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How nutrition can help with urinary diseases in dogs

The urinary system is a vital part of your dog’s everyday function and is important for keeping their other organs happy and healthy. Urinary disease in dogs is not uncommon but can be serious. If you would like to learn more about the urinary system, urinary diseases and how nutrition can help, keep reading!

What the urinary system does

In cooperation with the kidney’s, the urinary system is responsible for the excretion of waste such as toxins, dead blood cells, as well as the excretion of unused electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and water. 

The parts of the urinary system

The urinary system is sometimes referred to as the “plumbing” of the body. It is made up of a few different parts including the kidneys, the ureter, the bladder, and the urethra. The ureter is a narrow tube which receives urine from the kidneys and funnels it into the bladder. The bladder acts as a storage container for the urine until it can be excreted through the urethra. 

Dog Urogenital System - Canis Lupus Familiaris Anatomy - isolate Dog Urogenital System - Canis Lupus Familiaris Anatomy - isolated on white dog urinary  stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Since the kidneys play such a big role in homeostasis (i.e. body balance and wellness), we thought they deserved their own post. Click here to read more about how nutrition can help with chronic kidney disease!

Urinary diseases

Sometimes our dogs get sick and sometimes that illness can be a urinary disease. There are a few different types of urinary diseases, usually with different causes and treatments. Below are some of the more common urinary diseases in dogs:

Urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection

The urinary system is typically a sterile environment under normal, healthy conditions. UTIs occur when bacteria invade the tract and cause an infection. This can occur in approximately 14% of canines. The most common bacterial culprits of UTIs are Leptospirosis, Streptococcus and Escherichia Coli but can also be caused by disruptions in endocrine function. UTIs are usually localized in the urethra and bladder. Symptoms of a UTI in dogs include:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Inability or straining to urinate
  • Obsessive licking of genital area
  • Increase in the volume and/or frequency of urination
  • Urinating in the house

UTIs are generally treated with antibiotics and fluids.

Urinary blockage

Urinary blockages can be caused by a number of factors such as:

  • Uroliths (urinary crystals and stones)
  • Tumors
  • Mucus
  • Proteins

Urinary uroliths specifically are made from chemical compounds like struvite, urate or calcium oxalate crystals. Whatever the cause, these factors can result in an obstruction in any part of the urinary system and can cause your dog pain and discomfort. Here are a few symptoms of urinary blockages in dogs:

  • Colour changes in urine
  • Inability or straining to urinate
  • Obsessive licking of genital area
  • Urinating in the house

Urinary blockages are treated by surgery to remove or flush back the blockage. Dogs that tend to have frequent blockages are usually placed on a prescription diet to prevent urinary future problems.

Ashamed Dog Peed "Dog ashamed after peeing on floor. Include AI, PDF, JPG." dog urinary  stock illustrations

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is not directly correlated to the urinary system but is often diagnosed through urinary symptoms. Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease, where insufficient insulin is produced, resulting in an increase in blood glucose. If a dog has diabetes mellitus, you will generally see an increase in urine output as well as sweet smelling urine. This is because there is a high concentration of glucose sugars being excreted in the urine. 

Bladder cancer

Cancer. A word no one wants to hear. Unfortunately, even the urinary system isn’t free from cancer development. The most common type of urinary cancer is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) and is a tumor of the cells that line the inside of the urinary bladder.

Even though TCC only accounts for less than 1% of all canine cancers, it is a deadly one. Usually by the time it is diagnosed, 20% of cases have metastasized to other parts of the body. This disease can also be more prevalent in certain breeds, particularly the shetland sheepdog, scottish terrier, wirehair fox terrier, west highland terrier, and beagle.

Symptoms of TCC can vary but often appear similar to the symptoms of a UTI, particularly:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Inability or straining to urinate

If you’d like to learn more about TCC and how it can be prevented by something as simple as feeding your dog fresh veggies, check out our other blog here!

Incontinence

As dogs age their muscles can become weaker. This includes urinary muscles like the sphincter around the urethra. When this happens, dogs can become incontinent and have problems making it to their designated bathroom spot. As a result, a dog having accidents in the house or periodically leaking urine is normal. Other causes of incontinence may be a hormonal imbalance, spinal cord disease, urinary tract infection or stones, and reaction to certain medications.

There is not always a treatment or cure for incontinence. It may just mean that your dog needs to wear a stylish doggy diaper to prevent future accidents.

Dog on toilet. Landscapeorientation. A cute dog sits on a toilet in a nice home. dog urinary  stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

How nutrition can help with urinary diseases

Nutrition may not be able to out right cure a urinary disease but it can definitely prevent and help treat it. The most important concept around urinary disease treatment is to improve flushing out of waste. Diets that are high in moisture content are extremely helpful with this. Fresh cooked food and canned/semi-moist foods contain a high water content compared to traditional kibble and can help reduce dehydration and flush out unwanted compounds from the body.

If your dog suffers from bladder stones, consider feeding them a diet with low magnesium, phosphorus, protein and calcium. A less acidic, or more alkaline pet food is also suggested in order to prevent the crystals from precipitating like they would in urine with a low pH. Generally, your average pet store diet will exceed the recommended levels of these nutrients and a special veterinary diet will need to be prescribed.

Lastly, while nutrition may not be able to cure bladder cancer, it has actually been shown to prevent it. A 2005 study looked at the incidence of TCC in Scottish Terriers who ate vegetables. It was found that dogs which consumed vegetables, specifically yellow-orange and green vegetables, at least 3 times per week were associated with a 70% reduced risk of developing cancer. It was hypothesized that because these vegetables contain compounds like carotenoids, ascorbate, tocopherols, and selenium, they act in an anticarcinogenic manner and protect the dog from developing TCC. 

The study also found that over 50% of the dogs were fed a dry kibble as their primary diet and if they were getting any fresh vegetables, it was in addition to their normal, daily meal. This may indicate a benefit to fresh-cooked dog food. Rather than relying on vegetable supplementation on top of the diet, fresh-cooked diets already include whole vegetables. Ultimately, make sure your dogs eat their veggies as it could help prevent bladder cancer!

Golden retriever with broccoli in mouth Golden retriever with broccoli in mouth fresh food dog stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images


View Sources

Arden Moore. “The top 6 urinary diseases in dogs” (2017). Dogster. https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/top-urinary-diseases-in-dogs 

BluePearl. “Bladder Cancer in Dogs” (2020) https://bluepearlvet.com/medical-articles-for-pet-owners/bladder-cancer-in-dogs/ 

Kabo. “How nutrition can help with canine chronic kidney disease” (2020). https://kabo.co/blog/how-nutrition-can-help-with-canine-chronic-kidney-disease 

Kabo. “Reduce Urinary Cancer Risk in Dogs with the Power of Vegetables” (2020). https://kabo.co/blog/reduce-urinary-cancer-risk-in-dogs-with-the-power-of-vegetables 

Raghavan, Malathi, Deborah W. Knapp, Patty L. Bonney, Marcia H. Dawson, and Lawrence T. Glickman. "Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 227, no. 1 (2005): 94-100.

Hicking, W., A. Hesse, M. Gebhardt, and W. Vahlensieck. "Investigation with polarizing microscopy for the classification of urinary stones from humans and dogs." In Urolithiasis, pp. 901-906. Springer, Boston, MA, 1981.

Sommer, John Lambert, James Allen Roberts, and With technical assistance of James Bland and Charles Parrott. "Ureteral reflux resulting from chronic urinary infection in dogs: long-term studies." The Journal of urology 95, no. 4 (1966): 502-510.

Knapp, Deborah W., José A. Ramos-Vara, George E. Moore, Deepika Dhawan, Patty L. Bonney, and Kirsten E. Young. "Urinary bladder cancer in dogs, a naturally occurring model for cancer biology and drug development." ILAR journal 55, no. 1 (2014): 100-118.


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