Inflammation, bacterial infection, crystal and/or stone formation and incontinence can plague both cats and dogs. Stress, genetics, diet and elimination schedules may contribute to poor urinary tract health. 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. While urinary tract health can often be maintained and mild inconsistencies can be relieved with nutrition and complementary modalities, urinary tract disorders are often extremely painful and may require immediate medical attention.

A holistic approach to urinary health considers diet, herbs, lifestyle and environmental issues as ways to prevent and treat mild imbalances in the urogenital system. Below are several recommendations for maintaining urinary tract health and complementary treatment of specified urinary tract disorders.

Inflammation (Urinary Cystitis)

Urinary Cystitis is the most common urinary tract disorder in both dogs and cats.  It is usually caused by stress and affects females more than males.  Stress often leads to changes in diet or eating and elimination routines with can disrupt normal urinary tract performance.

Treatment consists primarily of modifying the environment to help reduce stress levels (such as massage therapy, stimulation play, toys and/or furniture, compression shirts and vests, creating solitary places in the home and  decreasing noise and activity), dietary modifications, medications for pain, and other neutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals that may alter your cat’s mental state or maintain urogenital homeostasis.

Diet should consist of moist, protein rich/grain free{low carbohydrate} ingredients.  Dry kibble is high in carbohydrates and fillers and is stripped of moisture and is not recommended for a regular diet.  Supplements that contain L-Theanine and Tryptophan can be added to the diet to help relieve stress.

Crystals and Stones

Crystals and stones have two main sub-groups. Struvite crystals  are made up of magnesium ammonium phosphate & develop in urine that is too alkaline.Calcium Oxalate crystals develop in urine that is too acidic.

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.

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 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 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.  Restricting the intake of sweet fruits & vegetables is also recommended when bladder infections occur.

Herbs- 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. Some may recommend Cranberry as it contains a substance that actually prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.

Uva-ursi leaf tea (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) makes this member of the Heath family even more astringent than cranberry juice so it often serves as a better choice in cases with minor bleeding in the urine. And, unlike cranberry juice, uva-ursi doesn’t acidify the urine, meaning that it is more appropriate for use in animals with low pH (high acid) urine. Plus, uva-ursi contains a natural chemical compound called arbutin, which, in a high-acid urinary tract, chemically transforms into a very effective antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medicine. However, the tannin constituents of Uva-ursi are too strong to use continuously for more than a couple of days, and animals with pre-existing kidney disease should not use it all.

Demulcent herbs, which serve to protect, lubricate, and soothe inflamed tissues may prove useful, too, especially in cases where irritation is constantly aggravated by the presence of calculi (stones, crystals, or “gravel”) in the urine. A good choice is marshmallow root. Marshmallow contains an assortment of antimicrobial and immune-stimulating compounds especially well suited to urinary tract applications in most types of domestic animals.  It also relieves pain associated with the passage of urinary calculi. Please remember, though, if you suspect that your animal has stones, see a vet — your companion’s condition could be quite serious.

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.


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 and hormone replacement therapy may be recommended.

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.

Herbs-Mullein leaf can be steeped in hot water and helps to tone bladder muscles when given in the evening before bedtime.

If you suspect that your pet may have urinary tract dis-ease, please see your veterinarian. An examination and tests used to diagnose urinary tract disorders are highly recommended before treatment of any kind.  If you prefer to integrate more natural remedies, discuss this with your veterinarian.  Most natural modalities are complementary to western medicine, but contraindications may occur.

Source: Carly Perry, City Veterinary Hospital, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Love, The PetsWell Team

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