and females of both species can get urinary tract infections, crystals, and stones. Some animals seem to be genetically prone to chronic infections, and owners will need to learn to monitor and prevent reoccurence as much as possible. My own dog, Auggie, is one of those animals, and I am now able to help keep his urinary tract healthy without constant vet visits - holistically. I know pet UTIs are common among my customers, so I wanted to share some of the info I've learned about prevention.
How do I know if my dog or cat is having urine trouble?
- urinates more often than normal, often in small amounts
- urinates places they don't normally (indoors for dogs, outside the litterbox for cats)
- blood in urine
- strains to urinate (We call this "the long pee")
This sounds like my pet! What do I do?
Urinary problems can sometimes be serious emergencies that threaten a pet's life. They also get worse with time. Don't procrastinate - see a vet!
- If this is the first time your pet shows these symptoms, TAKE THEM TO THE VET! Your vet can do a sterile urine culture to check for bacteria, crystals, and/or stones, a pH test to determine if your pet's urine is too acidic or alkaline, and check whether the urine is too concentrated or dilute.
- If an infection is present, the vet will prescribe antibiotics. It's important to start your pet on antibiotics ASAP to prevent formation of scar tissue, making your pet more at-risk for reoccuring infections.
- The vet may also recommend a prescription food (such as Hills C/D).
What if my pet gets another infection? How can I prevent them in the long-term?
(The following suggestions are PREVENTION tips. If your pet already has an infection, they should see a vet. The following suggestions will not cure an existing infection, but will prevent subsequent infections from occurring.)
- Focus on the specific reasons your pet is having trouble. Your vet should go over the results of the urine tests with you - find out the pH of the urine, whether crystals (struvite or oxalate), bacteria/infection, or anything else was present. You can also use pH strips at home to check whether the urine is chronically too acidic (low pH) or alkaline (high pH). Normal pH should be slightly acidic, around 6.0-6.5. Pets with alkaline urine are more prone to infections (which can cause struvite crystals), while pets with very acidic urine are more prone to oxalate crystals. Alkaline urine and struvite crystals are the most common type, and respond best to holistic prevention methods, so we will focus on them here.
- Dilute the urine. Even if a pet's pH is high or low, when urine is diluted crystals are less likely to form. People often tell me, "but he drinks a lot of water..." and my answer is - not enough! Add water to their diet in any way you can. Mix water or broth in with their food, feed canned food, give dogs frozen broth "popsicles", make sure water is always clean, fresh and available. Some people even add a pinch of salt to their diet to make them thirsty! (Use natural sea salt rather than table salt.)
- Acidify the urine. Supplement with cranberry extract (for pets with normal pH or alkaline urine). Cranberry prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and causing infection. Apple cider vinegar, methionine, and meat products also acidify the urine. (Citrus, veggies, and dairy make it more alkaline!) Feeding a grain-free, primarily meat diet is recommended. Working with your vet or using pH strips are important here - you want to bring pH to 6.0-6.5, no lower!
- Boost your pet's immune system. This is where a high-quality diet is so important. Adding anti-oxidants like vitamin C and E, as well as echinacea, supports healthy immune function. Probiotics are also recommended (especially after taking antibiotics) to help restore the good bacteria.
- Prevent exposure to bacteria. Bacteria can travel into the urinary tract from the outside. Keep the area around the genitals cut short and clean. Use crystal litter and clean the cat's litterbox often. Overweight pets often squat lower when urinating, which exposes them to bacteria, so keep your pet's weight in check.
What products do you recommend for my pet?
- Solid Gold Berry Balance (dogs and cats) - Cranberry, blueberry, and vitamin C as a powder that can be sprinkled on/mixed into food.
- Pet Naturals Feline UT Support soft chews - Cranberry, plus enzymes/vitamins to support the lining of the urinary tract in an easy to give cat treat.
- Pet Naturals Daily Digest soft chews - Probiotics treats for dogs and cats.
- High quality meat-based foods - Merrick/Purrfect Bistro Grain-free formulas, Orijen, Acana are a few options. Consider adding canned food, or freeze-dried raw formulas to kibble to increase water consumption. (If you need help finding a high-quality food with specific levels of protein, fat, carbs, or phosphorus, please ask. We can help!)
- Dr. Elsey's Senior Litter - Crystal litter that absorbs urine on contact and traps it inside the crystals to keep the cat's genital area clean and prevent infections. It's also white so you can see blood in the urine and act quickly to treat your cat before the problem becomes acute.