Do Cat Foods Cause UTIs in Dogs? The Surprising Truth


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health issue in both dogs and cats, caused by bacteria multiplying and infecting the urinary tract. UTIs can lead to discomfort, pain, and even kidney damage if left untreated. While there are some differences between dog and cat physiology, the urinary system functions similarly in both species. So in theory, any food that alters urine pH or composition in cats could also affect dogs in the same way. This raises the question of whether cat food could potentially influence UTI risk in dogs. In this article, we’ll explore the dietary and medical factors involved.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra (Mayo Clinic, UTIs are common in both dogs and cats, with prevalence estimates ranging from 3-14% in dogs and 1-10% in cats (CDC,

The most common symptoms of a UTI in dogs and cats include frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and urinating in inappropriate places. Other symptoms may include crying or whining during urination, lethargy, and fever. UTIs can lead to more serious kidney infections or damage if left untreated.

Causes of UTIs in Dogs

Urinary tract infections or UTIs in dogs are often caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and travel up into the bladder. The most common bacteria implicated in canine UTIs is Escherichia coli, which is found in feces. Other bacteria like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, and Proteus can also lead to UTIs in dogs (

Bladder stones or crystals can also cause irritation and infection in the urinary tract of dogs. These stones obstruct the free flow of urine and allow bacteria to multiply more easily. Anatomical abnormalities like ectopic ureters can also predispose dogs to contracting UTIs by altering normal urine flow.

Other factors that can increase the risk of UTIs in dogs include urinary catheters, urinary incontinence, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and kidney disease. The use of certain medications like steroids has also been associated with a higher incidence of UTIs in canines (

Cat Food Composition

Cat food tends to have significant differences in nutritional content compared to dog food. According to Meow Mix, cat food is typically higher in protein, fat, vitamins and minerals than dog food.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to get certain nutrients from animal sources that they cannot synthesize on their own. As a result, cat food has a higher proportion of meat-based proteins. It tends to have around 30-45% protein, whereas dog foods have 20-30% on average.

The fat content in cat food is also higher at 15-30% fat. Dogs only need 5-15% fat in their diet. The higher fat helps cats meet their higher energy requirements. Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 are also crucial for cats (Source).

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, cat food contains higher levels per calorie of nutrients like vitamin A, taurine, arginine, and arachidonic acid. These nutrients support vision, heart health, circulation and reproduction in cats.

Can Cat Food Cause UTIs in Dogs?

In theory, there are a few reasons why cat food could potentially contribute to UTIs in dogs:

Cat food tends to be higher in magnesium and protein than dog food. An excess of these nutrients could alter urine pH and concentrate the urine, allowing bacteria to thrive.1

The kibble shape and texture of cat food may not clean dog’s teeth as effectively, allowing more plaque buildup that spreads bacteria.2

However, there is limited evidence directly linking cat food consumption to increased UTI risk in dogs. Many dogs eat cat food occasionally with no issues. While not ideal long-term, small amounts are unlikely to cause problems.3

Risk seems highest if a dog with pre-existing urinary tract problems eats cat food exclusively over an extended period. For healthy dogs, cat food does not appear to be a direct cause of UTIs.

Risk Factors

Some dogs are more prone to developing UTIs than others due to certain risk factors. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, females are more likely to get UTIs than males due to their shorter urethras [1]. Unspayed females are at an even higher risk due to hormonal changes. Anatomical abnormalities like an ectopic ureter can also increase UTI risk. Additionally, genetics may play a role, with some breeds like Chihuahuas more prone to UTIs [2].

Other factors that raise a dog’s chances of developing a UTI are urinary or fecal incontinence, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, bladder stones, and spinal cord disease, which can cause incomplete bladder emptying and urine retention [1].


There are several ways to help prevent your dog from developing UTIs:

Ensure your dog drinks plenty of fresh, clean water daily to stay well hydrated. Increased hydration leads to more frequent urination which can flush out bacteria before an infection develops. You may want to consider getting a dog water fountain if your dog does not drink enough water from a bowl.

Feed your dog a high quality diet and avoid foods high in sugars, fillers, and additives which can alter your dog’s urinary pH and allow bacteria to thrive. Some veterinarians may recommend prescription urinary or kidney diets for dogs prone to UTIs [1].

Take your dog out to urinate frequently, at least 3-4 times per day. Do not allow your dog to hold their urine for prolonged periods as this allows bacteria to multiply.

Keep the fur around your dog’s urinary opening trimmed. Regular grooming and bathing helps prevent debris from getting trapped.

You can also ask your veterinarian about UTI prevention supplements containing ingredients like D-mannose, cranberries, and glucosamine which may help inhibit bacterial adhesion in the urinary tract [2].


Veterinarians use several methods to diagnose UTIs in dogs:

Urinalysis – This is usually the first test done. It checks for signs of infection such as increased white blood cells, bacteria, and crystals in the urine. Abnormal results indicate a UTI may be present.1

Urine culture – Considered the gold standard for diagnosing UTIs. The urine sample is cultured in a lab to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection and determine the ideal antibiotics for treatment.2

Imaging – X-rays or ultrasound may be used to check for bladder stones, tumors or anatomical abnormalities contributing to the UTI.

Urinary cytology – Microscopic examination of urinary cells to check for cancer cells, crystals or bacteria.

Blood work – May be done to assess kidney function and look for complications or underlying conditions.

Urine culture and sensitivity is essential for recurrent UTIs to identify the best antibiotic for treatment.


The main treatment for UTIs in dogs is antibiotics. Vets typically prescribe antibiotics like Amoxicillin, Zeniquin, or Clavamox to fight the bacterial infection causing the UTI (Source). The antibiotic course is usually 10-14 days but may need to be longer for recurrent infections. It’s important dogs finish the full antibiotic course to prevent resistance and ensure the infection is fully cleared.

In addition to antibiotics, vets may recommend anti-inflammatories to relieve discomfort and frequent urination caused by the UTI. Subcutaneous or intravenous fluids may be given to flush the urinary tract. Any underlying conditions like diabetes, bladder stones, or anatomical defects causing the UTI also need to be addressed.

At home, increasing water consumption can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract. Prescription urinary foods or supplements may be recommended. Keeping the hind end clean and expressing the bladder can provide relief while recovering. Follow up vet visits are important to confirm the UTI has resolved.


In summary, while cat food is not a likely direct cause of UTIs in dogs, there are some factors to consider. Cat food tends to be higher in protein and magnesium than dog food. While protein is an important part of any dog’s diet, excessive amounts can increase urine acidity, potentially irritating the bladder. Some research also indicates that high dietary magnesium could contribute to UTIs in dogs. However, these links are not conclusively proven.

The main risk factors for UTIs remain inadequate hydration, lack of urination, and bacteria exposure. Ensuring your dog drinks enough water, urinates regularly, and has good hygiene can go a long way in UTI prevention. Though switching to dog food may slightly lower UTI risks, cat food itself is very unlikely to directly cause UTIs in healthy dogs.

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