Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in dogs and cats are basically a bacteria overgrowth in the urinary tract, with the infection in the bladder. The bladder is where the urine accumulates until the animal urinates; however sometimes the urethra can become infected. If left untreated, the bacteria can back up out of the bladder by the ureters and end up in the kidneys, causing a kidney infection. This can be extremely painful and dangerous, so it is important to seek treatment immediately.
The first sign of a urinary tract infection is when your dog or cat eliminates around the house, or somewhere that is not their usual spot, without good reason. If they are used to eliminating outside and start doing it inside, it’s time to take your animal to your veterinarian to rule out UTI. UTIs cause the sensation of having to urinate, causing several trips to the litter box or outside without any elimination occurring. This is another sign that the bladder is causing some discomfort and may lead to back or abdominal pain, or visible blood in the urine.
Urine contains waste products and salts, however generally does not contain bacteria. If the urine is very concentrated, not emptied regularly or bacteria has entered the bladder, the chances of it multiplying are increased, causing problems for the animal. Females are more likely to develop UTI’s than males, simply because of the length of the urethra. Diabetic animals have more sugar in their urine, which makes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Another factor is animals with poor hygiene due to E.coli from their stool, which travels up the urethra and plants in the bladder.
SIGNS and SYMPTOMS OF UTIs:
- Frequent trips to the litter box
- A greater number of requests to be walked or to go outside
- Accidents in the house, even if house trained
- Straining when attempting to urinate
- Crying or whimpering while urinating
- Cloudy, foul-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
One of the first tests your veterinarian will do is a urinalysis for a proper diagnosis of a UTI. The test will show specific gravity, concentration and pH of the urine. It will also identify any chemicals or substances, such as ketones, that are a by-product of processing fat. Blood, protein and sugars are also tested, including bilirubin, a pigment produced by the liver when it processes waste.
Your veterinarian will also perform a bacterial culture in addition to a urinalysis if he or she suspects a UTI. Urine is removed from the bladder by using a needle that is inserted into the abdomen to collect a sample for a bacterial culture. Leaving a UTI untreated can have severe consequences, so there is no question that an animal with any of the above symptoms should be examined.
If you choose to see a holistic veterinarian, he or she will offer antibiotics to kill the bacteria, but may also suggest nutritional supplements to build the immune system and help repair any imbalances that caused the infection in the first place. Prevention is the key when it comes to health problems and UTIs.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Glen Bowman via Flickr (CC by 2.0)