Tips for Maintaining Urinary Tract Health in Dogs

A healthy dog is a happy dog, but urinary tract infections and similar health problems can arise and become serious for many breeds. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), untreated urinary and bladder infections can lead to complications, including fatal diseases like cancer and painful, dangerous kidney infections.

From supporting nutrition to watching for signs of illness, you’ll play a major role in supporting your pet’s urinary health. This guide will help you understand which dogs are at risk for these issues and give you tips to take control, so your pup can live a healthy life. If you feel your dog is experiencing issues with their urinary tract, you should contact your veterinarian for specific advice and treatment.

Why Is Urinary Health in Dogs So Important?

A dog’s urinary system is what processes and removes waste from the body. Problems with their kidneys and bladder mean they can’t effectively remove waste, which can lead to conditions like bladder infections, kidney infections, and bladder stones. If not spotted and treated quickly, these urinary tract issues can turn fatal. 

Which Dogs Commonly Have Urinary Problems?

All dogs can get urinary problems, but some breeds are more susceptible to them. Some of these breeds include:

  • Dalmatians: Dalmatians have a genetic mutation that puts them at high risk for bladder stones.
  • English Bulldogs: English Bulldogs also share the gene mutation that makes them more susceptible to bladder problems
  • Scottish Terriers: This breed has a higher risk of bladder cancer because of a genetic predisposition.
  • Beagles: Their smaller size and genetic makeup also put beagles at risk for bladder cancer.
  • Miniature Poodles: Their small size and genetic makeup increase the risk of bladder stones in miniature poodles.

What Kinds of Urinary Health Problems Exist for Dogs?

There are various dog urinary infections and conditions to be aware of, with bladder cancer being one of the most serious. Here are some of the most common ones: 

Viral Infection

In dogs, viral infections of the urinary tract occur when a virus enters the lower urinary tract through the urethra. This type of infection may develop due to structural abnormalities of the urinary system that prevents normal cleaning. It can also occur due to poor hygiene or care.

Dogs can also suffer from bacterial infections. Both viral and bacterial infections cause the bladder to get inflamed, resulting in pain and sometimes leading to urinary incontinence.

Urinary Stones

Urinary stones occur when minerals in your dog’s urine get too high and build up into hard stones. In dogs, the stones usually grow in the bladder, not the kidneys. Poor diet is often the contributing factor to urinary stones. They can cause complications like obstructions of the urinary system or inflammation and pain.

Crystals

Urinary crystals are similar to urinary stones but have a slightly different makeup. Calcium oxalate crystals develop in dogs that have acidic urine. Struvite crystals are made up of magnesium and occur when urine is alkaline. Both a pet’s diet and overall health can change the pH level of the urine, resulting in the development of crystals.

Urinary crystals often don’t necessarily indicate a bad medical problem. They can simply be a natural part of your dog’s metabolism. However, if they get large enough they can create blockages and turn into larger stones. To test for crystals, a veterinarian will need a fresh urine sample from your pet.

Urinary Incontinence

Some dogs have the inability to hold their urine. Urinary incontinence is a common sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and kidney disease, but it can also indicate other health problems, like diabetes, hormone imbalances, and even behavioral problems. Dogs can develop incontinence simply as a result of old age as well, especially in older female dogs.

If your house-trained dog is suddenly having a lot of accidents or seems to need to urinate frequently, have them checked by your vet right away. Treating the underlying health problems prevent them from getting worse and also helps stop the accidents and messes in your home.

Signs Your Dog May Have Urinary Health Problems

Spotting urinary health problems early is the key to preventing the development of cancerous tumors or other serious conditions. A call to the vet may be in order if you notice the following signs:

Frequent Urination

Frequent urination that isn’t in line with your dog’s normal habits is a common sign of urinary tract disease. However, it can also point to other issues, like diabetes mellitus. For this reason, make sure you consult with your vet right away.

Excessive Thirst

If your dog’s water intake suddenly increases, they may have a urinary tract problem. Excessive thirst can also indicate Cushing’s disease or other issues pet owners need to know about early. If you find that you’re refilling the water bowl with a high level of frequency, you need to have your dog’s health checked out.

Loss of Bladder Control

One of the most common signs of a dog UTI is loss of bladder control in an otherwise perfectly house-trained dog. Loss of bladder control or a constant trickle of urine can also indicate cystitis, which is an inflammation of the bladder. Keep in mind that incontinence is not uncommon with older dogs and may not indicate a health issue, but it’s always best to have your dog checked if you notice a change.

Excessive Licking

When a dog licks a part of their body, they usually have discomfort in that area. Itching and pain can cause them to increase how often they’re licking. Both male dogs and female dogs lick their urethra to keep it clean, but excessive licking usually indicates discomfort or itching.

Treatment

If your dog has a urinary tract infection, your vet will ask for a urine sample to test. Typically, vets will test the urine pH and perform a urine culture to determine the source of the problem. If your vet suspects stones or crystals, X-rays or an ultrasound may be necessary.

This information will determine the vet’s course of treatment. Bacterial infections require antibiotics, and some stones or crystals could require surgery. Pain medication can help your dog feel more comfortable before and after treatment.

Otherwise, your vet will likely recommend a few lifestyle changes to improve your dog’s urinary health, like the ones we cover below. 

Diet and Nutrition

Food is a major component of urinary health, especially for dogs. If your dog’s food is too acidic, their urine will be as well, and the same thing happens if the food is alkaline. 

Sadly, some commercially formulated pet foods are unsuited for pet health. For example, many dry kibble foods include by-products and artificial ingredients that don’t support urinary tract health. 

The good news is that simple dietary changes can make a difference. Support your dog’s health and wellness with the following: 

  • Human grade dog food: Most dog food has filler and chemicals that don’t meet their nutritional needs or promote healthy immune systems in dogs. Human grade pet food, like our natural dog food lineup, provides the nutrients your dog’s body needs to balance pH levels in their urinary system and prevent issues.
  • High-moisture diet: The urinary system depends on hydration to operate correctly. A great place to start when improving your dog’s hydration is actually their food. Adding extra water to their dehydrated food or canned food can increase water intake.

A survey of 6,289 Honest Kitchen customers showed that 40% of pets experienced relief from urinary tract infections while eating The Honest Kitchen pet food.
Interested in seeing what impact healthy food has on your pet?

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Check out a few of The Honest Kitchen’s True Stories related to bladder and urinary tract problems for more on how other pet owners and their pups have been impacted by switching to The Honest Kitchen Products.

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Home Remedies For Your Dog’s Urinary Health

As you help support your dog’s urinary health through better nutrition, you might want to add some supplements, especially if your dog is a breed that’s prone to these issues or has an active infection. Some home remedies to try include these:

  • Cranberries: Cranberry juice or supplements with cranberry extract support urinary health. It naturally treats UTIs and supports better overall urinary health.
  • Echinacea: Echinacea supports immune system function and reduces inflammation, which can help with your pet’s urinary troubles.
  • Uva ursi: This plant supplement reduces bacteria levels in the urine and also fights E. coli bacteria. It prevents urinary stones and can help dissolve those that already exist.
  • Horsetail: This herb treats kidney problems in dogs and can assist with kidney infections.
  • Marshmallow herb: Marshmallow herb soothes inflammation and irritation in the urinary tract and is helpful in supporting urinary health after an infection diagnosis.
  • Nettle: This anti-inflammatory herb reduces inflammation in the urinary system and also helps lower pain levels.
  • Corn silk: The gel-like texture of corn silk soothes irritation in the urinary system. It can also help with incontinence.

While each of these herbs and supplements has proven urinary benefits, always consult with your veterinarian before starting any treatment, including a natural or DIY treatment. 

Help Support Urinary Health With Human Grade Dog Food From The Honest Kitchen

If you want to feed your pet human grade food with wholesome, whole-food ingredients, check out our line of dog foods. Our recipes are crafted with high-quality, thoughtfully sourced ingredients, and never include fillers, artificial preservatives, or other unnecessary ingredients. The end result? Healthy, tasty recipes that help support overall health and wellness.  Browse The Honest Kitchen’s best-selling products to find meals, treats, and supplements your dog will love.

Meet the Author: Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.

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