Bladder infections can be terribly painful and lead to bladder stone formation – these stones can cause pain when attempting to urinate, can get stuck in the urethra (especially in male cats), and need to be surgically removed. Surgical correction of bladder stone or blockage is very expensive and our pets can die from complications. What can we do to treat and then prevent recurrences of bladder infection in our dogs and cats?
- feed a meat-based diet
- consider long-term support with nutraceuticals or herbs
- consider veterinary spinal manipulation therapy
- full bladder workup
- ignore it
- use leftover medication from some other infection
- stop medication early
The best way to prevent a bladder infection is to have acidic urine. Protein makes acidic urine. Sadly, most foods we feed our dogs and cats are based on corn – none of us eat corn for its protein value, we eat it because it tastes great with butter and salt at our picnic. As our pets are carnivores, they really need to eat meat. Meat should be the number one ingredient in their food, not corn. Another important food requirement is very low in grains, no by-products (we wouldn’t eat them) and preferably be human-grade ingredients. Most prescription diets meant to prevent bladder infections use chemicals to acidify the urine, not meat protein. And, these foods are really high in carbohydrates – which makes all species plump. Consider raw food or home-prepared food to really give great nutrition to your pets.
Nutraceuticals and herbs work to acidify the urine which inhibits bacterial growth. A common nutraceutical is cranberry extract. A pure extract without fillers is a power packed pill of prevention. Many herbal blends have been used by herbalists for centuries to treat bladder infections. While regular antibiotics work much faster, the herbal blends are great at prevention and don’t damage intestinal bacteria which happens with antibiotics. Cranberry and herbs can be taken long term.
Bladder infections are more common in female dogs than males, while it is about the same ratio in cats, and infections are more common in older patients in general. Female dogs get more infections because their urethras are shorter than in males. There is not a lot of difference in urethra length in male cats vs females. Older patients have weaker immune systems than the young, so the older pet’s body won’t mount an immune response as well as in our younger pets. In addition, our older four-legged friends may have a bit of arthritis. This makes it harder to get a really good posture to fully empty the bladder. Urine retention is a huge cause of bladder infections. For this reason, vsmt helps our furry friends move better, posture better, empty their bladders fully and may even have secondary benefits of improving the immune system by improving overall body function.
Do a full bladder workup, especially if the bladder infection returns. Hopefully, if the infection comes back, it’s just another bladder infection. But, it could be a stone, or diabetes. Don’t wait to test and find out. By the second infection, it’s time to check for stones and perhaps run a culture and sensitivity to identify the bacteria at the lab. This way, your veterinarian knows exactly what bug is present and what antibiotic will work to get rid of this infection. And if the infection comes back, it may be an indication of something predisposing our friend to the infection – like diabetes; therefore, blood work is highly recommended by the second infection, if it wasn’t performed the first time. Ideally, a full urinalysis should be performed with every bladder infection to rule out diabetes – sometimes the bladder is empty or the patient too cranky to make it an easy feat to collect urine. By the second infection – no excuses, it has to be done.
Bladder infections don’t go away with time. Tinkle accidents are a signal of a problem, and if the accidents increase in frequency, and especially if there is blood, it’s time to act. The longer the infection is present, the more likely the presence of a stone. Bladder infections start as a few bacteria growing – these are great places for salt in the urine to anchor, forming first crystals, then stones. Crystals alone are enough to plug up a male cat. In females and male dogs, the crystals may still pass in the urine, but as the crystals continue to coalesce, a stone is made – then the bladder becomes truly angry. Angry bladders lead to urinating what looks like pure blood – this is terribly alarming to the pet parent.
Some medication is very specific and goes to the bladder, while others do not. Some medication treat bacteria common in bladder infections, some do not. Be sure to use medication that is specific to your pet's condition.
Medical experience has shown doctors and veterinarians that it takes weeks, not days, to fully treat a bladder infection. Stopping medicine when the urine becomes clear does not guarantee all bacteria are gone.
Remember that in order to prevent bladder infections in cats and dogs, these carnivorous animals need a meat-based diet to maintain acidic urine. Consider another prevention method in the form of supplementation with herbs or nutraceuticals such as cranberry extract, which is safe to take long term. Veterinary spinal manipulation therapy can also help your pet posture itself better to empty the bladder more fully. This decreases its chances of a painful bladder infection. A full bladder workup provides your vet with valuable information, and it’s an absolute must with an infection that has returned for the second time. Don’t stop medication early, don’t use leftover medication from a different infection and never ignore an infection. Treatment will take weeks, not days. But, by addressing the infection head-on with the full, prescribed course of treatment and using prevention methods to address the root causes, you can properly treat the infection and prevent its return.