Holistic Approaches to Chronic Kidney Disease
Kidney disease (also referred to in medical terminology as renal disease) is a common finding in cats and dogs.
Presumably, the term “chronic renal failure” suggests that the kidneys have
quit working and are, therefore, not making urine.
However, by definition, kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the blood. This definition can occasionally
create confusion because some will equate kidney failure with failure to make urine.
Kidney failure is NOT the inability to make urine.
Ironically, most dogs in kidney failure are actually producing large quantities of urine, but the body's wastes
are not being effectively eliminated.
Kidney disease might mean compromised, overworked kidneys -
or it might mean damaged kidneys (i.e., severe, chronic kidney failure). Kidneys can be damaged -
irreparably, so the veterinary information says - by a whole slew of environmental poisons and
veterinary treatment drugs, and via other disease forces as well (such as kidney infections, diabetes, leptospirosis,
cancer, as examples)
Chemicals in food (like preservatives, coloring
agents and artificial flavoring agents) and in the environment (contaminated
water, air and soil) are directly stressful to the kidneys and probably
play a role in the development of the condition.
In addition, lack of adequate exercise and diminished exposure to natural environments
compound the problem of inadequate elimination and a sluggish metabolism.
...Long-term skin irritation and eruption often seem to precede
eventual kidney failure in old age. If the skin disorder is repeatedly
suppressed with doses of cortisone or related corticosteroid drugs,
the relationship seems especially true. The most common clinical signs of kidney failure are vomiting,
increased urination and increased thirst. (Other disease share these same signs; such as diabetes, hyperthyrioidism ...)
And kidney problems can be inherited (especially by certain breeds). Kidney failure
(renal disease - increased thirst, dehydration, loss of appetite, urination changes, maybe
nausea and pain) is common in elderly pets - systems do fail as we get older, whoever we are.
But the kidneys are one of the critical factors in eliminating toxins from the body - and they
become less efficient with age, and with toxin loading. (Which can be a problem at any age, just like with humans.)
Kidney Disease Recovery Testimonials
Terminal kidney disease diagnosis - Tikka the love of my life!
"19 years ago I saw this adorable coy Calico kitten at the animal
shelter. And it was love at first sight. She was a bevy of colors
with random black, orange & white markings that came together
like a Picasso masterpiece. I called her TIKKA because she had a
little black dot on the side of her nose.
Tikka in India means dot
on the forehead. She also had the cutest white tipped curly Q tail.
I fell in love with her when I saw her grooming all the other little
kitties like she was their mama! Alas, at age 19, my beloved Tikka
was diagnosed with advanced stages of kidney disease. The vet pronounced
a death sentence saying that she had weeks or maybe months to live.
They said there was no hope for a cure. Tikka used to be so swift,
you could never catch her but in recent months she lay lifelessly
on her mat waiting for death to engulf her. She could hardly stand
up. She had lost her meow. Her curly Q tail now hung limply down.
Her coat was inextricably tangled. She was incontinent because she
was too weak to walk to the litter box.
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She always had an inaudible meow; now her meow is more
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"My beloved cat Tawny 16 years old was diagnosed with kidney failure
There wasn't much the vet was offering to do but to put my cat on a very low protein diet. Tawny didn't want
to eat it. He had lost a lot a weight when he got sick. Within 9
mo's he had gone from 8 lbs. to 6 lbs. I could see his bones in
his back. I had given him that tainted cat food unknowingly. I didn't
know which way to turn because I just knew I was losing him. Just
by luck I happened upon Shirley's Wellness Cafe and decided this is
the route I would try for him. I knew I had to do something because he wasn't eating but very little. I ordered the
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The order came so fast that I could hardly believe the order was already here.
My cat is very hard to give medicine to. I put it
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4 days into the medicine, (they say it takes from 5 days to a week to see an improvement) and I thought he was going to die that night,
he was still eating very little with me running out and trying to daily find anything he would eat. The next day he started to eat
some by himself but still with a lot of coaxing all through the day.
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eating totally on his own. He's never been a big eater so it will take awhile to really see a weight gain but I notice the bones on
his back don't show anymore. It is now 19 days down the line and for the first time today he came in to eat with us the food we eat
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15 year old turkish angora named Princess.
"I have a 15 year old turkish angora named Princess. In February
2009, she was very sick, not eating, and hiding under the bed. We
took her to the vet, and they said her kidneys were failing. They
did a blood test and her creatine was 7.2. The normal level for
cats is 0.8-2.4. She was hospitalized for a week with iv fluids.
My husband and I decided to take her home, and started her on transfer
factors. Three weeks later we took her back to the vet for
a checkup, and her creatine dropped to a 4.7. In October we took
her in again for a recheck, and she dropped to a 3.5. She still
continues to improve. Now she jumps 4 feet ledges, hardly sleeps,
and is very active."
Arlene Metke 206-600-6222 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"My 19 year old cat Dexter had been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure about 3 years ago
At the time his numbers were not too bad so we were able to manage with diet for a while. Then last year
my mother had a brain bleed and brain surgery. Her recovery took
about a year and during that time we were able to take care of Dexter
but not like we had been. It was a very difficult time for us. Finally
mom was getting better (Thank God!!) but I noticed that Dexter was
very thin and while staying at my parents house(Dexter lives with
them and I live close to my parents) noticed that he had not had
a bowel movement in a while. He also stopped eating and was VERY
We took him to the vet and they said that he was very close
to the end. We would be justified in letting him go. The doctor
wanted to give him a chance so they kept him for a few days, gave
him an enema and fluids. A few days later I was sent home with some
stool softener and potassium.They also told us that fluids under
the skin twice a week would also help. They said to keep him comfortable
and feed him anything that he wanted. I was so sad, I felt like
we had let him down. They were not giving him much time. At home
he acted okay but not very alert, not jumping on his favorite couch,
not doing much of anything. Then I stumbled across Shirley's
Cafe. The information about an immune enhancing supplement
was very interesting and seemed like it could help out
kitty. I got on the phone and called the number on Shirley's website.
An amazing earth angel named Tamara answered and gave
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butter and he licks it right off of my finger. About 4 days after
starting he got a little more life into him. 2 weeks later he started
taking his walks around the swimming pool out back and started jumping
on his couch again. He is eating like he never has before and has
regular bowel movements. It has been almost 2 months and he continues to do well.
We don't know how much time he has, after all he is
almost 20 and we have to be realistic. The main thing is that his
quality of life is so much better and Tamara was right, it did make
him feel better. Thank you to Shirley for this amazing website and
to Tamara for all of her help. We owe a huge thanks to you!"
Vaccines Triggered Harmful Inflammatory Reactions in the Kidneys
It has long been known that chronic kidney failure (CRF) in cats has an inflammatory component. Chronic low-grade inflammation causes
gradual destruction and scarring of the kidney, eventually resulting in loss of function and failure of the organ. However, what was
not known was what caused the inflammation in the first place. Recent research from Colorado State University suggests a link
vaccination for feline distemper (panleukopenia) and the development of chronic kidney failure.
The distemper virus is grown
in a feline kidney cell culture to make the vaccine. Earlier research at Purdue University showed that
puppies given a vaccine grown in calf serum developed antibodies to calf proteins that also reacted against the puppies' own cells.
These auto-antibodies (antibodies to self, or to one's own tissues) may contribute to later development of
autoimmune diseases. Every subsequent vaccine caused the puppies to form even more antibodies.
In the Colorado State study, 75% of kittens given an injectable distemper vaccine developed antibodies to kidney proteins. However,
kittens given the intranasal form of the vaccine did not produce kidney antibodies.Ongoing work at Cornell University has demonstrated
that the immunity produced by the feline distemper vaccine lasts for many years (the test cats have maintained their immunity to
distemper for more than 9 years without revaccination). Given the long-lasting immunity provided by the distemper vaccine and the
risk of triggering a harmful inflammatory
reaction in the kidneys, it seems prudent to minimize the vaccines
a cat receives. The current recommendation is to vaccinate every
3 years. For indoor cats, it may be unnecessary to revaccinate at
all, once the kitten has had its distemper series. Some studies
suggest that a single distemper vaccine given after 16 weeks of
age, is fully protective and need not be repeated. The intranasal
vaccine appears to be much less likely to cause this adverse reaction.
Reference: Parenteral administration of FVRCP vaccines induces antibodies
against feline kidney tissues." MR Lappin, WA Jensen, R Chandrashekar,
Chronic kidney disease is a common cause of death in cats. Lymphocytic/plasmacytic
interstitial nephritis is common histopathologically, suggesting
immune-mediated reactions may play a role. Feline herpesvirus 1,
calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus for use in feline vaccines
(FVRCP) are commonly grown in Crandall-Reese Feline Kidney (CRFK)
cells. As a consequence, commercially available FVRCP vaccines contain
CRFK proteins. The objectives of this study were to determine whether
cats inoculated with FVRCP vaccines develop antibodies against CRFK
cell extracts and if so, to determine if these antibodies reacted
with extracts of feline kidney tissue (FRT).
Michael Richards, DVM
"Unfortunately, cats develop vaccine related fibrosarcomas. This is a problem which has
come to light in the last few years and it is one for which there
is no clear consensus about the proper way to publicize and deal
with it among small animal veterinarians. I suspect that many cat
owners are unaware of this risk.. Most veterinarians are reluctant
to tell every cat owner about the risk of fibrosarcomas and to explain
the risk/benefit ratio of vaccination for each individual cat."
Fibrosarcoma in Cats - Vaccine Related
Diet's Influence on Kidney Disease in Cats and Dogs
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM -
"Kidney disease is probably the leading cause of mortality in the cat. It is troubling to think
about the role that chronic dehydration may play in feline kidney failure. And remember, cats are
chronically dehydrated when they are on a diet of predominantly dry food. The prescription dry '
kidney diets' such as Science Diet k/d - which is commonly prescribed by veterinarians -
contain only a small amount of moisture leaving your cat in a less than optimal state of water balance.
I must say that I find it truly amazing when I hear about the very large numbers of cats
receiving subcutaneous fluids while being maintained on a diet of dry food. This is extremely
illogical and every attempt should be made to get these cats on a diet that contains a higher
Please also note the following list of the first four ingredients of Science
Diet dry k/d after reviewing this section on reading a pet food label - and bearing in mind
that your cat is a carnivore. The first three ingredients are not even meat and the fourth
ingredient is a by-product meal. The purpose of this prescription diet is to restrict protein
which it certainly does. Unfortunately, it restricts it to the point that the cat will often
catabolize (use for fuel) his own muscle mass which results in muscle wasting and weight loss.
The level of protein in this diet is not only at an extremely low level, it is in an incomplete
form for a carnivore. Note that it is made up mainly of plant
proteins - not meat proteins."
Dr. Derek Duval, DVM - "Do high protein diets causes renal failure? No.
In dogs they have removed 7/8 of the renal mass and then placed them on
diets of various protein level and quality. Dietary protein had no
effect on the development of renal failure. In cats similar studies
suggest that dietary protein level is not associated with renal
failure." Dr. Duval explains that the most common clinical signs of
renal (kidney) failure are vomiting, increased urination and increased
thirst. (Other disease share these same signs; such as diabetes,
Dr. Russell Swift, DVM on kidney disease - "Fortunately,
since I have turned to a holistic approach to wellness, I have seen
many dogs and cats outlive their death sentence by years. I believe
there are three major reasons for kidneys to degenerate and eventually fail: 1) poor quality nutrition, 2) toxicity and 3) chronic
Dr. Smitha DVM recommends enzyme supplements, probiotics, and essential fatty acids,
as well as taurine, which the kidneys contain and which plays an important role
in kidney health. Herbal formulas may help maximize kidney function, including
those anti-inflammatories like wheat grass, and barley grass; anti-microbials like garlic and uva ursi to help prevent
secondary bacterial complications; desiccated sea plankton with electrolytes to help kidneys
function better; and chlorella which could speed healing of damaged kidney tissue.
I have discussed in many previous articles the failings
of processed foods. Inadequate and improper protein sources and
low moisture content (of dry foods) are the two major kidney stressors
I believe occur in commercial foods. The kidneys also take a hard
hit from many toxins to which the body is exposed. Many conventional
medications, notably nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and certain antibiotics, are very
damaging to the kidneys.
Ultimately, there is not much known about the long-term effects of many food additives and preservatives;
fluoride in the drinking water; and all the pesticides, toxic medicine and herbicides used in, on and around our companion animals
(and ourselves!). Item number three on the list above is a term used by homeopaths to describe a chronic disturbance in the body's
function that results in symptoms.
Russell Swift, DVM - When I am confronted with a dog or cat who has been
diagnosed with chronic kidney failure (CRF), I generally begin by
educating the animal's guardian about the dangers of commercial foods
and the benefits of fresh-food feeding. Conventional veterinarians are under the misunderstanding that low protein diets are the best
way to feed an animal with chronic kidney failure. My experience is that such an approach will lead to the death of the animal in
a few months (thus bringing their prognosis to fruition). I have found that just the opposite approach is the most effective for
most animals. I suggest feeding a high protein, raw meat based diet. I
have seen dramatic reductions in elevated kidney blood tests within two weeks in some patients.
Why does conventional medicine do the opposite? Because all of the conventional nutrition research is done
with processed foods. I haven't seen any done with raw foods.
I believe this is the reason for the research data. Heat-treated animal protein, as found in commercial foods, is more difficult
to digest. This results in more protein (nitrogen) waste, which the kidneys must remove from the bloodstream.
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is a protein waste that is measured in a blood test.
Therefore, a diet that has high levels of cooked protein is more stressful
to the kidneys and results in higher toxicity (BUN) in the blood if the kidneys are not functioning well. Raw protein, in comparison,
digests more completely with less waste. This results in more protein for healing and rebuilding tissue without the kidney stress. Remember,
by nature carnivores eat a very high protein diet. They should have the ability to handle it.
Another benefit of the raw food diet is that
they contain much more water than dry foods. This
helps the kidneys
discharge waste material. I would not be writing this information
if I had not seen many animals improve on such a regimen. Other holistic vets are having the same results." There is a fine line between making
sure all the kitty's nutritional needs are met, and keeping the stress on the kidneys as low as possible
Dr.Hamilton DVM - "Diets that are low in potassium can cause kidney failure.' In
general Commercial diets
are of poor quality protein and poorly formulated and may have led
to the development of kidney disease.
Dr. Paula Terifaj DMV - "Research
conducted at the University of Georgia in the 1990s found that feeding
protein levels of 34% (higher than the recommended average of 22-26%)
to older dogs with kidney failure caused no ill effects at all...
The truth of the matter is this; Inferior sources of proteins, meat
by-products and grains (cheap sources of incomplete proteins that
pet food companies are allowed to factor in and measure as crude
protein) can make more work for the organs that are involved in
digesting food and eliminating waste, namely the kidney, liver and
Are High-protein diets Safe for Kidney Disease?
In the past, it was believed that a low protein diet was essential
in controlling Chronic Kidney Failure (CRF). The idea behind this
is to cut down on the kidneys' load. However, studies done on dogs
in kidney failure, show that a low protein diet did not help the
GFR or BUN of said dogs. Since cats have an even higher protein
requirement than dogs, it seems unlikely that they could thrive
on low protein diets. As an obligate carnivore, they need the nutrients
only available from meat. So one has to walk a fine line between
making sure all the kitty's nutritional needs are met, and keeping
the stress on the kidneys as low as possible.
Dr. Derek Duval, VMD - "Do high protein diets causes kidney
failure? No. In dogs they have removed 7/8 of the kidney mass and
then placed them on diets of various protein level and quality.
Dietary protein had no effect on the development of kidney failure.
In cats similar studies suggest that dietary protein level is not
associated with kidney failure."
Diana Hayes-Moon - "Very Important to Feed a ALL
Natural Diet home prepared meals of cooked or
raw chicken or turkey meats ( any type of artificial foods that come in
tin or wrapper are full of chemical/toxins which will only continue to burden the kidneys and add more toxins in the body.
With more damage the toxins that are normally filtered by the kidney begin to build up and can cause depression, decreased appetite,
a foul odor to the breath, oral ulceration, and vomiting. In the end stage of kidney failure,
a low body temperature, seizures, and severe depression and coma can result."
T.J. Dunn D.V.M. - "The biggest and most common misconception
of all... the promotion of some low priced, grain-based foods as
being a Complete and Balanced diet for dogs and cats! Having done
physical exams on tens of thousands of dogs and cats and learning
from their owners what these pets are being fed has taught me that
dogs and cats look, feel, and perform better if they are fed a meat-based
diet rather than if fed a corn, wheat, soy or rice-based diet. This
does not mean that grains are bad for dogs and cats; they surely
can contribute certain limited nutrients to a good diet (mainly
calories in the form of carbohydrates).
Nevertheless, many veterinarians
believe that grains should not be the foundation of a diet intended
for a dog or cat. If some pet food "expert" tells you that eating
animal fat is bad
for dogs and cats and that a plant source of fatty acids is much
better, your common sense should tell you that dogs and cats successfully
evolved over the eons by consuming animal fat in their diets. So
does it make sense to say that animal fat is bad for dogs and cats?
Another example is the common notion that lots of protein in a pet's
diet will cause kidney damage.
Again, looking at the nature of the
dog and cat as primarily a meat-eating animal and having evolved
by capturing and consuming other animals, we know their diets have
always been high in protein. Think about what makes sense IN NATURE.
If you hear about a nutritional product that "just doesn't make
sense"... be cautious about it's factual basis."
Cystitis, Inflamation, and Bladder-Kidney Stones
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
Cystitis and stones are extremely common in the cat and can be very painful
and life-threatening. Cystitis can lead to inappropriate urination
(urinating outside of the litter box) and stones can cause a fatal
rupture of the bladder by blocking the outflow of urine. Any cat
that is repeatedly entering the litter box but not voiding any urine
is in need of IMMEDIATE medical attention! It is important to note,
however, that "crystals" are not the same thing as stones. Crystals
are often a normal finding in a cat's urine and it is not appropriate
to put the cat on a "special urinary tract" formula when these are found in the urine.
Important: I often see too much clinical significance
placed on the identification of crystals in the urine without regard
to how the urine sample was handled. It is very important to understand
that crystals will often form once outside of the body within a
very short (one hour) period of time. If the veterinarian does not
examine the urine right away and either sends it to an outside laboratory
or uses a free-catch sample that the owner brought from home, an
erroneous diagnosis of crystals may be made. This is called a "false
positive" report and results in unnecessary worry on the part of
the owner and often leads to the cat being placed on an inappropriate
With regard to overall kidney and bladder health, I cannot stress
strongly enough how important WATER, WATER, WATER
is in both the prevention and treatment of diseases involving this
organ system. When a cat is on a diet of water-depleted dry food,
they produce a more highly concentrated urine (higher urine specific
gravity - USG) and they produce a lower volume of urine which means
that a higher concentration of crystals will be present in the urine.
This increases the chance of these crystals forming life-threatening
stones. The concentrated urine and the lack of volume production
can also be very irritating to the lining of the bladder wall predisposing
them to painful cystitis. Please keep in mind that a cat has a very
low thirst drive and is designed to get water with their food. A
diet of canned food will keep a proper amount of water flowing through
the urinary tract system and help maintain its health.
Urine pH is also often considered when discussing urinary tract
problems but we really need to stop focusing on pH. Again, a proper
amount of water in the diet is the important issue here - not urine
pH. Many of the so-called feline lower urinary tract diets are formulated
to make the urine acidic but it is thought that these low magnesium,
acidifying diets may actually exacerbate painful cystitis. Also,
these acidifying diets, which are so often prescribed, may end up
promoting calcium oxylate stones and hypokalemia (low potassium
in the blood). It is also important to note - for those people still
stuck on worrying about the urine pH - that there are many factors
which determine the pH of urine and only one of them is diet.
With regard to dry food and urinary tract health, aside from
the lack of water in this type of diet, there is also a correlation
between the consumption of a high carbohydrate diet
and the formation of struvite crystals as shown by this study. Veterinarians
often prescribe Science Diet dry c/d and x/d for urinary tract problems
but again, these diets are only ten percent water and contain a
high level of species-inappropriate ingredients and questionable preservatives. They are also very
high in carbohydrates with dry c/d containing 42 percent of its weight as carbohydrates. Please note the first few ingredients in
c/d while remembering that your cat is a carnivore.
Diet is not the only issue involved with cystitis but it is an important one and one that we can control.
Stress is also thought to play a very significant role in cystitis and even cats that are fed a 100 percent
canned food diet may experience bouts of cystitis. This is a
very frustrating disease to deal with and one that the veterinary
community does not have all the answers for. What we do know is
that decreasing stress and increasing the water content of the diet
are the most important management issues to address. The water content
of the diet is easy to control. The stress issue is another matter
and is not always easy to address since cats can be very sensitive
and are often 'silent' in their stress.
Cystitis can be extremely painful and it is very important to
address pain management in these cats. Remember: pain = stress and
we are trying to minimize the stress in these patients. Buprinex
is a good choice for a pain medication. This is superior to Torbugesic
which has been used for pain management in the cat in the past.
(Burprinex is a prescription medication that you must get from your
veterinarian.) Unfortunately, many veterinarians overlook pain medications
as a very important part of the treatment of this common feline
A note on antibiotic usage in these cases. Most cases of cystitis are sterile. In
other words, they are not the result of an infection and should not be placed on antibiotics. Only ~1% of cats with cystitis that
are under 10 years of age have a urinary tract infection, yet many
veterinarians place these patients on antibiotics when these drugs
are not warranted. Most cats under 10 years of age produce a very
concentrated urine (USG greater than 1.030) and bacteria do not
grow well in concentrated urine. In cats over 10 years of age, infections
are more common but that still does not mean that older cats with
cystitis should automatically be put on antibiotics. The reason
that an older cat is more prone to urinary tract infections is because
kidney disease is more common in this age group and so these cats
will have a more dilute urine which is not as hostile to bacterial growth.
Feline Urogogical Syndrome (FUS) - Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Feline urological syndrome, a chronic condition similar to cystitis
in humans (characterized by frequent urination with blood in the
urine), is an increasingly common and potentially fatal illness
in cats. It has been linked to elevated levels of ash and phosphorus,
two substances commonly found in commercial pet foods. High iodine
levels are seen as a contributing factor for thyroid tumors in cats.
"New diseases are being discovered that are linked to 100% complete
diets," states Dr Wysong. These include "polymyopathy (a muscle
disorder) from low potassium levels, dilated cardiomyopathy (heart
muscle disorder) from low taurine levels, arthritic and skin diseases
from acid/base and zinc malnutrition and chronic eczema from
essential fatty acid malnutrition," he
reports. Given the high possibility that your favorite pet foods
may be slowly poisoning your cat or dog, its crucial that you find
brands you can trust to be animal friendly.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are uncomfortable and
extremely painful. They tend to be more common in cats than dogs
and can be caused by bacterial infection, bladder stones or urolithiasis
(stones in the urinary tract). UTIs often recur and can lead to
more serious kidney infections if left untreated. Symptoms may include:
- Straining to urinate
- Obvious pain or discomfort when urinating
- Constantly licking their genitals
- Frequent urination without passing much urine
- Urinating in unusual places
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Fever andFever and loss of condition
Holistic vets use this herbal remedy and Natural immune enhancing substance
for treatment of various forms of urinary
tract inflammation without irritating the kidneys. An antimicrobial, anti inflammatory, soothing and tonifying designed to disinfect,
sooth and protect the urinary tract.
William Winter DVM - "...Another sort of miracle that
occurred from my exposure to this work was my conversion to using
herbs instead of steroids, antibiotics and other drugs when treating
the very common ailment, FELINE UROLOGICAL SYNDROME (I refuse to
use any newer acronyms because the current thinking doesn't seem
to have evolved any more since the old acronym was in vogue). I
began exploring the simple herbs listed by Ms. Levy to great effect,
then I discovered a commercial product of a similar nature HERBAL
DIURETIC. It is produced for humans with cystitis/vaginitis. When
I first started using the product it was called "URINARY ANTISEPTIC"
for it really is, but the F.D.A. did not want people to be curing
themselves so they made them change the name. It still works very nicely."