Urinary Health - Illness Care and Prevention Tips
by Dr. Matthew J. Heller
Dogs and cats can suffer from diseases and disorders similar to those that can trouble their owners. Urinary tract disease is a common cause for concern for pets.
Urinary System Primer
The urinary system is vital to any animal’s health, because it is responsible for removing waste products such as chemical byproducts, toxins and drugs from the bloodstream and eliminating them as urine. Other vital functions of the system include balancing the body’s pH, transforming vitamin D into an active form, and releasing hormones that aid in regulating blood pressure.
Urinary tract disease may show up in several ways, including common bacterial infections easily treated with antibiotics, and bladder or kidney stones, which often require surgery. Just as in people, urinary tract disease causes pets pain and is dangerous if left untreated.
Many urinary diseases share similar symptoms, any of which should prompt a proper professional diagnosis:
- Frequent straining to urinate, often with little success; if a pet likely has a full bladder and attempts to urinate but nothing passes, consult a veterinarian immediately
- More than the usual licking of the genital area
- Increased urination, sometimes in inappropriate areas, such as inside the home or outside the litter box
- Crying or whimpering when urinating
- Cloudy or bloody urine with a strong odor
- Tenderness in lower abdominal area during examination
As always, providing the veterinarian with details as to changes in recent potty habits is helpful. Based on a detailed medical history, many veterinarians will proceed to diagnostic testing that usually begins with a basic urinalysis.
Urinary Tract Infections
The most common cause of urinary tract disease is bacterial infection. For most urinary tract infections (UTI), an antibiotic regime will treat the present infection and lifestyle changes accompanied by veterinarian-recommended nutraceuticals may aid in preventing future problems.
Certain underlying conditions may predispose a pet to infection, such as a weakened immune system or diabetes. Most canine UTIs are bacterial in origin and as a general rule, female dogs are more prone to experience them because the wider female urethra potentially allows more unwanted bacteria to enter. If bacteria then travels to the bladder and is left untreated, it may go on to contaminate the kidneys and other organs, presenting a serious health risk.
Bladder or kidney stones pose a more serious type of urinary disease, and either is of more concern for pets. In suspect situations, radiographic imaging such as X-rays or ultrasounds will help determine treatment. Small female dogs between the ages of 4 and 8 that have a history of bladder infections are the most vulnerable.
While stones are less common in male dogs, it can pose a critical care situation if stones pass from the bladder into the male’s narrow urethra, where the obstruction prevents the pet from urinating. Stones can also affect feline friends and similar life-threatening situations can occur if urine is unable to pass.
Generally, stones form in concentrated urine, so the less hydrated a pet, the greater the risk that a stone may form. Stones are formed by microscopic mineral crystals strained out of urine that band together to create a larger stone. There are various types of stones and correct identification will determine treatment options.
Increase water consumption. Home cooking is a wonderful option for ensuring a pet is receiving ample moisture-rich foods; most recipes include fluid-rich meats and veggies. Offering high quality, premium canned food is good, too. For pets that routinely chow down on dry commercial foods, moisten rations with salt-free broth. Also, add a tiny pinch of unrefined sea salt to their water bowl; using distilled water is advised for pets with a history of stones.
Use supplements. Capsules of d-Mannose cranberry extract combine a powerful natural diuretic with the antibacterial benefits of cranberries. The more often a pet urinates, the less likely the urine will become concentrated in the bladder.
Consider probiotics. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that establish a healthy flora in the digestive tract; a strong gut can fight off infectious bacterial challenges.
Monitor pH. Owners can purchase pH strips to test a pet’s first daily urine at home. Changes in a pet’s pH may indicate a urinary issue and that veterinary care is advisable.
By staying alert to abnormal pet behavior and promptly consulting with a vet, you will be able to get your pet back to proper urinary health.
Dr. Matthew J. Heller is a holistic veterinarian and owner of All About PetCare, in Middletown, OH. For more information, visit AllAboutPetCare.com.