Secrets to Preventing a Dog Urinary Tract Infection

prevent urinary tract infection

She’s squatting and straining to pee.

He’s urinating what looks like droplets of blood.

Nothing sends chills up the spine of a dog parent like that of a urinary tract infection brewing. If you’ve ever experienced a urinary tract infection, the pain, pressure, and uncomfortable sensation to “go” yet nothing comes out is simply miserable. We can complain about it; our dogs cannot voice their disdain. So it’s up to diligent dog moms and dads to stay one step ahead in order to prevent “UTI’s” and if one is brewing, knowing what to watch for and seek immediate veterinary care is crucial.

Although I am not a veterinarian, 20+ years of being a dog mom plus a dozen years dealing with experts in veterinary medicine and the pet industry behind the scenes has taught me a lot. Rather than keep this knowledge to myself, Fidose of Reality is going to pass on what we’ve learned, going behind the green curtain, unearthing the things not often discussed with regards to a dog’s health, and dishing the real facts of what dog parents need to know. Oh, and lest I forget: my last Cocker Spaniel dealt with urinary tract infections for a few years of her life—until I learned what works, what doesn’t, and how to prevent them in the first place.

cocker_veterinarian

Medicine

For the low down on why UTIs happen, what veterinary medicine has to say about them, and the details on the urinary tract itself, you can check out this post from petMD. Always always seek veterinary care and call your veterinarian first. There is no substitute for a veterinarian seeing your dog in person.

Most urinary tract infections that are not complicated by other issues within the dog are caused by some form of bacteria. For dogs with fungal urinary tract infections, these are more difficult to treat. Dogs with chronic urinary tract infections may be dealing with any number of causes: from a structural defect to polyps, diabetes, or stones.

You’re probably reading this post because:

  1. Your dog has had a urinary tract infection
  2. You wonder how to prevent a dog from getting a urinary tract infection
  3. Your dog is urinating in the house and you suspect a urinary tract infection

Once your dog’s veterinarian has diagnosed a urinary tract infection, here are some things that worked for us and for further discussion with your dog’s healthcare professional:

The Secret Test No One Talks About

Dip the Urine: Seriously, check your dog’s urine from home. I purchase the Siemens Multistix that test for 10 different levels of things in my dog’s urine. If your dog battles urinary tract infections (UTI’s), these strips can be a lifesaver for detecting levels such as pH and blood in the urine in between vet visits. Collect the dog’s urine with a free catch in the morning when it is most concentrated, dip the stick in, wait the time recommendations (2 minutes for most) and then compare against the colors on the bottle. (strips expire and are about $35 for 100 but so worth it – about the same cost as one urinalysis at the vet, so very cost effective).

In healthy pets, the urine pH is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. Medicines, age, co-existing health conditions, and even stress can change the level of pH. In addition, the most concentrated form of urine is the “free catch” first thing in the morning. Vets can also do a cystocentesis on a dog in order to pass a needle through the bladder and to obtain a more sterile sample (this is not a painful test, by the way).

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Cranberry Capsules

When my Brandy Noel developed chronic urinary tract infections in her middle years, treatment was generally monitoring her urine and watching for symptoms. After talking with some friends in the veterinary field and doing a bit of research, I discovered cranberry capsules. Cranberry in general helps to promote a healthy urinary tract by preventing bacteria from adhering to the mucosal lining of the urinary bladder. In other words, the bacteria is there but the cranberry prevents it from sticking to the bladder wall. There are precautions to take and the administration and/or addition of any medication or vitamin/supplement should be discussed with a veterinarian first. For starters, some over-the-counter cranberry capsules contain sugar, so avoid these. Cranberry in and of itself is a berry and has a certain amount of natural sugars in it. Cranberry juice in people contains a high amount of salicylic acid, so people need to proceed with caution if they have anticoagulant meds in their regimen or if they have aspirin allergies. With dogs, this usually isn’t the case. Cranberry in general will change the pH of the urine and you don’t want a dog with too high of a pH nor too low: Stones can result.

Cranberry capsules worked for us for eight years and we would simply increase the dosage if Brandy Noel showed any changes in her weekly ph urine strip test. Otherwise, she received one capsule a day with a meal and never had a problem—and she never had another urinary tract infection for the final 7 years of her life. A colleague in the pet industry, who happens to be a veterinarian, recently recommended this particular supplement for a friend who has a dog with UTIs: Cranberry Rx.

dog heatlh

Hydration

Drinking water is essential and crucial to a dog’s overall well being. I hear from pet parents all the time who tell me their dog doesn’t drink enough and how can they get their dog to drink? In general, a healthy dog drinks about 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Frequent drinking (polydipsia) is a sign of other health issues, like diabetes, so always monitor your dog’s water intake. Knowing the amount of water your dog should drink helps you determine if your dog is drinking too little or too much. Flushing the kidneys and urinary tract is one way to keep crystals from forming and to keep dogs healthy.
cockers

Vitamin C

For a period of time before we discovered cranberry capsules, we added vitamin C to our dog’s diet. Though dogs are capable of making their own vitamin C, this water-soluble antioxidant may help in fighting off urinary tract infections when given in extra doses. In her book, Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dog, Cheryl Schwartz, DVM, says the forms of Vitamin C best absorbed by the intestinal tract are calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate, as they are also both less likely to cause diarrhea.

Diet

There is something to be said for feeding a dog a natural, high quality pet food, free of by-products and fillers, and appropriate to their nutritional requirements. We feed a moist pet food (semi-raw rehydrated) and ensure our dog drinks an adequate amount of water daily.

QUESTION: Has your dog ever experienced a urinary tract infection? What has worked (or not worked) for you?

If you liked this article, be sure to check out:

 Seven Dog Myth Busters Courtesy Science

The Reality of Dog Vitamins and Supplements

Comments

  1. I had a real bad one as a tiny puppy, but that was from the cold outside, and my bare belly. I just had one this spring too, it was a bad one and took a while to get rid of along with pills that cost $11 a piece! Not sure where that one came from, but hoping not to have anymore of them. The vet said being short and walking all over like we do, it is easy for bacteria to get in and sometimes it just happens.

    • Very interesting, Emma. Yes, those low to the ground dogs can get any number of things due to their shorter statures. Glad it got cleared up for you.

  2. This article is really note worthy. I never considered monitoring my pet’s urine with the dip sticks. This is great. I just ordered them online and as soon as they arrive, I am going to monitor weekly. I have an upcoming vet appointment and am going to discuss the cranberry capsules. As soon as I get the approval of my vet, I am going to order those, too. Thanks for the tips, Carol. You’re a wealth of information for pet parents.

    • Some caveats come to mind. Sodium ascorbate increases levels of sodium in your pooch. Calcium ascorbate increases calcium levels. For those who are raw feeders, that could cause problems if calcium levels get too high. Calcium and phosphorus need to be in about a 2:1 ratio, and imbalance can cause health issues. It is arguable whether or not cranberry actually does prevent or destroy urinary tract bacteria. If you use it, make sure you use a brand containing no sugar. A good brand is Sundown Cranberry Fruit, which is recommended by Dr. Jean Dodds of Hemopet. Much also depends on what type of bacteria the dog has in its urine. D-Mannos is an excellent, reasonably safe way to help destroy e coli, but does little to nothing for other types of bacteria. It should be used 2 or 3 days past the day you think the infection is cleared, then stop. It tends to act as a diuretic, and you don’t want to dehydrate your dog. It is really, really important to know what kind of bacteria you need to treat. It is necessary to get a urine culture, not just or urine analysis. Urine analyses do not tell what kind of bacteria are causing infection. Some vets now also test for microbials. If your vet doesn’t recommend a urine culture and just throws any old antibiotics at you, you should probably consider another vet. UTIs are very harmful, and very costly to fight, especially if your dog has recurring infections. Infections are considered recurring if two or more UTIs within six months, or three within a year. Many dogs become incontinent, which contributes to infections. It helps to shave or at least trim the hair surrounding the vulva area, because hair is an excellent harbor for breeding bacteria. Keep the area clean as best as possible. Do not use soaps or shampoos or other cleansers. Just use clean warm water, and saturate the area a bit several times. Soaps and cleansers will not prevent bacteria, and any that have perfume or chemicals could actually cause infections, and may irritate the sensitive vulva lining. When you do a pH test of urine, this alone will not tell you if your dog has a UTI. It will only tell you its pH level, which fluctuates continually throughout the day. If you dog is predominantly above a pH of 7,0 his urine is alkaline, and if below 7.0, it is acidic. If your dog is prone to recurring UTIs, it might be best to keep the pH level between 5.5 to 6.0. Lastly, I recommend using Chinese herbal remedies as an alternative to continual rounds of antibiotics. Bacteria can become immune to the same antibiotics after repeated use, and then you are out of an option. Use antibiotics to clear the infection, be sure to retest with a urine culture to be certain you got all of it, then try to find safe herbal remedies for maintenance to help prevent future infections, or at least have fewer of them. For acute UTIs, consider Si Miao Wan, used for centuries by women in China. It is safe if used per the directions. It is a diuretic, so only use for a week or so. If there is no improvement, then it isn’t working and you should probably try antibiotics. The teapills are good, as they each contain smaller quantities of herbs, and therefore are easier to get lower doses for medium and small dogs. With any herb, start first with a very small amount for a day or two to ensure there are no adverse reactions. Try to use the least amount necessary to fight the infection. This might take a couple infections to find out your particular dog’s safe level. If you are fortunate enough to have a vet who is actually a real holist, you can get more help with dosing and duration of treatment. Do your homework carefully, as it is easy to think herbs can’t hurt, but believe me, some herbs can kill. If you aren’t sure, consult with a professional. For those pets that develop stones, San Jin Wan may be used, and may also be used for UTIs. This is also a diuretic, and so caution should be used.

      • Lisa, Can you please tell me where it is documented that D Mannorse extended use can act like a diuretic. I have a dog that is being treated for TCC (cancer of bladder) and is getting this daily.

    • Thanks a lot, Sharon. It would be more difficult, I would imagine, for dogs with paralysis and seeing any symptoms ahead of time. I hope this info helps.

    • Yes I am battling this one…. 🙁 Found this wondering if I could test at home, Will certainly be looking into it, Thanks. I’ve seen D-mannose powder recommended too? Apparently the same effect as cranberry.

  3. Excellent information, thank you! Such easy ways to help prevent UTI’s. My dog had her first (diagnosed) UTI recently and was prescribed meds. Preventing UTI’s in the first place is much preferred!

    • It is dreadful and I was so upset when we were battling chronic ones until we got wiser and knocked them out for good. I wish the same for your dog, Leah. Seems like the females are more prone than males. Is your affected dog a female?

  4. Luckily, Shiner has never had any issues with them but I know they can be a real pain in the butt. Those strips look identical to the ones we used for a urinalysis in the vet clinic. Super easy to use!

  5. Awesome article and I love knowing about the home testing kit! Haley had an infection once that showed up after visiting a friend’s dog that also had an infection. They say they aren’t contagious so to speak, but I still wonder if that was a factor. Thanks for the great information, Carol!

  6. D-mannose works extremely well in preventing UTIs in humans and dogs. You can buy it on Amazon (we use NOW brand); it is the same sugar that makes cranberry effective but it is far more concentrated. If you check the product reviews you will find tips on how to use it. Since it is just a sugar, it is harmless; it even tastes good. E coli bacteria find it very attractive and attach to it and are excreted; it actually draws the bacteria out of hiding in the urinary tract. Here is a clinical trial: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23633128

    It only prevents UTIs that are caused by E. coli, but that is 90 percent of UTIs. It may be helpful in clearing a UTI along with antibiotics. Some people use d-mannose alone to actually cure UTIs, but that is not a proven use and I wouldn’t risk it on my dog.

  7. I have a Cocker that is paralyzed from the waist down. He is such an energetic pup I don’t think he has even noticed. However, he does have to wear a diaper due to the fact that he is constantly dribbling all over the house. We try to expel his bladder but it doesn’t always empty completely. So he gets bladder infections frequently. I’ve been looking into cranberry, but I have a concern about stones. He has had stones once, but I think it might have been the food he was on at the time. We give him homemade food now. Any help would be appreciated.

  8. Very interesting article. Our 4 yr old Cavalier has had several UTI’s over the last 2 yrs. Our vet seems to think that it’s due to a recessed vulva and recommended surgery. I’m definitely going to try this first cause we really hate having to put her though surgery. Worth a shot.

    • Please keep us posted. I know that our last Cocker had this issue and her vet at the time wanted to perform surgery as well.

    • Dawn, I would be interested in hearing how your dog is doing. My puppy has a recessed vulva and the vet has recommended letting her go through one heat cycle to see if it will change. She has had 2 UTI’s already.

  9. Our 12-year old Cavie has recurring UTI’s for which she is prescribed antibiotics (Clavomox, etc.). I’ve just begun administering 200mg of vitamin C twice daily with pumpkin (the pumpkin to, hopefully, prevent any diarreah she may incur from consuming the vitamin C). I’m also giving her “UTI-Free” by PetAlive (administered per instructions on the bottle). UTI-Free is a bit of a pain to give to her because it comes in the form of tiny granules.

    I’m praying that these actions will help her. She’s an old girl and my husband and I really want her final years to be as healthy and happy as possible.

    I’ll keep you posted on the results. Wish us luck! 🙂

  10. I’m back again… This is Christine regarding my Cavie, Lillie’s UTI… Well, it turned out that the vitamin C made her vomit and now I need to get that portion of the rug replaced because the stain will not come out. That’s the bad news. BUT the great news is that I bought “UTI-Free” by “Pet Alive” and it WORKED!!! After just a few days my Lillie is no longer peeing blood! She’s peeing clear urine and not just in tiny amounts. I’m so happy because she’s had recurring UTI’s for many years and now I can give her UTI-Free and not have to take her into the vet for yet more antibiotics (I was always worried that she would become immune to them). Besides, going to the vet always wigs her out so it’s much better (not to mention so much less expensive) to treat her painlessly in the comfort of home.

    The cost of UTI-Free is ~ $27.00 through Amazon.

    The only thing I don’t really like about UTI-Free is that it comes in tiny granules and the instructions are to give one or two pinches two-three times per day. Anyway, it’s kinda hard to pinch those tiny beads. That’s my only complaint but it’s a very minor inconvenience measured against the vast benefits! 🙂

    I hope this info is helpful for those pet parents out there who have a dog (also, UTI-Free works for cats) who have recurring UTI’s.

  11. How do you get a dog to drink plenty though??? I have a young bitch in a diaper, she was paralysed by a spinal infection about six months ago, I have taught her to walk again and she can get about, but not bend her legs yet. She is so averse to drinking water it’s ridiculous. What’s that all about? She gets raw goat milk, and a mix of live yoghurt and water, she was getting chicken stock too, but she’s now on Raw and chicken is off the menu, she was loosing weight and we are trying to build her up. I had to take her to emergency vet today, she was absolutely fine first thing this morning, but by 2pm she was peeing blood. Horrendous. It’s not the first UTI but so far it looks the worst, She was given the cranberry capsules last time and I could NOT get them down her in any form. I just tried again with some yoghurt/water/broken capsule and she looks at me like I am trying to kill her. She needs to drink so badly, but when she is sick she won’t drink at all 🙁 I syringed some mix down her, and she is now sulking!

    If anyone has any suggestions why she wont drink water like a normal dog, I’d love to hear it?

  12. My beagle has a uti caused by e-coli. Should I do anything to clean the yard where she has urinated to prevent re-infection? Let me know. Thanks.

  13. My dog suffered from uti for 5 years. Antibiotics were proving to be ineffective plus side effects were scary. I read about apple cider vinegar. For 4 months she is taking alongwith water and her uti just vanished. I desperately wanted to share this information with other pet parents who are going thru a harrowing time. Give it a try and if the dogs show even slight improvement, stick to it. Don’t always go by what your vet says. Trust ur instincts which is very powerful.

    • Oh my gosh, I want to try this. My poor dog is only four years old and her bladder was full of stones from recurrent uti. I never realized she had these until she started having accidents everywhere. She still has the bacteria in her urine even after antibiotics, and the vet is wanting me to have her urine cultured 3x! Before he starts a new antibiotic, after she’s taken the antibiotic for two weeks, and after she is off antibiotics. It costs over $100 each time. Can you tell me how much apple cider vinegar do you add to the water? Did you have problems with your dog knowing there is something in the water?

  14. My 3 yr 75 lb baby girl……..had gotten a bad UTI and calcium oxylate crystals (too acidic). I started reading and reading for hours online to research. I think it may partially have been something with the high end food too and where it was processed etc.
    In researching I found that if a food is also high in protein and if doesn’t drink alot, this can contribute. Best solution I found to get her to drink more was Canned Tuna fish in “water” not oil. Squeeze the juice out and was a winner. Also, a finger dab of “cream of chicken” soup in a bowl helped alot too. I also got a syringe from the feed store (no needle) and put 1 teaspoon of ACVinegar and water, and gave that to her twice…, one a day. I also had gotten the Siemens Test strips and monitored her pee every morning when concentrated. I ALSO TESTED our tap water and found it was very acidic ! That is something I think people should check. I started keeping the Nestle Pure bottled water available ( Some people get a filter for their dog’s water). She cleared up and did not have to get and stay on that Prescription food that has all the corn and byproducts in it. YUCK!
    Along with alot of praying on my baby girl……..I researched dog foods too and LOTS of consumeraffairs.com reviews. I found one with less protein and less ingredients. Sometimes if an allergy or a kind of reaction to food is present, may take a week or so for it to get out of their system. My baby girl is also itching less and almost hardly at all! BEST home remedy………for us…………is I keep a bottle of the Povidone Iodine on hand always. NOT regular Iodine, has to be Povidone, to not harm them, and is okay if they lick it, but MUST dilute it to the color of tea. I wipe her private area like twice a day to keep away bacteria. If she is itchy or got into something or gets a yeast infection, I wipe her down all over and pat dry. A few times with this works great. I had to dip her paws with it in a bowl and pat dry. It is very inexpensive. Just thought I’d mention that, though not w/ the UTI info. I buy Extra Virgin Organic coconut oil and melt it and wipe her down with it every now and then as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory…….and she loves a little w/ her breakfast. Always buy grain free, as that helps on the UTIs I think, as well as the yeast infections etc. My baby girl has just started playing and coming to life yesterday after months of half energy. She is more alert mentally and happier. I thank God. Hope this info helps someone out there. I always appreciate people sharing their stories and info. Take Care!

    • WOW that is super fantastic, Hershey’s Mom, that you found a system to prevent issues with the urinary tract. We appreciate you sharing here!

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