Urinary Tract Infections, or UTIs, are painful infections taking place anywhere along the urinary tract. Most people think of UTIs as a human affliction, but both dogs and cats are susceptible to this type of infection. The most common cause of UTIs is bacteria that enters the urinary tract through the urethra when your pet’s immunity is compromised due to health conditions or other circumstances. UTIs are not only uncomfortable for your pet, they can also lead to serious health complications and even death if left untreated. If detected, most UTIs are treatable, and you can take steps to reduce your pet’s risk of future infection.
In both dogs and cats, UTIs are most commonly caused by bacteria (usually E. coli) that gathers around your pet’s urethral opening and moves into the urinary tract and bladder when your pet’s natural defenses are down. Health conditions that can allow bacteria to develop in the urinary tract include bladder cancer, bladder tumors, kidney stones, bladder stones, debris caught in the urinary tract, injury, spinal cord abnormalities, incontinence (involuntary urination), stress, congenital (or inborn) abnormalities, diabetes, or other urinary tract dysfunction. In dogs, prostate disease may increase the risk of UTIs. Your pet’s diet and water intake can also have an impact on urinary tract health.
Your pet’s symptoms will depend on what type of UTI they have. With lower urinary tract infections that take place in the bladder, you may see blood in your dog's or cat’s urine, difficulty during urination, frequent attempts at urination, accidents in the house or dribbling of urine, licking around the urinary opening, and bad smelling, cloudy urine. Cats may scream or cry out when trying to urinate.
With upper urinary tract infections that affect the kidneys, dogs and cats can exhibit weight loss, vomiting, and a disinterest in food. More serious UTI symptoms that may indicate a greater problem include fever, tenderness in the lower abdomen, and lethargy. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms you should seek veterinary care right away. Male cast especially, as a UTI can be life-threatening. In some cases your pet may not show any symptoms, so it is important to keep up with regular veterinary visits during which an infection can be detected.
Your veterinarian will perform a full examination and run tests to determine if your pet has a UTI. Many UTIs are successfully treated with a course of antibiotics while others may be treated with a change in diet, increased water intake, urinary acidifiers, or herbal remedies. Surgery or urinary catheterization may be implemented in cases of more serious or persistent infections.
Your veterinarian may also suggest treating any underlying health condition, such as diabetes, that may be causing UTIs. Luckily, certain measures can be taken to decrease the risk of your pet getting this terrible infection. Evaluate your pet’s diet to ensure they are eating appropriate foods, provide plenty of clean drinking water, let dogs out often and make litter boxes accessible for cats, maintain proper hygiene, and visit the vet regularly to maintain overall health.
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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.