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Why should I feed a dog with cystitis a special diet?


Cystitis is a common canine condition, particularly in female dogs. Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder. This can be caused by lots of different factors including bacterial infections, urinary stones and underlying health conditions. Some dogs will suffer a single bout of cystitis that clears readily on the right medication. But other dogs will be prone to recurrent bouts which may need further investigation or longer term treatment. One such treatment is a special “urinary” diet.

Cystitis: The normal course of the illness

Most cases of cystitis will be diagnosed by your veterinary surgeon through a combination of the presenting signs (increased frequency of urination, blood in the urine and straining to pass small amounts of urine) and analysis of a urine sample. Bacterial infections are common. A short course of antibiotics and sometimes an anti-inflammatory medication will often be all your pet needs. Occasionally a special prescription diet will be recommended; especially if your vet thinks that your pet may be at risk of developing urinary crystals or stones due to the infection. Most pets suffering from cystitis will benefit from increasing their water intake to dilute their urine and help clear the infection quicker.  

Sometimes the problem will fail to improve

Even with appropriate treatment, symptoms continue, or will recur within a short space of time. These pets will often require further investigations to get to the root cause of their problems. Tests that your vet might recommend include blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound scans. One relatively common cause of recurrent cystitis is urinary crystals and bladder stones. The two are often seen in combination, with small crystals sticking together to form stones which can become very large and cause pain and inflammation as well as recurrent infections.

The importance of diet

The right diet is often one of the most important aspects of treatment when urinary crystals and stones are discovered. Specially formulated prescription diets are designed to help. For certain types of stones, diets can be used to actually dissolve existing stones. In other cases, or where the diagnosis is not clear, surgery is required to remove and identify the stones. Prescription diets are then used to prevent the crystals and stones from re-forming. Other treatments may include clearing any infection and treating underlying metabolic problems where possible.

Specialised urinary diets help with dissolving and preventing urine crystals and stones in a number of different ways. In order to form, crystals and stones need high concentrations of certain minerals and other compounds to be present in the urine. The acidity or alkalinity of the urine can also affect how readily these structures arise. A mainstay of urinary diets is making the urine more dilute, either by increased moisture content or improving the pet’s water intake from other sources. In addition they control the acidity of the urine and reduce levels of the compounds, including certain proteins and minerals, that form the building blocks of the offending crystals and stones. Many diets also contain omega 3 fatty acids to help with the ongoing inflammation. 

While these diets are great at what they are designed for, it is important that your pet is only fed them under veterinary direction

Different diets are suitable for different types of stones. Using the wrong one can potentially make things worse rather than better. There are also certain groups of animals that the diets may not be suitable for. These include dogs suffering from kidney disease; young, growing puppies; dogs suffering from heart failure; and those who are pregnant or lactating.

If your canine companion is showing signs of cystitis it’s really important to seek advice from your veterinary surgeon

Untreated cystitis can become more serious and even life threatening. For example if a stone becomes lodged in the tubes exiting the bladder, preventing your pet from passing any urine. Most cases can be treated quickly and easily, alleviating your pet’s discomfort. But some pets will need longer term treatment and specialised diets.  

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