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 from inflammation … there’s no bacteria associated with them at all.
That’s why giving antibiotics won’t do much to help. And because antibiotics can cause long term damage … 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 to help you treat bladder issues. But first, let’s talk about the signs of a UTI in dogs.
Symptoms Of UTIs In Dogs
The typical symptoms of bladder infection or inflammation include:
- Frequent urge to urinate.
- Urine may or may not contain blood. Sometimes you may see a little blood at the very end. Other times there might be a blood clot. Sometimes it’s hardly noticeable. Getting your dog to pee on paper towels is a good way to see if there’s blood present or not.
- You may see your dog licking before she urinates. Or she may lick when she comes back inside the house.
- Inappropriate urination or accidents 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 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 can make your dog more susceptible to bladder infections …
Your holistic vet will help to rule out any other health issues in your dog.
A Closer Look At Your Dog’s Bladder Health
A fresh urine sample is best for testing.
On the day of your appointment, try to catch your dog’s first pee of the day. A first morning urine sample lets your vet know how well her kidneys work overnight.
There’s no single component of a urinalysis that confirms a diagnosis or treatment. The combined results contribute to the bigger picture.
Let’s look at the components of the urinalysis and see what they can show you …
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 the 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 method 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.
The more concentrated urine is the yellower it will be. 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.
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.
A small amount of protein in your dog’s urine can be normal. But if the test shows a large amount … it could mean there are problems in her kidneys, bladder, or lower urinary tract.
If your dog does have a high protein level, your vet may run some extra blood tests.
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.
Bilirubin forms when red blood cells break down.
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 mentioned earlier that red blood cells (RBC) 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.
But a larger amount of blood could be mean …
If your vet finds blood she’ll suggest the possible reasons for it, based on other tests.
10. WBC (White Blood Cells)
White blood cells (WBC) show 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. If there are WBCs, your vet should take a cystocentesis (needle) sample to find out the source.
If WBCs continue to show up in your dog’s urine, without bacteria … your vet will collect more cystocentesis samples. The lab will culture the sample to see if there are bacterial organisms.
Sometimes bacteria is due to contamination after the sample’s collected. This is common if your female dog has inflammation or an infection on her vulva. It doesn’t mean that her bladder is also infected.
If there’s 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.
A urine test will screen for other cells.
Most cells in the bladder and urinary tract will be normal … but your vet should assess them for signs of any cancerous changes.
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.
The urine can get oversaturated with substances that form crystals. Crystals form because of …
- Disease conditions
- The pH of the urine
- Urine concentration
Your dog may develop bladder or kidney stones from crystals … but the presence of crystals doesn’t mean there are stones. And they won’t show the type of stone if there’s one.
3 Herbal Remedies for UTIs In Dogs
Now that you know what’s irritating your dog, let’s review some home remedies that can help.
Homeopathic vets Dr Sara Chapman and Dr Dee Blanco recommend a handful of remedies. Learn more about these homeopathic remedies and dosing instructions.
For homeopathic remedies, you may need expert help … so consult a homeopath for alternative remedies. A homeopath will take your dog’s overall health into account … not only the UTI issues.
There’s also many herbal remedies to choose from. These are more approachable if you aren’t comfortable administering homeopathic remedies.
These are a few herbs you can try at home to help soothe your dog’s UTIs.
1. Couch Grass
Couch grass 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 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.
How To Give Your Dog Couch Grass For UTIs
- 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 dog’s water.
- Make sure to find an organic or pesticide-free herb.
2. Parsley Leaf
How To Give Your Dog Parsley For UTIs
- Tilford and Wulff recommend you juice 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 by mouth and on an empty stomach.
- You can add it to her water if she won’t let you give it by mouth.
3. 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.
How To Give Your Dog Methionine For UTIs
- 100 mg twice daily for small and medium dogs
- 200 mg 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.
How To Give Your Dog Cranberry For UTIs
- 100 mg for small dogs
- 200 mg for medium dogs
- 300 mg for large dogs
- 400 mg for giant breeds
Dr Scalan recommends giving these doses 3 times daily.
What About Antibiotics For A UTI In Dogs?
At the top of this post, I mentioned that antibiotics can be harmful. And that’s why 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 a real holistic vet!
And unless your dog’s severely septic from a kidney infection and needs to be hospitalized … you’re going to want to say “No thank you.”
Antibiotics get 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 also want to give pre and probiotics. This will 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.
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.