Popeye was recently diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. Since day one, I've been told that he was at a higher risk for UTIs due to his incontinence. For both people and dogs, urinary tract trouble often happens when bacteria enters through the urethra. Regular urination helps to flush out the bacteria--that's why you might've heard that drinking plenty of water can help to prevent UTIs.
Since Popeye doesn't have control over his bladder and therefore relies on manual expression, there is a larger risk that not all of his urine is being discharged. That means there is a larger risk that bacteria can fester, resulting in an infection. He also takes immunosuppressent drugs for his year-round "allergies," so his immune system may be compromised, making him less able to combat the bacteria.
Popeye's currently on his 2nd round of antibiotics. It turned out that the first one he was given, Baytril, was not effective against the particular strain of bacteria he has, staphylococcus pseudintermedius. He's now on Cephalexin, and we are awaiting test results to see whether his UTI has cleared yet.
A side note about antibiotics: Some of you probably already know that antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria but they kill good bacteria as well. That's why it's a good idea to supplement with probiotics at the same time in order to replace the good bacteria that is necessary for a healthy gut. There are many different strains of good bacteria, so it's important to select a probiotic made specifically for pets or for people, depending on who is taking it. Yogurt contains a couple of strains. Popeye gets probiotics as a regular supplement, but he gets 3-4x more when he's on antibiotics.
More info on probiotics here: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/
I had always heard that cranberry juice helped to prevent UTIs. Not every doctor seems to think so though. Still, I was curious enough to do some research about it in an effort to find a natural preventative and/or treatment for Popeye in case this becomes a chronic issue.
It turns out that the specific element in cranberry juice that is said to help prevent & treat certain UTIs is called d-mannose. It only helps with UTIs caused by e. coli (not the same e. coli you've heard about in the news associated with unsanitary foods). Popeye's current UTI is caused by staph, not e. coli, so d-mannose may not be effective for him in this case. Luckily though, e. coli is the culprit for the majority of UTIs, both in dogs and in people.
E. coli bacteria essentially sticks to the d-mannose, which is then flushed out of the system when you pee. Pretty simple, huh? It doesn't kill any bacteria (good or bad), it just prevents the e. coli from sticking to the inside walls of the bladder and urinary tract.
Aside from cranberry juice, d-mannose is also found in pineapple juice, blueberries, and several other fruits, but in smaller concentrations so you would really have to ingest a lot of those fruits for it to be effective. D-mannose comes in straight powder form and tastes like sugar. And it's cheap. So if you or your pet is prone to UTIs, you might want to give it a try. Again, it won't work on every kind of UTI (ie. staph)
A very useful article on d-mannose here: http://www.tahomaclinic.com/mannose.shtml