Protect Your Pets from Urinary Problems

Herbs can prevent and treat urinary ­problems

| November/December 1998

There's nothing more changeable than the weather, and when it changes to snow or rain, my practice is often overrun by local cats with varying degrees of urinary problems. Weather changes even seem to affect some indoor cats.

Tomcats, whether neutered or not, have the most frequent problems because their urethra (the bladder’s outflow valve) can become completely plugged with a thick mucus-like substance that sometimes contains small, gravely stones. As the bladder fills up, it quickly results in a life-threatening condition that requires catheterization under anesthesia and considerable after-care. Once plugged, 50 to 75 percent of these cats will have the same problem time and again, and often surgery is required to maintain urine flow.

However, if caught early enough, herbs can help prevent the worst urinary tract problems, and I use them routinely for ­preventing recurrences. Dogs and female cats don’t plug as frequently as male cats; their urinary problems are more usually of the infectious variety. Nonetheless, the herbs recommended here will be helpful for prevention and the early care of any urinary problem.

Unless otherwise noted, these herbs are safe to experiment with, and you’ll need to. Herb potency can vary and pets will respond individually. Start with a little dried herb sprinkled on food and work your way up.

A Pair of Herbs for Early Treatment

The two herbal remedies I routinely start with for chronic, recurring urinary problems in cats or dogs are dandelion root and Oregon graperoot.

Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) is a potent diuretic, meaning it will make your pet urinate more, providing he is not totally plugged. Be absolutely certain your cat’s litter box attempts (or your dog’s fire hydrant visits) are productive. Otherwise you could merely be filling up the bladder more quickly, making the condition worse. A free flow of urine cleanses the urinary system, and increased volume alone often clears up urinary diseases. Dandelion is also a wonderful general tonic and an excellent source of potassium, unlike other diuretics that can deplete this mineral. Cats, especially, can be very sensitive to decreased levels of potassium.

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