by Christine Bessent, DVM
It’s a scary experience to rush your cats to the vet clinic because they cannot urinate. The thoughts “Will they need surgery” and “Are they going to make it?” flash through your head. It’s important to know what kind of dietary and supplemental options are on the market to help keep your pet’s bladder and urinary tract healthy.
It’s quite common for dogs and cats, especially male, neutered cats, to experience urinary and bladder infections during their lifetime. According to Dr. Chris Bessent, veterinarian and founder of Herbsmith Inc., they may experience crystals in the urine and recurrent bladder infections, as well as the incidence of bladder stones.
How Do You Know?
But how does a pet owner know when their dog or cat is struggling with a bladder or urinary tract infection?
Pets with urinary and bladder infections exhibit symptoms such as straining or messing in the house, said Greenfield, Wisconsin veterinarian Dr. Jim Work. However, Work pointed out that just because an animal is messing in the house does not guarantee they have an infection. Bringing the animal into the vet to do a urine test is necessary to unearth the true cause.
A pet with a bladder or urinary infection may also exhibit blood in their urine. In severe cases, your dog or cat may appear listless, inactive, and may even show signs of pain and moaning.
The unfortunate side of bladder and urinary tract infections is that there is no conclusive proof to show reason for these crystals in the urine and inflammation in the bladder. “Holistic veterinarians speculate that it’s from high carbohydrate diets,” Bessent said.
You Are What You Eat!
Chinese food energetics emphasize the idea, “you are what you eat.” High grain carbohydrate diets are speculated to promote inflammation in the bladder and play a role in the occurrence of crystals in the urine, creating what Chinese theorists would call “damp heat,” Bessent said.
From a Western perspective, damp heat is equivalent to this inflammation as well as changes in the pH of the urine.
According to Bessent, cats were originally carnivorous animals that lived primarily on meat and only picked at veggies and berries, while dogs lived as scavenger carnivores. Holistic veterinarians concur that high grain diets are not the optimal choice for cats or dogs.
Steps to Take
Luckily, there are steps pet owners can take to attempt to ward off bladder and urinary tract infections.
On the holistic side, Bessent recommends dogs are provided with plenty of water as well as a low carbohydrate diet. Low carb diets are also recommended for cats as well as adding moist food to their diet. Raw food diets are one alternative for people seeking low grain diets for their pets.
For those coming from a Western perspective or who are nervous feeding raw diets, it is important to choose the correct food for your pet. According to Work, the key to bladder and urinary health is good nutrition. Work recommends feeding only the premium fixed-diet foods.
Additionally, prescription diets can be helpful, but Bessent said they may not be sustainable long-term and supplements could be needed.
Supplements As An Option
Wisconsin resident Tracy Marconnet struggled with urinary issues with two of her cats. Her female cat struggled with crystals in the urine and experienced straining and blood in the urine. After multiple trips to her regular veterinarian to obtain a sterile urine sample, her cat was placed on amitriptyline, a drug primarily used as an anti-depressant for humans.
“She became very subdued and flat with no personality,” Marconnet said.
For pets that experience bladder and urinary issues such as Marconnet’s kitty, a supportive supplement is especially beneficial. A form of herb called dianthus is especially helpful in treating painful and difficult urination, in addition to d-mannose and cranberries.
Cranberry extract is essential for urinary health. Cranberries are acidic and contain bacteria-blocking compounds that are helpful in preventing UTIs. They decrease the ability for bacteria to adhere to the bladder wall so that pets are able to push the bacteria out of their system. D-Mannose is a simple sugar that works in a similar way to cranberries by also decreasing the ability for bacteria to adhere to the bladder wall.
Gardenia and licorice are also important ingredients in a bladder and urinary supplement because they have a cooling nature, which Chinese theory considers beneficial to treating the damp heat in the bladder.
After three years of giving amitriptyline to her cat, Marconnet was able to slowly switch her female cat over to a raw diet and start feeding supportive herbs including dianthus.
“Her inner kitty came out,” Marconnet said. “She had personality and greeted us at the door. She started curling up in our laps.”
Marconnet’s cat never had a recurrence, and she is still using herbs. She also had positive results when using the dianthus with her male cat. Marconnet was ecstatic to wean her kitties off prescription drugs and onto herbal alternatives.
Place your pet’s diet as a top priority when considering bladder and urinary health, and remember there are herbal remedies available to help your pet feel more comfortable so that you in turn can rest at ease.
Christine Bessent, DVM, is the owner and founder of Herbsmith Inc. She created Herbsmith Inc. as a way to provide impeccable quality herbal supplements for pets. Dr. Bessent has been a practicing Veterinarian for nearly 25 years in Southeast Wisconsin, most of which as a Holistic Veterinarian.
University Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu