When your pet is drinking more and urinating less, going in unusual places or straining to go you may be noticing urinary tract issues.  Urinary problems are one of the most common problems seen by vets.   These problems can be caused by infection or by crystals precipitating in urine.   

Cystitis, or bacterial infection, is one of the most common infectious disease in dogs.  Symptoms can include fever, lethargy, painful or frequent urination, backache and blood in the urine.  The infections can be caused by different types of bacteria, fungi or parasites.  They can invade the body through the mouth or urethra.  Normally, your pet’s urine should slightly acidic (a lower pH).  Infections commonly form in alkaline urine or urine with a higher pH.  Feeding your pet a diet with animal-based protein sources is important in maintaining a healthy urine pH.  Vegetarian or cereal based diets are more likely to cause an alkaline urine.  Using cranberry supplements can lower urine pH and may be helpful as a form of prevention.  Cranberry prevents the bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall which allows the bacteria to be washed out with urine.  However, cranberry has not been proved to cure infections, only prevent them.   

Bladder stones start out microscopic crystals that precipitate in the bladder.  Symptoms are similar to infection and include increased frequency of urination, painful urination, genital licking and occasionally blood in the urine.  Increased thirst, incontinence and increased urine volume are not usually seen with stones.  There are two types of stones, Struvite and Oxalate. Struvite stones most commonly form in alkaline urine that has a high level of magnesium, ammonium or phosphate.  This type of stone is usually managed through diet.  Typical “stone diets” have decreased levels of magnesium and phosphorous.  However, recent studies have shown these minerals only contribute to stone formation if urine is alkaline.  In fact, reducing magnesium can cause increased calcium excretion from the kidneys leading to oxalate stones.  Oxalate stones need to be either passed or removed surgically.   

Prevention is the best method of dealing with urinary issues.  Feeding a healthy, meat-based diet will help maintain a healthy urine pH level making it harder for stones to form.  Also keeping your pet hydrated so bacteria and crystals can be washed out quickly is important.   If you suspect an infection, see your veterinarian for treatment.