(BPT) – Coming home to find a puddle on the floor or a spot on the carpet can be frustrating when you know your pet is properly house trained. Unfortunately, many pet parents jump to the conclusion that these occurrences are behavioral, when they may, in fact, be medical. It could even be a sign of a serious and potentially life-threatening urinary tract concern.
Though most common in cats, urinary issues can affect dogs and cats of both genders. Left untreated, a urinary problem can cause irritation or pain, the formation of crystals in the urine, blockages and even death. Fortunately, pet parents can play an active role in protecting their dogs and cats from urinary issues and related health concerns.
No single factor causes urinary problems, but veterinarians point to a number of components that may contribute to a pet developing an issue, including:
* Age — Urinary issues typically occur in cats that are one year or older and dogs that are two or older.
* Weight — Overweight and obese pets are more prone to the problem.
* Sedentary lifestyle — Pets that don’t get much exercise may be more likely to develop a urinary issue.
* Health history — If your pet has a track record of chronic kidney disease or urinary tract procedures, he may be more at risk.
* Gender — Males and females are both are at risk, but the chances of obstruction from crystals or stones is greater for neutered males.
* Environment — Inside-only pets are more at risk, as are animals in multi-pet households.
* Stress — House guests, conflicts with other pets, or a lack of a safe hiding or resting place may cause pets to feel stressed.
* Nutrition — Pets that don’t drink enough water, or eat food with a high content of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium (such as many grocery store brand pet foods) have a higher risk of developing urinary issues.
Recognizing the signs
Every cat and dog has his or her own personality, but certain signs may indicate a urinary problem in either or both species, including:
* Urinating more frequently but passing only small amounts at a time
* Straining to urinate
* Urine that’s pink, dark or bloody
* Licking the genital area
* Crying out in pain while trying to urinate
* For cats, urinating outside the litter box
What pet parents can do
If you see signs of a urinary problem, contact your veterinarian immediately. He or she will be able to diagnose the severity of the problem and help you decide on the best course of treatment.
“It’s also important for pet parents to take steps to reduce their pet’s risk of having a urinary problem reoccur,” says Dr. Ellen I. Lowery, director of U.S. Veterinary and Professional Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Increasing pet’s water intake and exercise levels, reducing stress, and feeding your pet a food that’s specifically designed for the pet’s urinary health, can go a long way toward helping pet parents manage their dog or cat’s urinary disease.” Hill’s offers Hill’s Prescription Diet therapeutic pet food that provides the proper balance of vital nutrients and helps reduce stress.
Lowery also offers some additional tips to help maintain a pet’s urinary health:
* Provide clean, fresh water at all times. Multiple dishes in various locations may encourage water consumption.
* Consider feeding moist, or canned, food to help increase water consumption. If you supplement your pet’s dry food, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendation.
* Feed several small meals during the day instead of one larger meal.
* Have a daily play date with your pet to help get exercise and relieve stress.
* For cats, always provide one more litter box than the number of cats in the household. Offer different types of litter and litter boxes in multiple locations and observe your cat’s preferences.
* Be mindful of changes in the house that may stress your pet, and troubleshoot conflicts with other pets in the household.