Urinary tract problems are some of the most commonly reported ailments in both cats and dogs, affecting pets of all ages and genders. Here’s what you need to know to treat your pet’s UTI through diet and nutrition.
What is a UTI?
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a general term for a painful infection that is usually caused by bacteria entering the urethral opening. This can result in crystals or stones in the bladder, incontinence, or bacterial infections. Unfortunately, UTIs tend to be a recurring illness, and common ailments like diabetes can increase your pet’s risk, which is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms and know how to treat them and help prevent them.
Your dog or cat may benefit from a special diet for UTIs if he or she has had any of the following symptoms:
- Pain or difficulty urinating
- Lack of urination or very frequent urination
- Incontinence or housebreaking / litter box problems
- Bloody, bad smelling, or cloudy urine
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Over-grooming / excessive licking of the urinary opening
If you suspect your pet has a UTI, particularly if he or she seems to be in pain, see your vet immediately! Bladder infections can become serious and even fatal very quickly. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose a UTI after a physical, blood work, and/or a urinalysis.
Treating and Preventing a UTI with Diet and Nutrition
The primary course of treatment for a UTI is antibiotics. Always be sure your pet completes the entire course, even if the infection seems to have cleared up.
But there are also ways you can shorten the duration of the illness and help prevent it from returning in addition to medications.
- Switch your pet to a canned food, which has a much higher water content than dry food, and can help promote and increase your pet’s water intake. Increasing water intake will help dilute your pet’s urine and keep the bladder system flushed out and healthy.
- Always give your pet access to clean, fresh water. A pet fountain with filtered, aerated water may encourage your pet to drink more frequently. You could also encourage water consumption in cats by slipping something like a little tuna water into the water bowl.
- If the UTI is not caused by stones, cranberry extract, which contains Vitamin C, hippuric acid, and antioxidants, may help balance the bladder’s PH and may decrease the inflammation in the bladder wall. However, steer clear of this if your pet has stones, as too much Vitamin C may increase the problem.
- Bromelain is an enzyme often derived from pineapple that may improve the effectiveness of some antibiotic treatments—check with your vet if this useful for the antibiotics you’re using.
- Feed your pet a high quality food without fillers or unnecessary additives to keep their immune system strong.
- If you leave your pet’s dry food out in the “free feeding” style, be sure the bowls are clean and regularly throw out any old leftover food at the bottom of the bowl to prevent bacteria or mold from growing and being ingested by your pet.
Many pet food brands now have lines specifically promoting good urinary tract health, which will contain some of the above supplements. Read the labels carefully before giving your pet additional supplements to avoid overdoses of vitamins and nutrients.
Another Possible Cause for Urinary Tract Problems in Cats
For cats, many urinary tract issues, such as bloody urine or straining to urinate, are caused by a disease called interstitial cystitis, and not by an infection. Interstitial cystitis should be treated with increased water consumption and an increase in salty foods. The salt will help with water absorption and will soothe the bladder wall.
Be sure to take your cat to the veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.