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Questions for Dr. Shawn - Bladder Issues

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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"I have 2 purebred cocker spaniels. I recently lost a female, 8 years old, to kidney failure. Throughout her life, she had 4-5 bladder infections. I now have a puppy that is 11 months old, and at 6 months of age she had her first bladder infection. My male never has a problem (he is 8 years). I want to know if there is a way to prevent the infections or something I can give instead of drugs when she has an infection?"

Answer:
"Bladder infections are common in dogs, especially those of smaller to medium sized breeds like your cocker spaniels. Commonly, bacteria such as Staph, E.coli, Proteus, or Klebsiella cause these infections. Left untreated, the infections can serve as a starting point for bladder stone formation.

While antibiotics are very helpful for pets with infections, in my holistic practice I have been able to help some of my patients with infections by using herbal or homeopathic products without resorting to antibiotics. Some of the supplements I use are Cantharis, a homeopathic remedy called Bladder, Herbal ABX, Immunosupport, Echinacea, and Urobac. Dogs with chronic infections should be screened for underlying problems such as bladder stones, anatomical bladder defects, and infections that have never resolved due to improper treatment."


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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"I have an 8 year old healthy Maltese named Fred who recently had a urinary tract infection. He responded well to antibiotics, but upon retesting, he showed a new infection with different bacteria. Now he’s on a different antibiotic. What could cause this? He eats Innova senior dog kibble supplemented with vegetables."

Answer:
"First, I commend you on your choice of diet for Fred. Innova is one of the brands of natural foods I like (readers who would like my current dietary recommendations can email me for the list.) You don’t say in your letter, but I’m assuming the urinary infection was diagnosed with a urine culture. Here are some possibilities to consider. It may simply be that Fred picked up another bacterium and has another infection. In this case, further treatment as you are now doing is indicated. Does Fred have any problems (bladder stones, defective anatomy) that predisposes him to infection? Is the correct antibiotic being used, and is it being given long enough?

I usually treat infections for 10-14 days whenever antibiotics are needed. In most cases, treating a simple urinary tract infection clears up the problem and reoccurrence is rare. For repeated problems, long term support of the urinary tract is important. I’ve had success with various supplements, including UroBac and Herbal ABX (natural antibiotic alternatives,) a homeopathic called Bladder, Cantharis, glucosamine, and Urinary Strength herbal remedy.

I would also recommend long term use of a health maintenance formula xxx, using blood titer testing in place of annual vaccinations, and minimizing the use of any chemical products to control fleas and ticks. Using this approach has allowed me to eliminate chronic urinary problems in most of my patients."


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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"I have a 2 year old dog that had bladder stones removed about 1 year ago. I am currently feeding her Science Diet c/d due to prevent further bladder stones. I don’t like the ingredients in this diet and would like to find a natural pet food (dry and moist} that has proven results with this problem. What do you recommend?"

Answer:
"Bladder stones in dogs typically develop as crystals form in the bladder, congregate around bacteria and mucus that occurs in pets with bladder infections, and grow into larger stones. Because of this, an important part of therapy for bladder stones must include antibiotics and/or antibacterial herbs to eliminate the infection. Long term control can involve special diets and supplements to help to reduce the incidence of future stone formation.

It is important to understand, however, that no diet can totally guarantee that future stones will not occur. Additionally, some diets minimize the chance of one type of stone but increase the chance of other types of stones! Therefore, with rare exception, I don’t usually make a big deal about medicated diets to “prevent” stones. Instead, in most instances I prefer a natural healthy diet for the pet. I also prefer canned (or better, homemade) “wet” food as I want to increase water intake in these pets to encourage frequent urination (which decreases the chances of stone formation.) I also like a number of supplements and homeopathics, including cantharis, arnica, marshmallow, cranberry, and uva ursi.

I would suggest consulting with your doctor about this approach, which I believe might be better for your pet for long term control of bladder stones."


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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"What do you think of the new cat litter on the market that changes color when your cat has a bladder infection? It’s pretty pricey but my cat has had crystals in her urine in the past. Do you think this litter would help us diagnose her problem earlier?"

Answer:
"It sounds like a good idea, but I have a few concerns with this. First the good news. The litter apparently changes color when the urine pH increases in the alkaline range, which may alert a pet owner to a potential problem. Usually, bladder problems in pets are associated with alkaline urine. However, there are times when bladder problems are associated with an acidic urine, so these cases would be missed by this special litter.

There are some other things you should know that may limit the product’s usefulness. If the cat urinates outside of the litterbox (as many with bladder problems will do,) then the litter is of no value. Also, just because the urine is alkaline does NOT mean the cat has anything wrong. Simply taking your cat to the doctor anytime the litter changes color could make this a very expensive litter. Finally, keep in mind that most cats never get bladder "infections," unlike dogs and people where bacterial bladder infections are quite common. Therefore, using antibiotics in most cats with bladder issues makes no sense and does no good.

Regarding crystals, remember that many normal pets have crystals in their urine and do not need treatment. As I’ve said before, I treat pets with crystals rather than treating crystals. While it’s important to make sure the crystals are not harming your cat, it’s even more important not to treat “normal cats with normal crystals."

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