November 10, 2009
Some common signs of a urinary tract problem include urinating with greater frequency (possibly with little output), straining, frequent licking of the urethra, or urinating outside the litter box. Very concentrated urine or the presence of blood, are also cause for concern. Urinary tract disorders are often extremely painful and require immediate medical attention.
Animal Essentials produces a very nice product called Tinkle Tonic, suitable for an array of urinary tract disorders. A supplement like this can be fed in conjunction with a fresh healthy food such as one of our recipes, to provide pets with a natural, high quality pet food, free of by-products and fillers, and appropriate to their nutritional requirements. All Honest Kitchen foods have a similar, moderate pH (about 5.7 with a target urine pH in normal animals, of around 6.7).
Crystals or stones, infections and incontinence can plague both cats and dogs. A holistic approach to urinary health considers diet, lifestyle and environmental issues, among other things. Indoor pets who may have to endure long periods of time before being allowed out to eliminate, may be more prone to problems. Emotional upset such as a house move can also be unsettling and lead to a reluctance to use the litter tray because of fear of the new surroundings.
Crystals & Stones have two main sub-groups:
Struvite are made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate & develop in urine that is too alkaline.
Calcium Oxalate develop in urine that is too acidic.
Struvite crystals used to be the most common type to affect domestic pets. In response, many pet food manufacturers developed strongly acidifying diets, designed to dissolve the crystals and prevent their future development. However, this trend in pet food formulations is now thought to be partly responsible for the recent increase in calcium oxalate crystals, which occur in urine that is too acidic. The two types of crystals now occur with almost equal frequency.
Recent research indicates that strongly acidic diets do more harm than good. A better approach is to feed only a slightly acidic diet, to give a urine pH of just below neutral. This should not affect or encourage either type of crystals.
Diet – Alternative approaches to prescription diets, for gently acidifying the urine, include supplementation with cranberry extracts or vitamin C. Shellfish are contraindicated for urinary stones and crystals. Rabbit, chicken and garlic are recommended in Chinese medicine. Reduced magnesium is often indicated for animals prone to crystals, although this mineral should never be eliminated completely.
Several cranberry-based supplements are available commercially to help acidify the urine in pets with struvite. Pets who are prone to Calcium Oxalate Crystals can benefit from supplementation with Potassium Citrate granules.
Acupuncture has been shown to have beneficial effects on various types of crystals, since it helps to eliminate stagnation and redress the balance between the kidneys, heart, liver & spleen.
Bladder infections or inflammation (cystitis) may be caused by bacteria and crystals that in turn lead to inflammation of the bladder lining. Antibiotics are almost always recommended in western medicine.
Diet – Increased fluid output is encouraged in western medicine, with diets that create thirst and therefore promote urine formation. A more moderate approach is to increase fluid intake with a natural raw or other moist pet food diet that will help to keep the whole system well hydrated.
Removing grain from the diet is thought to be helpful in combating infections although Barley is recommended in Chinese medicine for dryness in the bladder or kidneys, along with celery and asparagus. The Honest Kitchen offers two diets that are grain-free and ‘Prowl’ our cat food is also be grain free.
Restricting the intake of sweet fruits & vegetables is also recommended when bladder infections occur. There is some disagreement as to whether an acidifying diet helps to combat infection; some veterinarians recommend acidic fruits or supplements since acid is thought to inhibit excess bacterial growth. Cranberries contain a substance that actually prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.
Chinese medicine recommends that shrimp, salmon, trout & venison be avoided. Beef, eggs, rabbit, chicken and pork are indicated, along with potatoes with the skin on, and winter squash.
Increased water intake is ideal for pets prone to urinary tract problems, to help keep the system flushed out and well hydrated. Our foods (which require hydration before serving) provide an excellent way to introduce additional fluids.
Urinary incontinence seems to affect senior female pets more than any others. It tends to affect dogs more than cats. A lack of estrogen or testosterone is thought to be partly responsible.
Diet for Incontinence – oats, chicken and lamb kidney are beneficial foods to strengthen the bladder & kidneys. Kale, chive and parsley can also be sprinkled on the food. Mullein leaf can be steeped in hot water and helps to tone bladder muscles when given in the evening before bedtime.