This is an incredibly big problem in the veterinary world and actually showing a higher prevalence in cats than dogs. Both equally have issues and for similar reasons so let’s get cracking on the why’s, wherefores and what’s. I'm sorry I haven't been writing more this week, it took me 3 days on and off to complete this. I promise I won't let lockdown wain my inspiration.
A healthy urinary system is important to your pet’s health and detoxification. Your pets's urinary system, including the kidneys and bladder, work to process and remove waste from their body. Bladder problems may include infections or a variety of stones and these problems can affect your dog’s comfort and overall well being.
Cats and dogs can be prone to developing urinary ‘stones’ and infection. These occur when the concentration of certain minerals in your pet's urine becomes too high (alkaline). In healthy pets, the urine pH is generally in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. If the pH is acidic (pH below 6) or alkaline (pH above 7) it may allow bacteria to thrive and for crystals or stones to form.
Alkaline urine can also be caused by kidney disease, long-term drug use such as diuretic or antacids. Sometimes an elevated urine pH, elevated levels of urinary phosphorus or ammonia, may also predispose your pet to the formation of struvite bladder stones. Unlike humans, pets are most likely to suffer from these stones in their bladder, rather than their kidneys. Stones in the bladder can cause inflammation, predispose to urinary tract infections and even cause an obstruction of the urinary tract. This is when this problem can become serious and should not be ignored.
There are different types of stone composed of different minerals and compounds. Examples of these are struvite, calcium oxalate, urate and cystine. These stones form due to urine pH, output, genetics and other factors, play a huge role in stones developing.
Your pet can also suffer from bacterial infection in their urinary system, leading to discomfort in the lower urinary tract. Urinary incontinence, congenital anatomic abnormalities and tumours are amongst other conditions that may affect the urinary tract in cats and dogs.
Dalmatians have a genetic mutation that affects protein processing in their body, putting them at risk of urate stones. English Bulldogs and other breeds can also be affected by this mutation. If your pet is also overweight there is a higher likelihood in developing calcium oxalate stones.
Female dogs and cats are more likely to suffer with UTI’s and stones often due to structure but also possible hormonal changes, affecting neutered dogs in particular.
The signs of UTI’s, stones or worse may include one or more of the following;
Possible Causes of UTI’s and Stones
Conventional Veterinary Approach to UT issues
Vet’s often use bland prescription diets of poor quality and antibiotic drugs as an intervention to reduce infection, inflammation and common symptoms. Whilst this may help the initial inflammation and reduce the alkalinity of the urine, this is not an effective or healthy longterm option.
The prescription diets for struvite stones are based on low protein, low phosphorus and low magnesium, helping to acidify the urine. Calcium oxalate stones are rather similar but also need to be careful of calcium and reduce or avoid oxalic vegetables (beet greens, rhubarb, spinach,swiss chard, endives, kale etc).
Antibiotics are the most common drug to treat urinary infections. Uropathogenic E. coli is the most prevalent bacteria in UTI’s. Studies show antibiotics used in the treatment of these infections reduce the number of lactobacilli in the urinary system and may cause antibiotic resistance in the following period and destroy the existing natural barrier of the urinary system formed against infections.
Vets may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and pain medication if your cat or dog experiences discomfort.
How Diet and Supplements can Help
Looking at suitable diets and food for your pet is essential. A fresh and balanced diet rich in easily digestible proteins, good fats and vegetables (fibre) can help support gut microbiota, a healthy body and a healthy UT. Home prepared, cooked and home delivered, or raw is the very best in this instance. The balance of calcium and phosphorous in a dicalcium phosphate form or even better from bones or bonemeal is essential. Reducing oxalic vegetables and keeping an eye on high magnesium content is helpful also but a fresher diet often negates the negative impact on alkaline urine and therefore proliferation of stones and infections cannot build and reside.
Processed foods and sugars can cause systemic inflammation triggering UT inflammation with sugar feeding bacteria proliferation.
Certain foods can often elicit an unwanted immune response, so understanding what might be causing your pet to react is essential. If feeding a fresh diet has not worked, doing a food sensitivity test can help in removing the offending culprits.
Nutriscan sensitivity test: check your pet at home easily for food sensitivity.
Low fibre findings are mostly found in humans, but our counterparts experience the same pathogenesis in UTI’s and other issues and adding soluble and insoluble fibre, will help to build a good and varied gut microbiota.
Such a beautiful and useful part of a diet regime is to looking at supplements. They can help to reduce symptoms of UT successfully although infections should never be left. This about maintaining a healthy UT system and preventing reoccurring issues.
Ashwaganda; this native Ayurvedic herb is one I always wax lyrical about. It has adaptogenic abilities when it comes to stress.It modulates cortisol levels (your pet's stress hormones). If your cat or dog is experiencing consistent stress, cortisol shuts down the digestive system and this has been shown to increase chronic and systemic inflammation. In Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), the urinary system is believed to hold stress, so it's an important factor to consider if your pet keeps getting reoccurring infections.
Slippery elm; such a beautiful insoluble fibre that tends to help regardless of the cause. It has mucilage properties where it creates a film,soothes, protects and helps to heal the entire gastric system including there productive and UT system. It’s a wonder herb for the cupboard and a great ingredient to trial for your pet with UTI’s and other issues.
Deglycyrrhised licorice; this botanical and functional herb is a demulcent (or mucilaginous, the same as slippery elm). It enhances oesophageal and digestive mucosal protection and in powder or liquid form, can help soothe the oesophaegal, digestive and UT lining. According to a 2014study, DGL was shown to create extra mucus, acting as a barrier to acid in the stomach, oesophagus and UT. This barrier may allow the damaged tissue to heal.
Probiotics; gut microbiota allows for a healthy ecology and functioning of the gut. We know from studies that good bacteria protects the gut mucosa as well as the urinary mucosa. It helps support immunity, aids the digestion of food, may help prevent bad bacteria and yeast and has shown promise in reducing inflammation as a post-biotic exerting immune function. LactobacillusAcidophilus in particular has an affinity to the UT tract, keeping it healthy and protected. Whilst the following study was run on women and not cats and dogs, the same pathogenesis occurs. Those studies run on dogs were still fed a processed diet whilst trialling the probiotics, so the research and outcomes were not complete and effective. It is proven, in humans, that a healthy microbiotia, creates the necessary metabolites to support proteins with the UT that protects against pathogenic bacteria. This would certainly support UT infections.
Cranberry and D Mannose; bacterial adhesion was significantly reduced after culture with urine samples obtained at 30 and 60 days, compared with results for urine samples obtained before extract administration from 12 dogs in a study for UTI’s. Oral administration of cranberry extract prevented development of a UTI and prevented E coli adherence to MDCK cells, that may indicate, it has benefit for preventing UTIs in dogs.
Cornsilk; is used for bladder infections, inflammation of the urinary system, inflammation of the prostate and kidney stones. It is also used for balancing blood sugars, supporting high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This is very soothing herb to the UT system and research demonstrates this.
Omega-3 EPA and DHA; in the form of a good, pure and protective antioxidant fish oil, fish meat or vegan phytoplankton, Omega-3 has been shown to support the UT system and disease associated with this system. Research has mainly been based around felines but in my experience, it’s one of the most important protocols for healthy UT support.
In conclusion, it is essential to study the 8 systems in functional medicine, looking closely at diet, feeding fresh and balanced foods and lastly, considering supplements and looking at lifestyle to support a healthy UT system. I see many dogs with this issue that often visit their vet without finding a longterm solution.
I hope this helped and please know we are here to help. If you are concerned or at a loss as to what to do, check out our consultation services.