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Does your pet have problems urinating?

Cats and dogs, like people, may end up with problems with their “waterworks”. Urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, toileting in the wrong place or blood in the urine are just some of the problems vets see.

What signs might alert you that your dog or cat has a waterworks problem? You may notice your dog making several attempts to pee (not to be confused with normal marking behaviour, which is usually preceded by sniffing other dogs’ “emails”). Sometimes you will notice that your pet’s urine is a darker colour than usual, or may have some blood clots or a strong smell. Dogs that are toilet trained may urinate inside or wet their bed. Cats may urinate outside of their litter trays. Cats and dogs may lick their genital area more obsessively than usual.

If your pet is showing any of these signs, it is important they have a vet check. Ideally, take in a urine sample. (You can ask when you make your appointment how best to collect this.) A urine check will help your vet detect a bacterial infection or alert them to the presence of crystals or possible bladder stones, or an underlying metabolic problem that may also affect their “waterworks” (like diabetes or kidney disease).

You can also encourage drinking by offering flavoured drinks. My favourites are diluted spring water from cans of tuna, home-made low-salt chicken broth and just boiled water poured over dried liver treats and cooled.

Your dog or cat may need some conventional treatment. It’s important to treat bacterial infections with the correct antibiotic to prevent more serious consequences like kidney infections or bladder stones. However, in addition to this, we can use natural remedies both to help your pet cope with the treatment and help prevent recurrence. Discuss these options with your vet to ensure they are suitable for your dog or cat.

I always recommend increasing liquids, especially fresh water. Liquids will help flush out infections, support the kidneys and reduce the chances of crystals forming. Make sure your pet has easy access to water; this is especially true for older pets. Old dogs may be reluctant to walk all the way outside to drink, so provide water near their favourite bed.

Even so, some dogs — and especially cats — do not seem to drink much. Try adding extra water to their food. Feed wet foods instead of dry (or add water to dry if your pet must eat a prescribed dry food). You can also encourage drinking by offering flavoured drinks. My favourites are diluted spring water from cans of tuna, home-made low-salt chicken broth and just boiled water poured over dried liver treats and cooled.


Dogs and cats with bladder stones or urine crystals may be on a prescribed diet to try to dissolve crystals. Do not change this without consulting your vet. It is possible, under veterinary guidance, to formulate home-made “wet and fresh” diets to work in the same way. For cats, diets using fresh red meat are used to help acidify urine and prevent struvite crystals from forming. Make diet changes slowly. Your pet will need frequent urine checks to ensure the diet is working.

Cranberry (Vaccinum macrocarpon) extract has a reputation for treating cystitis. Studies have shown that consumption of cranberry juice reduced the recurrence of urinary tract infections in women. It is believed it has the capacity to reduce the adherence of bacteria like E coli to the bladder wall. We do not usually recommend cranberry juice for our pets because it’s too high in sugar but high-quality extracts of cranberry can be used, mixed in food. Cranberry is safe to use in dogs and cats though it may not be ideal for pets with urate or calcium oxalate bladder stones. Check with your vet.

Other herbs that may help with urinary tract infections include: marshmallow (Althaea officinalis, a demulcent and emollient), crataeva (Crataeva nurvala, a bladder tonic and anti-inflammatory) and cornsilk (or Zea mays, a urinary demulcent and mild diuretic) as well as some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal formulae. Ask your holistic vet for an appropriate combination of herbs for your pet.

Urinary incontinence can occur in older desexed female dogs due to a hormone imbalance. Some of these girls will require treatment with low doses of synthetic oestrogen. However, we find many respond to acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments and appropriate TCM herbal formula, so it’s worth exploring these treatments first.

Stress and anxiety are known to predispose to cystitis, especially in cats. I have known cats to pee blood on the way home after a stressful visit to the vet! Male cats showing signs or straining to urinate need to be checked by your vet immediately because a urine blockage in a male cat can be life threatening.

We use combinations of Bach Flower Essences as well as lifestyle changes (increased litter trays, security in the household especially where there are multiple cats, environmental enrichment) to help reduce stress in these kitties.

Probiotics will help support large bowel health, especially during or after treatment with antibiotics. I try not to give probiotics at the same time of the day as antibiotics. Use long term in pets prone to recurring infections.

Karen Goldrick

Karen Goldrick

Karen Goldrick is a holistic veterinarian at All Natural Vet Care, Russell Lea, Sydney, Australia.

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