Anyone who has suffered a urinary tract infection (UTI) knows it’s no picnic. The pain and frequent, urgent need to urinate can be downright miserable, and may lead to more serious problems if not addressed quickly. UTIs in pets are just as troublesome for our furry friends and are more common than pet owners may realize.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection is an infection of one or more parts of the urinary tract, which consists of the kidneys, ureters (tubes that carry urine to the bladder), bladder, and urethra (tube that carries urine out of the body). The bladder is the most common part of the urinary tract to become infected.
A healthy bladder is a completely sterile area, meaning bacteria are normally not found there. When bacteria or any other organisms gain entry to and proliferate in the bladder, a urinary tract infection is the result.
Signs of UTIs in Pets
Many of the symptoms of UTIs in pets are similar to those in humans, and include:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Urinating only small amounts at a time
- Straining to urinate
- Inappropriate urination (accidents inside the home or, if a cat, not using the litter box)
- Signs of pain (such as vocalization) during urination
- Blood in the urine
- Offensive odor to urine
- Loss of appetite
If you suspect your pet may have a urinary tract infection, please give us a call right away. If left untreated, UTIs can lead to kidney stones, kidney damage, or other potentially dangerous complications.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Both a urinalysis and urine culture are needed to determine whether or not an animal has a UTI. The urine sample is usually collected by capturing it into a receptacle “mid-stream” while the pet is in the process of urinating. In some cases, the veterinarian will collect it by use of a catheter or through a needle tap directly into the bladder.
Most UTIs are relatively straightforward and can be cleared up with an antibiotic. Once the urine has been cultured, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe an antibiotic specific to your pet’s infection, and can make recommendations as to proper home care and preventive measures.
Prevention Is Possible
There is no magic potion for preventing urinary tract infections in pets, but there are steps you can take to reduce your pet’s risk:
- Encourage your pet to drink plenty of water by always having a bowl of fresh water available. You can also add ice cubes to the water bowl or use a pet drinking fountain.
- Keep your pet’s food and water bowls clean to discourage the growth of bacteria or fungus.
- Probiotics can be useful in preventing recurrence of a UTI. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss the use of probiotics with you at your pet’s appointment.
- If your pet has chronic UTIs, your veterinarian may recommend a pet food that is specially formulated to promote urinary tract health.