Urinary Tract Infections (or UTIs) are common in dogs. So it’s important to understand that the cause of your dog’s bladder problem might not be what it seems.
Many bladder issues are purely inflammation … and there’s no bacteria associated with them at all.
This is why giving antibiotics really won’t do anything to help. And antibiotics can cause long term damage … so it’s best to avoid them whenever you can.
To a holistic vet, UTI usually stands for urinary tract inflammation, not infection.
This is important in knowing how to treat bladder issues. But first, let’s talk about the signs of bladder woes.
The typical symptoms of bladder infection or inflammation include:
- Frequent urging to urinate.
- Urine may or may not contain blood. Sometimes you may just seen a little blood at the very end. Other times there might be blood clot. Sometimes it’s hardly noticeable. Getting your dog to pee on a white paper towel is a good way to see if there’s blood present or not.
- You may see your dog licking, sometimes intensely, before she urinates. Or she may lick when she comes back inside the house.
- Inappropriate urination or peeing in the house.
- General restlessness.
- Waking you up a couple of times in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom.
- Trying to pee again right after she’s just peed. You may even see her try a few times and appear to squat or strain a few different ways.
Note: while I’m talking about a female dog in this post … remember, boys can get UTIs too!
How To Know If Your Dog Has A UTI
It’s a good idea to have your holistic vet run a urinalysis to find out what the problem is. Other health issues like …
- Bladder stones
- Certain other metabolic diseases
… can make your dog more susceptible to bladder infections.
Your holistic vet will help to rule out another health issue in your dog.
A Closer Look At Your Dog’s Bladder Health
A fresh urine sample is best for testing.
Try to catch your dog’s first pee of the day before your appointment. A first morning urine sample lets your vet know how well her kidneys work overnight.
So let’s look at the components of the urinalysis, and see what they can show you … in addition to her physical exam, signs of illness, and other lab tests.
No single component seals a diagnosis or treatment. The combined results contribute to the full picture.
1 – Collection Method
The vet clinic will record how you collected your dog’s urine sample, as it can affect some of the results.
When you collect a sample at home in a clean container it collects material from all parts of the urinary tract. In your female dog, this includes the urethra and vulva. In a male dog it includes his urethra and prostate.
It might sound silly but some dogs get a bit of stage fright when you try to catch a sample at home. If this happens to you … your vet can grab a sample for you at her appointment.
Your vet can collect a sterile sample called a cystocentesis. She’ll insert a needle through your dog’s body wall right into her bladder. This may lead to a few red blood cells on her test … but your vet will note that.
Another way to collect urine is with a urinary catheter, although this is usually for male dogs. This also collects urine straight from the bladder.
2 – Color and Clarity
The next step is to record what your dog’s urine looks like. This includes the color and how clear it is. More concentrated urine is more yellow, and debris in the urine makes it cloudy or discoloured.
3 – Specific Gravity
Specific gravity is a test that measures the concentration of your dog’s urine. This test tells your vet more about kidney function too … and it’s why that first morning sample is so important.
4 – pH
The pH level of your dog’s urine is important. It gives an idea of acid-base balance.
If your dog is on a high protein diet she’ll likely have a lower, more acidic pH.
If she has an infection or urinary stones she’ll have a higher, more alkaline urine pH.
5 – Protein
A small amount of protein in your dog’s urine can be normal. But if the test shows a large amount … it could indicate problems in her kidneys, bladder, or lower in the urinary tract.
If your dog does have a high protein level, your vet may run some extra blood tests.
6 – Glucose
You may be familiar with testing sugar levels in the blood … but glucose can also show up in urine. When there’s sugar in the urine, the most common cause is diabetes … but false positive tests can happen.
Kidney disease can also cause glucose in the urine. So your vet will recommend blood tests if glucose shows on the urine test.
7 – Ketones
The liver makes ketones by breaking down fat. Your dog shouldn’t have ketones in her urine. They can appear on a urine test if your dog has been fasting … or it can be a complication of diabetes.
8 – Bilirubin
A small amount of bilirubin in urine may be normal, especially in male dogs. Bilirubin can also appear if there are liver or bleeding problems.
So again, if this comes up on a test your vet will likely do some extra bloodwork.
9 – RBC (Red Blood Cells)
I mentiond earlier that red blood cells can appear if the vet used a needle to collect your dog’s sample. A small amount of RBC can be normal with low grade inflammation.
A larger amount of blood could be mean …
- Severe inflammation
- Kidney disease
- A bleeding disorder
If your vet finds blood she’ll suggest the possible reasons for it, based on the other tests.
10 – WBC (White Blood Cells)
White blood cells indicate the degree of inflammation. Inflammation can occur because of …
- Calculi (crystals or stones)
WBCs can also originate from inflammation of the vulva, prostate, or prepuce. Your vet should take a cystocytensis (needle) sample to find out the source.
If WBCs continue to show up in your dog’s urine, without bacteria … your vet will collect a cystocentesis sample. The lab will culture the sample to see if there are bacterial organisms.
11 – Bacteria
Sometimes bacteria is due to contamination after the sample is collected. This is common if your female dog has a inflammation or infection on her vulva … but it doesn’t mean that her bladder is also infected.
If there is bacteria on a clean or cystocentesis sample than you know it’s real. It’s important to know that not all urinary tract infections shed bacteria in the urine. That’s why your vet may recommend a culture test.
12 – Cells
As well as red and white blood cells. a urine test will screen for other cells.
Most cells seen from the bladder and urinary tract will be normal … but your vet should assess them for signs of any cancerous changes.
13 – Casts
Casts are a group of cells that can stick together in a cast-like shape. There are casts that can be normal but some can also be present if your dog has kidney disease.
14 – Crystals
The urine can get oversaturated with substances that form crystals. Different crystals form because of …
- Disease conditions
- The pH of the urine
- Urine concentration
Crystals can make it more likely for your dog to develop bladder or kidney stones. But they don’t necessarily indicate the presence or type of stone.
I hope this helps you better understand why testing is helpful … even when choosing natural therapies.
Now let’s talk about remedies you can give at home.
Home Remedies for UTIs In Dogs
Now that you know what’s irritating your dog, let’s review some home remedies that can help.
Here are some homeopathic remedies that homeopathic vets Dr Sara Chapman and Dr Dee Blanco recommend. Pick the one that best fits your dog’s symptoms.
This is Dr Blanco’s favorite starting remedy for bladder symptoms that happen fast. It’s good for:
- Burning that comes on violently.
- Frequent desire to urinate but can only pass a few drops at a time.
- Sensitive to touch in the mid-back, over the kidney area.
- Worse with heat or being covered.
- Better with cool air and moving around.
Aconite is a great remedy for a dog who’s been frightened, shocked, or overexcited for some reason. It’s also helpful after a weather change, perhaps if your dog got especially cold.
Aconite can help with common bladder symptoms like:
- Burning (you can tell if your dog gets anxious on beginning to urinate).
- Unproductive or painful urination.
- Brown or brick-red urine.
Nux vomica is a good remedy for many dogs with bladder complaints. It’s great for these symptoms:
- Spasms, cramping or straining to urinate.
- History of exposure to toxins like flea and tick medications.
- Cold natured and not cuddly or wanting to be touched, or even trying to hide away.
- Constipation or any GI issues.
With these symptoms, consider intoxication as the cause and Nux vomica as the go-to remedy for your dog.
Remember, that this a homeopathic remedy, so it isn’t toxic like mercury! And it helps a lot with acute UTIs (when symptoms come on fast), especially when Nux vomica doesn’t work.
There are several Mercurius remedies. Mercurius vivus and Mercurius solubilis are two that are about the same thing, so just choose one or the other and you’ll do fine.
Mercurius is helpful when your dog …
- Has blood in her urine.
- Feels the need to urinate frequently, especially at night. This is the hallmark!!
- Seems to be restlessness, especially at night.
- Is panicked to get out for a pee, or seems distressed.
- Has very strong smelling urine.
- Seems to be thirsty for cold water.
- Has any extreme straining, either for diarrhea or urine. This is a very important sign for Mercurius patients.
These are the major remedies for acute cases. If your dog has recurring or chronic symptoms, you need expert help … so consult a homeopath for alternative remedies. Your homeopath will take your dog’s whole symptom picture into account … not just the UTI issues.
Some herbal options can also provide relief. I’ll get into those soon.
First, let’s chat about how to give your dog these homeopathic remedies.
How To Give Homeopathic Remedies For UTI’s In Dogs
Dr Chapman recommends the following plan for giving these remedies for UTI support.
Step 1- Homeopathic remedies will usually come in pellet form. You’ll want to look for a 30C potency.
Step 2- To prepare your remedy, take about 3 pellets, add them to ½ cup purified water in a glass. Stir it for about 30 seconds. This will leave you with several doses. Don’t refrigerate.
Step 3- For dosing, give a “dribble” off of a spoon, or about 1cc or ml from a dropper or syringe. All you need to do is get some liquid on your dog’s mucous membranes (gums).
- If your dog is suffering a really intense attack, repeat the chosen remedy every 15 minutes for a total of 3 doses.
- For less acute or intense states, repeat 3 times, half an hour apart. Or give a dose 3 times, each an hour apart, if it’s not quite so intense.
- Basically, you just want to stack up a few doses to give your dog a “push.”
- After you’ve dosed 3 times, stop dosing and watch for an hour or so.
- If the symptoms subside, don’t re-dose. Going to sleep is a good response, especially if followed by a lot of urine later on with no issues.
- Store the remaining mixture at room temperature on the counter, covered with a napkin.
- Watch to see how she responds. If the symptom returns, stir it up and give her another dribble.
Tip: In homeopathy, every size dog gets the same dose. It doesn’t matter if you have a Great Dane or a Doxie. What matters is the potency (in this case, 30C), and how often you give the remedy.
Let’s talk about herbs too.
There are a few herbs you can try at home to help soothe your dog’s UTIs.
This is a common weed in North America and is sometimes called quack grass.
According to Herbs for Pets by Gregory L Tilford and Mary L Wulff … it’s also a go-to for urinary tract problems.
Couch grass is an anti-inflammatory, mild antimicrobial and pain soother. It’s also a diuretic, which means it can help encourage waste elimination.
Dosing Couch Grass For Your Dog’s UTI:
Give couch grass as a cooled decoction you can make yourself.
- Simmer a heaping teaspoon of the chopped dried root in 8 oz of water for 20 minutes.
- Cool and strain the liquid.
- Use a dropper or teaspoon to place in your dog’s mouth (1/2 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily).
- You can also add it to your dogs’s drinking water.
- Make sure to find an organic or pesticide-free herb.
Parsley leaf is another diuretic that can help with UTIs. This is because of its antiseptic properties … plus it’s easy to give your dog.
Dosing Parsley Leaf For Your Dog’s UTI:
- Tilford and Wulff recommend juicing parsley leaf in a vegetable juicer.
- Feed the juice at 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of your dog’s body weight.
- It’s best to give it directly by mouth and on an empty stomach.
- You can added it to her drinking water if she won’t let you give it directly.
Cranberry And Methionine
Nancy Scanlan DVM CVA likes to use cranberry and the amino acid methionine for treating UTI’s.
She finds that the combination of the two works as an effective antibiotic.
Dosing Methionine For Your Dog’s UTI:
- 100mg twice daily for small and medium dogs
- 200mg twice daily for larger dogs
Dr Scanlan also recommends testing your pet’s urine with litmus paper strips. This helps make sure it’s slightly acidic (6 to 6.5). If it’s above this range, increase the methionine to 3 times daily.
Dosing Cranberry Extract For Your Dog’s UTI:
- 100 milligrams can be given to small dogs
- 200 milligrams for medium dogs
- 300 milligrams for large dogs
- 400 milligrams for giant breeds
Dr Scalan recommends giving these doses 3 times daily.
What About Antibiotics For Dog UTIs?
At the top of this post I mentioned that antibiotics can be harmful. The truth is, they shouldn’t be part of your holistic vet’s plan at all.
If your vet does recommend antibiotics as a first step, ask her why. A holistic vet who prescribes antibiotics isn’t really holistic!
And unless your dog is severely septic from a kidney infection and needs to be hospitalized … you’re going to want to politely say “No thank you.”
Antibiotics are vastly overused in the human and veterinary fields. Overuse has led to more drug resistant bacteria, as well as drug reactions.
And remember, antibiotics don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. They kill all bacteria!
If you do choose to give antibiotics, you’ll need to also give pre and probiotics to replace the good bacteria. You’ll need to continue this support for at least a week after your dog finishes her course. Some dogs will need on-going support for life! Research shows the gut never truly recovers from antibiotic damage.[Related: 3 Ways To Clean Up Antibiotic Damage In Your Dog]
So don’t forget you have great natural options for UTIs!
Be confident that you can help your dog naturally at home if she develops any UTI symptoms.