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Puddles in all the wrong places are more than an inconvenience requiring extra cleanup—they’re possible signs that your cat or dog is experiencing urinary tract or bladder trouble. Here’s help
We’ve all been there: Few ailments impact quality of life quite like the frequent, urgent need to urinate—or that terrible sensation of losing control of your bladder. Dogs and cats feel this keenly, perhaps even more acutely than we do. Is Spot or Fluffy having accidents around the house? If you’re discovering wet spots on bedding and puddles in all the wrong places, it’s more than an inconvenience requiring extra cleanup effort; it’s a warning that your pet may be experiencing a serious health issue: urinary tract and/or bladder trouble. UT/bladder disorders range from infection to incontinence, and can be quite painful. The good news is that some simple measures can safeguard your best friends’ UT/bladder health.
Recognize the Red Flags
Some common signs of UT/bladder trouble: urinating with greater frequency; squatting with little output; eliminating in inappropriate places, e.g., outside the litter box; licking at the urethra, or straining to pee; and making frequent but unproductive trips to the litter box (what may appear to be constipation in cats could actually be a blockage). “Is the pet’s urine dark, concentrated, and foul-smelling, or perhaps there’s blood? Don’t delay; take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible,” says Diane Levitan, DVM, of Peace Love Pets Veterinary Care in Commack, N.Y. “Your animal doctor will treat the underlying cause, whether it’s a stress-related problem, an infection, or stones.”
Walk and Walk Often
Indoor dogs that don’t get enough outings to eliminate are at greater risk for UT/bladder issues. Circumstances sometimes force us to expect dogs to “hold it” for long periods of time. And dogs being sweethearts, they oblige just to please us. But this should never be the norm, as it’s not at all healthy—holding back urine is just as bad for pets as it is for people, causing toxins to build up and weaken the bladder muscles. Bacteria develop in the accumulated urine, which can lead to a urinary tract infection, or an infection of the bladder or kidney. That bacterial buildup can also result in bladder stones.
When urine is held back for long periods over weeks and months, incontinence can develop. Dogs should go out at least three times daily. Arrange to have someone give your dog a relief walk if you can’t. And if you’re taking a road trip, be sure to take dogs out so they, too, get a chance to empty their bladders. As for cats, “Make sure to use a type of litter your cat actually likes,” says Levitan. “This helps keep cats stress-free and happy, which is key to preventing feline lower urinary tract issues.”
Limiting drinking water given to pets is a bad move. Always make sure dogs and cats have easy access to plenty of fresh water.
Dogs are usually not fussy about water, but cats prefer clean, cold water. “Make fresh, cool water available to pets at all times,” says Levitan. “Consider a ceramic fountain that provides plenty of fresh, cool water.” Some pet owners who want to prevent accidents figure they’ll just reduce the amount of drinking water given to their dog or cat, but this is a bad move. Always make sure pets have easy access to plenty of fresh water. Keeping animals hydrated goes a long way toward protecting their urinary and bladder health.
Still, cats get their moisture mainly from food. “One of the best things you can do for cats’ urinary health is to feed them wet food instead of dry,” explains holistic veterinarian Jill Elliot, DVM, based in New York. “Wet food has 80 percent moisture, but dry has only 15 percent—a big difference.” Proper hydration helps keeps pH levels healthy.
An animal’s pH levels should be between 6 and 6.5. Happily, monitoring pH levels got easier thanks to innovations such as Pretty Litter, which changes color to signal abnormal pH levels and urinary tract infections. Adds Elliot, “If the pH goes up to 7, 7.5, or 8, then you know crystals will start forming —so you can make changes to your pet’s diet to lower the pH.”
One way to do this is to supplement with pH-lowering vitamin C. When we humans experience a UT issue, we turn to cranberry, whether in the form of fruit, juice, or a supplement. Cranberry helps tone pets’ urinary tracts, too, and it’s an ingredient of many dog-and cat-food formulations. You can also supplement your pet’s diet with cranberry. However, give your pets only cranberry supplements specifically formulated for animals. “Probiotics can also promote bladder health,” adds Levitan.
For pets experiencing urinary and/or bladder discomfort that confounds conventional treatments, consider veterinary homeopathy. “It works by giving the animal’s system a ‘kick in the pants’ to go fix itself, and it doesn’t interfere with other medications, herbs, or supplements,” explains Elliot, who is trained as a veterinary homeopath. “Cantharis is a very good remedy for urinary-bladder issues,” she says. “It can help to tighten the bladder if the animal is incontinent. Another helpful remedy is Lycopodium clavatum, which has an affinity for the whole urinary tract.”
To read more about homeopathy for animals, Elliot recommends two helpful reference books: Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs by Don Hamilton, and two volumes by George Macleod, Dogs:Homeopathic Remedies and Cats: Homeopathic Remedies. To locate a veterinary homeopath near you, visit the website of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, theavh.org.
Help the (Homeopathic) Medicine Go Down
Whereas we understand how to dissolve homeopathic pellets sublingually, dogs and cats need help. Here’s how to administer homeopathy to pets: “Take three 30c pellets of the remedy and mix them in half a glass of bottled or spring water. Then use a syringe to squirt a small amount into the animal’s mouth,” Elliot says. “Do this once a day for three to four days. Don’t refrigerate the mixture; just cover it with plastic wrap and stir it up when it’s time for the next dose.”