Diets Used
To Manage Lower Urinary Tract Diseases

Cats need high protein diets and proteins contain high amounts of minerals or "ash" (magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and oxalate being the most troublesome). 

Cats also tend to have very concentrated urine making them especially prone to urinary crystals and other urinary tract problems.

Many dogs have urinary tract problems too.  Especially after middle age sets in.

For both cats and dogs; lower urinary tract problems include:

1. Non bacterial cystitis or inflammation of the lower urinary tract in young cats associated with stress (this is also known as interstitial cystitis)

2. True bacterial bladder infections

3. Inflammation and infections associated with urinary crystals

4. Bladder Stones of different types

All of these conditions are discussed on our page about diseases of the lower urinary tract.

This page is about the different diets and supplements used in veterinary medicine to treat, prevent, and manage urinary tract infections, inflammation, crystals, and stones.

On This Page:

An introduction to the Therapeutic Diets and supplements used to treat lower urinary tract problems in dogs and cats.

Diets for kidney disease are different and are discussed on another Page

Normal Cat Chest X-Ray
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This ultrasound image is of a bladder (large black area) with a cancerous mass on the bladder wall.  Sadly, special diets won't help in this case.
Distended painful bladder
Hemorrhages on the bladder
Plug blocking the tip of the penis
Electron micrograph image of baceria in the urinary tract
Okay; hopefully I've made my point.  Bladder and urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, urethral plugs, and stones are fairly common.... and if your pet suffers for any of these problems... your veterinarian will be considering a prescription diet as either part of the treatment or more likely as part of the plan for preventing a recurrence.

Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin all make diets designed to prevent bladder infections, cystitis, and stones. They all seem to work well.

The diets used to treat lower urinary tract problems in dogs and cats have recently been greatly improved and simplified.  It used to be that one diet was needed for one type of urinary crystal and a different diet needed for other types of cyrstals, but the newer diets are multipurpose and working better.

As an aside; the diets available in grocery stores and pet food stores that claim to "Aid in the prevention or urinary tract diseases" make that claim because they have added some form of acid (usually phosphoric acid) to the diets which makes urine in the pet eating the food more acidic.  This does in fact, help prevent some types of urinary tract problems.  But these are not therapeutic diets and are inadequate or more harmful than good for other types of urinary tract problems.  The therapeutic diets are far superior.

Diets I recommend for Cats
with lower urinary tract problems:

Hills C/D MultiCare for Cats: Very successful at treating and preventing urinary tract diseases from recurring.
Contains controlled levels of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and oxalate to reduce building blocks of crystals and uroliths, as well as enhanced vitamin B6 to help decrease oxalate formation and excretion in the urine.  Generates an environment that is unfavorable for the development of uroliths due to the addition of antioxidants, Vitamin E and beta-carotene. c/d® Multicare Feline is formulated to avoid excess sodium and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil that help break the inflammatory cycle associated with the most common causes of FLUTD.

Royal Canin's Urinary SO for Cats:  Also very successful at treating and preventing urinary tract diseases from recurring.
Formulated to promote increased urine volume and body water turnover, prevent the formation of both struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.  Unlike Hills CD Multicare, this diet has high levels of salt (to increase drinking and voiding).  Controlled amounts of magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and oxalate.

Purina's UR Feline Diet:  I haven't used this diet simply because I have had such good success using Hill's and Royal Canin (I switch from one to the other trying to please the taste buds of the patient), but a lot of vets use this diet for the treatment of lower urinary tract problems. It is formulated similar to the Royal Canin SO diet.
Purina Veterinary Diets® UR™ St/Ox brand canned and dry feline formulas provide complete and balanced nutrition for adult maintenance and have been formulated to achieve the following characteristics:
Urinary acidification    Promotes increased water intake 
Promotes increased urine volume      Added taurine

Diets I recommend for the treatment and prevention of urinary tract disease in dogs:

Hill's C/D Diet: Good for the prevention of struvite crystals and stones in dogs. Good at preventing recurring urinary tract bacterial infections. Urinary tract disease is associated with the build-up of crystals and stones in the urinary tract that can cause painful and bloody urination and potential blockage in your dog. One type of crystal that forms in a dog's urinary tract is called struvite. Prescription Diet® c/d® dog food is formulated specifically to provide nutritional management of dogs with struvite-related urinary tract disease.

Royal Canin SO Diet:  More all purpose; good at preventing struvite as well as calcium-oxalate crystals and stones in dogs.
Increased sodium chloride content to promote increased urine volume
Moderately restricted magnesium levels
Controlled levels of calcium and oxalate
Moderately restricted phosphorus and protein content
Enriched with antioxidants

In addition to medications like antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories that may be needed short term, the following supplements that may be helpful for short or long term use:

Glucosamine:  This neutraceutical is well known as helpful with the management of joint inflammation, but it's also good at protecting, healing, and soothing the delicate tissue lining the bladder and urethra.

Omega Fatty Acids:  Helpful in maintaining the health of connective tissue, blood flow, and repair of bladder and urethral mucosa.

Anti-inflammatories:  My favorite for cats and small breed dogs is Duralactin Feline flavored suspension which combines good relief from irritation and inflammation along with omega fatty acids. 
For bigger dogs I like Duralactin flavored tablets.

Urinary acidyfiers:  Cranberry extract and other supplements are available to acidify the urine which can be very helpful in SOME types of urinary tract problems such as recurring infections and in pets prone to struvite crystal formation.  BUT; not as good as the therapeutic diets and NOT appropriate for pets prone to oxalate crystals or stones.

Urinary anti-spasmotics:  These used to be used frequently in both human and veterinary medicine and they were interesting because they often contained methelene blue or other dyes meant to coat and soothe the urinary tract but they made the pee turn orange which was pretty alarming ... at least to the human patients.  These products are out of favor now because they have been associated with some pretty bad side effects.

Herbals and other alternative treatments: I don't know anything about the many treatments being sold under this category.

Terms you might not know:
FLUTD:  Feline lower urinary tract disease
Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder
Mucosa: the delicate lining of the bladder & urethra
I do at about 2 bladder stone surgeries a month.... the problem is quite common. 
Special diets greatly reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
Struvite stones, pictured above, are the most common type of bladder stones we see in practice.  Prescription diets usually prevent recurrence.
This patient is awaiting his second bladder stone surgery is wishes his owner had fed him the prescription diet his veterinarian recommended.
The ultrasound image above shows how the urethra is dilated... usually because of a blockage downstream.
The radiograph above shows another case of bladder stones.
The images above and below are electron micrographs of bacteria in the urinary tract.
Not being able to urinate is very uncomfortable and after 1-2 days deadly without veterinary care.
Sometimes it helps make pets with urinary tract irritation more comfortable to give supplements that soothe the tender mucosa of the bladder and urethra.  Cranberry extract helps make the urine pH low which in turns helps prevent the formation of crystals and stones.  There are many brands available.  I like the product pictured above from Palatech.
The ultrasound image above is sort of elegant, don't you think?  The egg shaped object is a bladder stone.
On other pages about nutrition:

Our introductory page about nutrition in general

Our introductory page about  Nutrition as therapy for diseases in pets

Using Nutrition as therapy for diseases in pets

Diets used to Treat Urinary Tract Diseases                  
Diets used to Treat Obesity
Diets used to Treat Kidney Disease

Diets used to Treat Heart Disease           

Maximum Calorie diets for recovery from major illness, surgery, or for military and other dogs under major stress 
Diets used to Treat Arthritis and Joint Disease

Diets used to Treat Weight Issues
Diets used to Treat Skin Allergies
Diet as a treatment for Stomach and Bowel Disorders 

An interesting page about the companies that make pet foods... a little history and some comments.