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Urinary bladder infections in dogs - What you need to know

Urinary bladder infections in dogs - What you need to know

Why natural treatments need to be paired with antibiotics

Urinary tract and, especially bladder infections are relatively common, especially in female dogs. One would assume that diagnosis and treatment are quite trivial. However, many dog infections are either missed or misdiagnosed.

Preventing errors during sample collection 

Most urine samples in dogs are collected by free flow, which in translation means sneaking behind your pooch, catching a sample in a collection jar and getting your hand pee’d on.

This would not be a problem except that the canine private parts (vulva and prepuce) and the skin around the orifices has a naturally high number of bacteria.
This results in a high probability of sample contamination. Urinary bladder infection diagnosis is usually established by the presence of white blood cells and bacteria in the urine. However, if you collect a sample by free flow, white blood cells and bacteria may come from around the orifices, and the bladder itself can be healthy and infection free.
    What is the solution?

    If you collect a urine sample for a routine (for example for an annual exam) it is ok to collect by a free flow method.

    However, if the results come back with the presence of white blood cells and bacteria, it is much more appropriate to collect a second sample by cystocentesis (from the bladder using a needle) and perform second urinalysis and also urine culture. 

    4 reasons to do a urine culture:
    1. Your dog has had bacteria and white blood cells in both - free flow and cystocentesis.
    2. Your dog has no visible bacteria or white blood cells on cystocentesis sample but urinates frequently.
    3. Your dog has been diagnosed with kidney disease.
    4. Your dog is incontinent, leaks urine when resting or sleeping.

    Why is culture important when no bacteria is seen under the microscope? In my practice, I have often seen test results that show no bacteria in microscopy and culture coming back positive.

    Is there a way of treating urinary tract infections holistically without antibiotics?

    While I am a big proponent of a drug-free approach to medicine and healing, it is my experience that completely curing a urinary tract infection without the antibiotics is hard. I often see other practitioners trying homeopathy, cranberry extracts and other supplements, but while these are great adjunctive treatments, bacteria does not give up that easily.

    The main problem is that recurrent or incompletely treated bladder infections can lead to hard to treat chronic infections or even renal failure and I don’t like to take such risks.

    Unlike anti-inflammatory meds and steroids that are almost never used in my practice, antibiotics can protect your dog from unnecessary lengthy complications and usually do not cause any significant long-term side effects (unlike steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

    What is better - longer or shorter treatment?
    If your dog has never had a urinary tract infection, it is very likely that a two week prescription from your local veterinarian will be enough. If your dog has had a recurrent problem, I suggest that you treat with antibiotics for at least three weeks and use the following supportive treatment:
    Supportive treatment for urinary bladder infection
    1. Give a high-quality probiotic to reduce the side effects of antibiotic treatment. Probiotics are also known for optimizing the immune system's function and reducing the likelihood of bacterial infections. 
    2. Add a cranberry extract in the amount of 20mg/kg (10mg/lb). While there are still contravening opinions as to whether cranberry extract reduces infections or not. I feel that the results depend on how severe the problem is. If your dog has repeated urinary tract infections, adding cranberry extract may reduce the chances of recurrence. However, it is unlikely that it will eliminate a UTI on its own.
    3. Ensure that your dog gets all natural essentials such as vitamins and minerals. This will improve the overall general health and resistance to infections. If you dog has urinary crystals or stones - read this article here.
    4. Feeding your dog all natural raw or cooked meat will also increase the chances of better health.
    Why are female dogs more likely to suffer from UTI?

    There are two main reasons - the urinary tract anatomy in general and the fact that female dogs urinate in the hair surrounding the vulva, which promotes bacterial growth. If your dog has long hair and or a small vulva that is hidden in the skin fold and is prone to bladder infections, I suggest that you clip the hair every two weeks and wash the private area with water, dry it with a towel and apply healing Skin Spray to reduce the amount of bacteria.

    Why can bladder infections be related to lumbar and sacral injuries?

    I often mention in my articles that back injuries, sprain and congestion can lead to organ weakness and disease. The urinary bladder is no different. It receives the energy, blood and nerve supply from the caudal lumbar and sacral region, and if these are weak or misaligned, the weakened bladder will be more prone to infections. If your dog sufferers from repeated episodes, I strongly suggest that you seek the help of an animal chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath or a massage therapist.

    © Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

    About the author

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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