Your veterinarian will perform a full examination and run tests to determine if your pet has a urinary tract infection. These tests include urinalysis to detect the infection and a urine culture to confirm the infection and identify the infecting bacteria. Once the UTI has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will decide on the appropriate course of treatment for your pet. If detected early, most UTIs are completely treatable and the treatments are easily administered. In more serious cases however, surgery or catheterization may be required.
Most UTIs can be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics that lasts between 7 and 14 days. Antibiotics like Cephalexin are the most common treatment for UTIs due to their ability to destroy and inhibit the growth of bacteria. Some veterinarians recommend a follow-up urine culture after antibiotic treatment is complete to confirm that the infection has been eradicated.
In some cases pets with predisposed conditions may need to be on a long-term low-dose antibiotic treatment to prevent recurrent infection. Long-term use of any antibiotic comes with certain risks such as developing a resistance to antibiotics, so carefully discuss this option with your veterinarian. Make sure to get all of the information and discuss side effects with your veterinarian before administering any medication.
Some UTIs can be treated by making dietary changes to improve your pet’s immunity and/or stop the administration of contaminated food. Your veterinarian may suggest food with a higher moisture content that will increase your pet’s water intake to encourage urination, or they may suggest eliminating foods with preservatives, additives, and colorants that can lower immunity.
Water intake can also be increased by making sure that your pet’s water dish is always full and always available. The more your pet drinks the more they will urinate, thus flushing harmful bacteria from the urinary tract. Keep in mind however that you cannot force your pet to drink or to urinate.
A veterinarian may also prescribe urinary acidifiers to control the pH in your pet’s urine and prevent the formation of bladder stones which can block the urinary tract and cause or exacerbate an infection.
In some cases UTIs can be successfully treated with herbal remedies such as Goldenrod Horsetail, Uva Ursi, Cranberry, Ester-C, and Berberine. These herbs safely and naturally treat painful and irritating symptoms while reducing inflammation of the infection site. Talk to your veterinarian to see if an herbal remedy is appropriate for your pet’s particular infection.
Surgery and Catheterization
Surgery to remove stones, tumors, or to correct inborn abnormalities may be required in cases of more serious or persistent infections. A UTI in a male cat can result in an obstruction, which is life-threatening: not being able to urinate means a deadly buildup of potassium in their system. Urinary catheterization is another option when the infection cannot be cleared out by other means. During catheterization, a catheter is inserted into your pet’s bladder through the urethra, allowing urine to drain out freely.
It’s important to note that in both dogs and cats untreated UTIs can lead to serious health problems. Infections in the bladder can move into the kidneys, causing fatal infections. If an obstruction, such as a stone at the root of your pet’s UTI, this can keep your pet from urinating and can lead to rupture of the bladder or kidney failure, both of which are life-threatening conditions.
Luckily, you can take steps to prevent your pet from getting UTIs in the future. Healthy diet, cleanliness, exercise, and regular veterinary care are important factors in maintaining your pet’s overall health and can also help to reduce the chance that your pet will get a UTI. Here are some quick prevention tips:
- Provide plenty of clean water for your pet to drink. When pets drink more, they urinate more, allowing bacteria living within the urinary tract to be flushed out. Remember, however, that you can not force your pet to drink or to urinate.
- Ask your veterinarian for recommendations of foods that support the overall health and immunity of your pet. No matter what food you choose, always be sure to keep it properly stored to prevent the formation or spread of bacteria that may lead to infection.
- Keep your pet groomed and their sleeping and feeding areas clean. In the case of cats, make sure that the litter box is clean and easily accessible.
- Walk your pet! Play with your pet! When pets are out and about or active it encourages drinking and urination that may help clean out the bladder and keep bacteria at bay.
- If your pet has a predisposed condition that may be causing UTIs, talk to your veterinarian about preventative measures you can take such as long-term antibiotic treatment or supplements.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.