By: Adrienne A. Kruzer, RVT | Jul 27, 2019
Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are common in dogs just like they are in women. UTIs can be very uncomfortable for a pet, and they often cause the following symptoms:
Urinary tract infections are often the result of a bacterial infection in the bladder, but there are also other types of bladder problems that people may refer to as a UTI. These include crystals, stones (referred to as uroliths), yeast, tumors, and even parasites. Blood may or may not be present when a pet has a UTI, and bladder stones and crystals may form because of a bacterial infection.
Dog owners are typically aware of traditional antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications used to treat UTIs, but they do not always realize there are also alternative or complementary options. These options are not generally a replacement for traditional medications, but they are often good adjunct therapies that may decrease the severity of the pet’s symptoms. A decrease in the frequency of UTI reoccurrence is often seen and fewer drugs may be necessary when utilizing complementary therapies, so they are worth considering when discussing treatment options with your veterinarian. Here we go over a list of natural remedies for urinary tract infections in dogs.
Many people are familiar with the idea that cranberry juice can be beneficial for urinary tract infections, but they don’t really know exactly how this fruit drink helps the bladder. Cranberries, along with some other fruits, contain specific components called proanthocyanidins, or PACs, which are a type of polyphenol. Polyphenols are found in many foods and can provide a variety of health benefits. PACs are a specific type of polyphenol that provides antioxidant benefits as well as bacterial anti-adhesion properties. In urinary tracts specifically, PACs help keep certain types of bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. This means that instead of the bacteria hanging around in the bladder and causing an infection, PACs make the bacteria come out of the bladder when the dog urinates.
PACs can be found in veterinary supplements designed specifically for dog bladder health. They are often advertised as cranberry extracts or bioactive cranberry supplements and may be beneficial in decreasing the frequency and severity of a UTI. They are very safe and can even be used alongside antibiotics and other medications. They are most effective when administered before your dog goes to bed. Some reoccurring and chronic UTIs may benefit from regular administration of PACs, as there’s no concern of antibiotic resistance or side effects.
Some pet food companies manufacture formulated diets specifically to support a dog’s urinary tract. Most of these therapeutic diets are geared towards altering the urine pH in order to decrease the likelihood of a dog developing bladder stones. Stones are formed from crystals that are often found in dogs with UTIs, so these diets may be recommended to prevent stone formation. Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and protein levels are usually on the lower end of acceptable levels to help decrease the likelihood of urolith formation, and vitamins, antioxidants, and other ingredients may be added to support overall urinary tract health.
Probiotics are often recommended for intestinal health, but some research in human women with UTIs has shown that taking probiotics may also help decrease the reoccurrence of bladder infections. Human data sometimes carries over to the veterinary world, so your veterinarian may recommend giving probiotics to your dog to support bladder health. Bacterial probiotics that are viable and naturally found in a dog are the best options for urinary tract and immune health. Not all probiotics are viable by the time they get inside your dog’s body, and not all bacteria are beneficial to a dog.
It sounds simple, but cleaning is often forgotten as a way to help decrease the odds of a UTI in a dog. Some dogs are unable to clean themselves properly, have excessive skin or fur covering their urinary opening, get fecal matter in their urinary opening, or are just prone to lying in a mess, any of which may contribute to an ascending urinary tract infection. This type of infection results from bacteria traveling up the urethra and colonizing in the dog’s bladder. If the urinary opening is kept clean and dry, this is less likely to happen. Surgery may be recommended in some pets to achieve this, but simple wiping and shaving fur away from the opening can help keep the bacteria out.
Some dogs get stressed and anxious, which can cause inflammation in the bladder. This inflammation is called cystitis, and it can also contribute to a bacterial infection. Pheromones, stress- and anxiety-reducing supplements, and anxiety-reducing medications may all be of benefit to a dog that develops UTIs and cystitis.
Colostrum, alpha-casozepine, and alpha-lactalbumin are all dairy derivatives that may help decrease stress and anxiety in dogs. Magnolia, Phellodendron, and L-theanine are all plant derivatives that have also been shown to help dogs stay calm. These ingredients can be found in special dog foods as well as supplements designed specifically for canine behavioral health.
The more a dog urinates, the more it will flush any potential toxins out of its bladder. By helping your dog increase its water intake, you’ll help keep your pet’s urinary tract healthy. Be sure to offer fresh water regularly, add water to your pet’s food, or get a pet drinking fountain to entice it to consume more water. Also consider feeding wet food, as it has more moisture than dry kibble.
A UTI can be an uncomfortable condition for a dog and should be treated immediately. While complementary or alternative treatments likely won’t replace the need for anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications, they can work with those medications to treat and prevent UTIs. As always, discuss with your veterinarian before starting any supplement or treatment plan.