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Prevention of Lower Urinary Tract Infection

April 2011

Lower urinary tract (bladder) infections are not unusual in our canine companions and there are some steps that we can take as owners to decrease the incidence. 1) We know that females are more predisposed than males due to their shorter and larger urethra. This means that bacteria have a larger doorway to get it and not as far to travel to get to the bladder, but that is normal anatomy and there is nothing that we can do to change it. 2) We also know that indoor dogs are more likely to have infection than outdoor dogs. The reason for this is simple frequency of bladder emptying. Keeping the bladder empty discharges the bacteria before they can set up shop in numbers. So holding urine for long periods of time as indoor dogs do, means they are more likely to end up with a bladder infection. Some dogs are really great indoors and will routinely hold their urine for 13 hours or more, but this means they are much more likely to end up with infection. Cold winter months can make this even worse, since some dogs do not want to go out. Some of our canine companions have even learned to fake it by going out, assuming the position and then running back to the door, but not actually emptying the bladder. For good bladder health, make sure your pet goes outside frequently, even if they do not ask, and make sure they actually urinate. 3) Water intake is also important for good bladder health. Make sure that there is always plenty of fresh water available. Increasing water intake will help increase urine production which in turn helps to flush the bacteria out of the bladder. 4) Weight management also plays a role. Being overweight , particularly in females, will cause skin folds to form and enclose around the vulva area. This results in this area being constantly moist from urine and an ideal environment for bacteria. The bacteria then migrate from the skin to the bladder. Proper weight management along with keeping the vulva area clean and dry will help decrease the incidence of bladder infection. With longer haired dogs, we should also be sure to keep the hair in the vulva area clipped short and free of hair mats. 5) Finally, other diseases such as diabetes, Cushing's disease, and hypothyroidism can also increase the risk of bladder infections.

Urinary tract infections will change the pH of the urine and predispose the pet to the development of microscopic crystals in the urine. In less than 2 weeks these crystals can come together to form larger stones in the bladder and sometimes the kidneys. The bladder infections alone or in the presence of stones are very uncomfortable to quite painful for our canine companions.

Occasionally some pets have chronic reoccurrences of urinary tract infections and/or stones in spite of our best efforts. In these cases there are specially formulated foods for prevention that have natural anti-inflammatory components, low magnesium, phosphorus and calcium as well as components to modify urinary pH. The specific food recommended by your veterinarian should be based on your pet’s individual test results (urinalysis and/or stones). In addition, feeding either canned food or watered down dry food to increase water intake helps flush out the bladder and, therefore, decrease the incidence of bladder infection and stones.

Keeping an eye on your pet’s urination habits will help with early detection. Pets that are suddenly urinating in the house, asking to go outside more frequently, urinating in small frequent amounts, paying unusual attention to the vulva or penile areas, have increased water intake or an unusual colour or smell to the urine have symptoms of a urinary infection. A pet may have many of these symptoms or none at all. Some do an excellent job of hiding their illness...it is after all survival of the fittest. If you suspect that your canine companion may have a urinary tract infection, get him or her checked out and treated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.