How to Tell if Your Pet is Suffering from Urinary Tract Disease
In most cases, there will be behavioral changes in your pet that will put up a red flag. Pets may experience an increased frequency in urination, urgency, hematuria (bloody urine), and inappropriate urination. These symptoms are cause for taking your pet to the vet for a check-up and a urinalysis to determine the cause of the problem. A sterile urine sample may be taken by you at home (as instructed by your veterinarian) or by cystocentesis (extracting urine from the bladder). The urine will then be sent to a local lab where the cause of the discomfort can be determined. Each outcome may require different solutions so it's extremely important to determine the cause.
Diet and Urinary Health
Diet is always the first place to look when your pet is experiencing urinary distress. Urine pH imbalance is a common cause of urinary dysfunction. A urinalysis will determine the pH of your pet's urine. This will help in deciding if pH is a contributing factor. Normal urinary pH for dogs and cats is 5.5-7.0 but this is a wide range so it is best to check with your vet. It will vary based on your pets' age, species, diet, and health status. Generally, a slightly acidic urine pH is ideal (between 6-6.5). A balanced raw diet is the best place to start since it will naturally correct the urine pH of most animals' urine. If a raw diet isn't possible, a home-cooked diet is the next best thing, followed by a canned diet. Moisture in food is also important because if an animal is not properly hydrated, they are more susceptible to infection and disease. For more on this, please read: What About Water? A raw diet also contains naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help to re-balance a diseased urinary tract and support kidney function. It is important to be sure that minerals, vitamins, fats, and proteins are being balanced correctly. There are also several useful dietary supplements that can help with healing the urinary system. They will be discussed below.
Urinary Tract Infections
Infections of the urinary tract are generally caused by bacteria including e. coli, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and proteus. Infections can also occur from fungus or parasites but this is less common. In any case, infection occurs when an animal's immune function is not at its best. Let's discuss ways in which to enhance the health of the urinary tract and overall immune function. A raw diet is #1! Infections cause the smooth muscle linings of the urethra and bladder to become inflamed, weakened and, over time, can cause permanent scarring and damage if left unattended and/or the infection can become chronic. Urinary infections are also painful and unpleasant so it's important to help your pet become comfortable as quickly as possible. They can also be a secondary symptom of an autoimmune disease called interstitial cystitis which is discussed below. Conventional treatment of UTIs includes antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. A correctly balanced raw diet and supplementation to boost immune function and support the urinary system resolve many cases.
Urinary Crystals and Stones (Urolithiasis)
Crystals in the urine can occur for many reasons and in any part of the urinary system. Commonly occurring crystals or uroliths include struvite, cysteine, oxalate, and urate but there are many more types. A urinalysis will determine the exact mineral formation of the crystals or stones. These structures can form in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. When uroliths grow to macroscopic sizes, they can interfere with the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder and from the bladder to the urethra. This can cause irritation and inflammation of the mucosal membranes and can cause stranguria (slow & painful urination), dysuria (pain), hematuria.
Struvite crystals: Struvite crystals are the most common type of uroliths in cats and usually occur when the urine pH is too alkaline - when minerals are not balanced within the diet, if there is an infection of Staphyloccocus and Proteus which produce excess ammonia or due to underlying metabolic disease.
Cysteine, oxalate, and urate crystals often form in urine that is too acidic or from mineral imbalance due to diet or underlying metabolic disease.
Conventional treatment of uroliths usually involves feeding a specially prepared commercial diet that includes synthetic minerals to promote dissolution. In extreme cases where blockages have occurred, surgery may be needed. In my experience, where there is no blockage, a balanced raw diet with appropriate supplementation can correct many cases. Homeopathy is also useful.
It is important to rule out urinary infections or other physical health ailments before assuming that your pet is behaving badly with his/her toilet routines. If all urine/blood tests come back negative for physical problems, you may wish to discuss solutions for behavior management such as an animal trainer/behaviorist, homeopathic treatment, or calming pheromones such as Feliway or D.A.P. Conventional treatments sometimes involve drug therapy.
Though it is less common, interstitial cystitis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease within the cells of the urinary tract. It is often misdiagnosed as infection since white blood cells are often elevated in the same way they would be during an infection. Infections can be secondary to this and are often treated with antibiotics. If your cat or dog has a recurring/chronic history of UTIs, it is important to consider this disease may be the true culprit. It can be difficult to diagnose. Conventional treatment of many immune-mediated diseases includes steroid therapy. However, they are many diet adjustments and nutritional supplements that can increase your chances of not having to go this route. Please see below for information on individual supplements and/or email me to discuss diet planning for your pet.
Kidney disease generally takes years to develop and has devastating effects. Though it is partially genetic, a correct and natural diet plays a huge role in maintaining kidney health partially because of how it hydrates the body correctly. Proper hydration and fresh protein sources are key for preventing kidney dysfunction. If your pet has already been diagnosed with kidney disease, discuss the options with your veterinarian. Treatment will vary greatly based on the pets' state of renal function, age, breed, and diet. A raw diet or home-cooked diet, supplementation, and homeopathy usually make a huge difference for animals with renal disease.
Dietary Supplements for Urinary Tract and Kidney Health*
Cranberry extract: The mechanism of how cranberry extract helps to prevent UTIs is still a topic of debate but it is high in antioxidants that support immune function. It also contains phytochemicals that may prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and it acidifies urine to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Cranberry is useful in cases of urinary tract infection as well as some cases of urolithiasis.
N-Acetyl glucosamine (NAG): N-Acetyl glucosamine is a compound derived from sea life that reduces inflammation and repairs smooth muscle linings within the body such as bladder, urethra as well as stomach and intestines. It is useful in cases of infection, urolithiasis, and interstitial cystitis.
Wysong Biotic pH - : (From Wysong): Wysong Biotic pH-™ is a vitamin/mineral supplement designed for cats or dogs needing assistance generating and maintaining acidic urine to help prevent struvite/triple phosphate crystal formation. Wysong Biotic pH-™ restores nutrients that regulate metabolism to generate acidic urine. Acidic urine has been demonstrated to not only be calculolytic (dissolves existing stones), but also preventive for the formation of the common struvite uroliths/crystals in Urological Syndrome. Visit www.wysong.net for more details.
Wysong Biotic pH + : (From Wysong): Wysong Biotic pH+ is a cat and dog supplement designed for pets needing assistance generating and maintaining alkaline urine to help prevent oxalate, urate, or cystine crystal formation. Wysong Biotic pH+ restores proper mineral balance and metabolism such that a more alkaline (basic) urine is generated. Biotic pH+™ helps treat and naturally prevent oxalate, urate, and cystine urolith/crystal formation by promoting and alkaline urine, and also combats metabolic acidosis, an insidious problem that can adversely impact health in many ways. Visit www.wysong.net for more details.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function and can also inhibit bacterial growth in the urine by making it more acidic. it is often used in high doses for animals experiencing any of the above urinary diseases. Ascorbic acid is often used but if your pet has a sensitive digestive system, you may wish to use a buffered vitamin C which is easier to digest. Dosage will vary based on the animals' weight. Always start with a low dose and work up to the maximum dose over the course of 1-2 weeks.
Methionine: Also an acidifying agent for the urine. Best of given twice daily rather than once. Small-medium dogs: 100mg each dose, medium-large dogs: 200mg each dose, giant breeds: 300mg each dose. Cats: 50-100mg each dose. It can be increased to three daily doses if urine is still not acidic enough after one 2-3 weeks. You can find this at your local health food store and some veterinarians may carry pet formulas that include methionine for urinary health.
Dimethylglycine (DMG): DMG is an amino acid derivative that supports immune and metabolic function. it is extremely useful in cases of chronic UTIs, recovery from urinary crystals/stones, and interstitial cystitis. The liquid form is best and can be given in food. Best stored in the refrigerator. Cats and small dogs: 3-6 drops twice daily, Medium dogs: 9 drops twice daily, Large-Giant breed dogs: 12-15 drops twice daily.
Feline and Canine Renal Support from Standard Process: This product is a glandular/herbal combination that is only available through your veterinarian. Many holistic vets carry it but it is only used in certain health programs. Discuss this supplement with your vet if your pet has renal dysfunction. Standard Process makes extremely high-quality and effective dietary supplements.
*Always be sure to discuss all options with your veterinarian before deciding the best healing course for your pet.
1. The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs by Martin Zucker
2. The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats by Martin Zucker
3. The Merck Veterinary Manual 2010 Edition
4. Wysong: www.wysong.net
5. Food Science of Vermont: www.foodscienceofvermont.com
6. Standard Process Vet: www.standardprocess.com/Products/Veterinary-Formulas