If your dog struggles with urinary tract issues, your veterinarian may recommend a specialized diet, either as a standalone option or to complement a procedure or course of medicine. Choosing urinary dog food is more involved than picking a standard complete and balanced diet, so we’ve unpacked what you need to know. We’ve also included six veterinary-recommended diets to discuss with your own veterinarian.
What Is Urinary Dog Food?
When veterinarians recommend urinary food for dogs, they’re usually referring to diets that target bladder stones. Bladder stones are clumps of mineralized crystals that can form in the urinary tract, explains Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club. “Bladder stones cause irritation to the lining of the bladder [and] discomfort to the dog, and can lead to more serious medical problems such as urinary blockage.”
Urinary dog food is formulated to dissolve these stones and prevent their occurrence, says Dr. Ashley Barnes, medical director at Louisville Family Animal Hospital in Louisville, Colorado. In part, this food is “formulated to control the urinary pH in an optimal range to prevent stone formulation.” (The goal is to achieve acidic urine.) It also restricts amounts of minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and calcium, says Dr. Klein, “which are the minerals most often associated [with contributing to] the formation of urinary crystals and stone formation.”
The nutritional profiles of urinary tract dog food diets vary; each is designed to target a specific stone. For example, diets targeting struvite stones (the most common in dogs) promote increased hydration to decrease crystal concentration while limiting protein and mineral levels. Urate stone diets are low in purine, a chemical compound that produces uric acid, which can lead to stones when levels are high.
According to Dr. Joe Bartges, professor of internal medicine, interventional radiology, and nutrition at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, dog food for urinary health is generally complete and balanced for adult dogs, specified by the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. “The exception is a specific diet formulated to dissolve struvite stones in dogs,” he adds. “Therefore, while the nutrients are modified from adult dog foods, they usually still meet the requirements for adult dogs.”
Urinary Diets May Not Always Be the Answer
Urinary dog diets require precise levels of nutrients to dissolve and prevent bladder stones. They can be harmful to dogs without urinary issues, and in fact, “Not all dogs with urinary tract conditions need to be on a urinary diet,” says Dr. John P. Loftus, assistant professor of small animal internal medicine and nutrition at Cornell University Hospital for Animals, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. Because of these factors, veterinarians recommend urinary care dog food that’s only available with a prescription.
It’s also important to note that these diets can’t prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). “Altering pH helps to manage stones, either to dissolve them or to prevent them from recurring. It does not help prevent urinary tract infections, which is a common misconception,” says Dr. Bartges, who is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.
Preventing UTIs, however, can go a long way in preventing the occurrence of struvite stones. “Treat/prevent the UTI, and they won’t form struvite stones again regardless of diet,” explains Dr. Bartges. This is something your veterinarian can help with.
Our Top Picks
- Best Wet Urinary Dog Food: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets UR Urinary Ox/St Canine Formula (Canned)
- Best Dry Urinary Dog Food: Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Dry Dog Food
- Best Urinary Dog Food for Weight Management: Hill’s Prescription Diet Dog c/d Multicare + Metabolic, Urinary + Weight Care Dry Dog Food
- Best Small Breed Urinary Dog Food: Royal Canin Urinary SO Small Dog Dry Dog Food
- Best Urinary Dog Food for Senior Dogs: Royal Canin Urinary SO Aging Dry Dog Food
- Best Low Purine Urinary Dog Food: Royal Canin Urinary UC Low Purine Dry Dog Food
How We Made Our Selections
We started by asking veterinarians for their recommendations, as well as criteria that determines the best dog food for urinary health. “The urinary diets most prescribed by veterinarians are formulated by Royal Canin, Hill’s and Purina,” says Dr. Klein. These are the brands we focused on in our list.
We also considered the following when making our selections:
Manufacturing practices. It’s imperative that the diets we recommend are from companies with good manufacturing practices. For example, they’re made in the United States, have dietary profiles backed by scientific studies, have passed AAFCO feeding trials when appropriate, and are formulated by veterinarians or board-certified nutritionists.
Prescription only. We opted for therapeutic diets, available only with a veterinarian’s prescription. “Several brands do have [over the counter] formulas to help control urinary pH but are not nearly as good as the prescription diets,” says Dr. Barnes.
Added benefits. Though the main function of these diets is to dissolve and prevent specific urinary stones, we called out the ones that offer other benefits like added antioxidants or formulations for weight management.
Ratings/reviews. Finally, we scoured customer reviews for insights, choosing diets that received more than four of five stars.
Best Urinary Dog Food of 2023
As you’ll see, most of the diets on our list help dissolve struvite stones and reduce the risk of both struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones (which result from factors like genetic conditions, liver disease, or nutritional imbalances). However, we also included an option to help with urate stones. Your veterinarian will recommend a urinary diet based on your dog’s stones and health history. Be sure to ask if any of the following diets are a good match for your pup.
Best Wet Urinary Dog Food
Our pick: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets UR Urinary Ox/St Canine Formula (Canned)
Purina urinary dog food is one of the most-commonly prescribed diets for bladder stones. It contains reduced levels of calcium and phosphorus, plus added moisture to help dissolve struvite stones. Developed by veterinarians and nutritionists, this veterinary diet is made in United States Purina facilities.
- Lower amounts of select minerals, plus added moisture help dissolve struvite stones
- Helps reduce the risk of struvite and calcium oxalate stones
- Developed by veterinarians and nutritionists
- Purina is a trusted name that’s been manufacturing pet food for more than 90 years
Best Dry Urinary Dog Food
Our pick: Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Dry Dog Food
According to Dr. Barnes, “We like [Hill’s] as each line has different versions to assess other health needs, such as food allergies and weight management.” Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d is one of the diets her clinic prescribes. Reduced levels of calcium and sodium help dissolve struvite stones and reduce future occurrences of both struvite and calcium oxalate stones. It also contains fish oil, an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants vitamin E and beta carotene.
- One of the most prescribed urinary care dog food diets
- Nutrient profile is conducive to dissolving struvite stones, as well as preventing future occurrences of both struvite and calcium oxalate stones
- Contains omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants
- Hill’s is a trusted, long-standing brand that hires nutritionists and veterinarians to formulate their diets
Best Urinary Dog Food for Weight Management
Our pick: Hill’s Prescription Diet Dog c/d Multicare + Metabolic, Urinary + Weight Care Dry Dog Food
Obesity in dogs has been linked to the formation of calcium oxalate stones, so if your dog struggles in this area, this option from Hill’s may be a good choice. Ideal for promoting a healthy bladder and managing your pup’s weight, it pulls double duty with every meal. Not only does the dry food help dissolve and prevent stones, it also features a healthy and harmonious blend of ingredients to help kickstart your dog’s metabolism for proven weight loss within 60 days.
- Supports urinary health and weight management
- Helps dissolve struvite stones and prevent struvite/calcium oxalate stones
- Made with a blend of ingredients to help with metabolism
- Formulated by Hill’s veterinarians and nutritionists
Best Small Breed Urinary Dog Food
Our pick: Royal Canin Urinary SO Small Dog Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin Urinary Dog Food SO is another diet Dr. Barnes recommends and veterinarians commonly prescribe. The smaller kibble size in this special diet makes it easier for smaller dogs to eat while promoting chewing, which can help reduce tartar buildup. Royal Canin is an established company that employs board-certified veterinary nutritionists to develop their therapeutic diets.
- Royal Canin urinary dog food is commonly prescribed by veterinarians
- Helps dissolve struvite stones and prevent the occurrence of struvite and calcium oxalate stones
- Contains fish oil and vitamin E
- Formulated for small dogs and designed to promote chewing for tartar reduction
- Manufactured by Royal Canin, a trusted brand in the pet food industry
Best Urinary Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Our pick: Royal Canin Urinary SO Aging Dry Dog Food
In addition to helping to reduce the ion concentration in urine, this dry diet from Royal Canin also features a specific mix of nutrients and antioxidants to promote cognition in senior dogs. Additionally, the kibble is very palatable, helping to boost regular eating habits.
- Created with relative supersaturation (RSS) methodology, which helps reduce ion concentration in urine
- Works to dissolve struvite stones and prevent both struvite and calcium oxalate stones
- Helps boost cognition/vitality in senior dogs
- Manufactured by Royal Canin
Best Low Purine Urinary Dog Food
Our pick: Royal Canin Urinary UC Low Purine Dry Dog Food
While most of the options on our list focus on struvite and calcium oxalate stones, this one is formulated with low purine proteins that can help with the prevention of urate stones. It also contains moderate levels of high-quality proteins, methionine, and cysteine to help lessen the possibility of cystine stones. Plus, added omega-3 fatty acids support skin and coat health.
- Low purine option to help prevent urate stones
- Moderate quantities of high-quality proteins, methionine, and cysteine can help avoid cystine stones
- Contains omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, linoleic acid, zinc, and biotin for skin and coat
- Manufactured by Royal Canin
Urinary Dog Food Buyer’s Guide
Because choosing a urinary dog food is more involved than shopping for a standard dog diet, we’ve pulled together some additional veterinary advice. Here are a few things to consider.
Determine the cause of your dog’s bladder woes
First things first – you need to understand exactly why your dog is experiencing urinary issues. Urinary dog diets usually target specific bladder stones. “For example, a dog with struvite stones would benefit from a different diet than a dog with urate stones,” says Dr. Loftus, who is board-certified in veterinary internal medicine (small animal internal medicine and nutrition). “I think it all depends on exactly why a urinary diet is needed, so it really depends on the dog.” This is something that can only be determined by a veterinarian.
Opt for therapeutic urinary dog food
When it comes to urinary issues in dogs, veterinarians generally recommend therapeutic prescription diets because they contain a precise balance of nutrients that target specific urinary stones.
Though therapeutic diets are effective, the downside is that they’re more expensive than standard diets. Depending on how long your dog needs to be on a special diet, the cost can really add up, especially if you have a larger breed.
Ask your veterinarian or the food manufacturer about potential coupons, rebates, or special offers that can help you save money.
Decide between dry and canned foods
Urinary food for dogs is typically available in both dry and canned formulas. Your decision will, of course, depend on which formula your dog prefers to eat, as well as their typical water intake. “Increased moisture in the diet does also help with stones, so canned food is a good idea but may be cost prohibitive in larger dogs,” says Dr. Barnes. Another option is to add water to the dry food or offer your dog more drinking water.
Think about your dog’s special health needs
While the type of stone will help determine which food your veterinarian prescribes, some diets have added benefits. “For instance, if your dog is overweight, you will want to choose one of the diets that is also for weight loss,” offers Dr. Barnes.
Additionally, your dog may have other health issues that can complicate diet choices. “For example, higher dietary fat [for] a Miniature Schnauzer who has had pancreatitis would not be a good idea,” explains Dr. Bartges.
Consider your dog’s age
Urinary diets are designed for adult dogs. “Puppies don’t get stones like adults do, and due to their growth needs, urinary diets aren’t suitable for them,” says Dr. Barnes.
If you have a senior dog, you might want to ask your veterinarian if special urinary food designed for older pups (like the Royal Canin option for senior dogs on our list) might be a good fit.
Tips for Switching Your Dog to a Urinary Diet
Switching any dog to a new diet can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help your dog adjust.
Some dogs may experience an upset tummy, vomiting, and diarrhea when their diet changes abruptly. To help prevent this, Dr. Barnes recommends switching to the new diet over the course of a week. “I will typically start at 75 percent old food, 25 percent new food for a few days, then 50:50, etc.”
Stick to feeding your dog what the veterinarian prescribes
Once your dog is on a therapeutic diet, it’s essential to feed only what your veterinarian prescribes, says Dr. Klein. “This includes not feeding any additional food, table scraps, or treats as these could upset the desired balance needed to achieve the purpose of a urinary diet. Always consult with your veterinarian before offering any additional food or treats.”
Be prepared to monitor your dog’s progress
Once on the urinary dog diet, veterinary evaluations will become important, says Dr. Bartges. “I like to recheck a urine sample at two weeks after a full change, then at four weeks, and then every two to four months depending on the patient. Blood work might be checked as well to evaluate response and to identify any issues before they become big issues.”
Keep realistic expectations
Diet is only one part of managing urinary disease in dogs, and it’s not a panacea, says Dr. Bartges. Your veterinarian may also recommend surgery to remove the stones, as well as treatment for any underlying issues.