A urinary tract infection or UTI is one of the more common health issues in dogs and cats, particularly in adulthood but it can happen at any age. Typically owners will notice that their pet has some blood in the urine combined with increasing frequency of urination that tends to leave a strong odor. In many instances this becomes a problem since the dog urinates in the home even though they are fully housetrained, or the cat urinates outside of the litterbox and on the new bathroom rug. Other symptoms can include dribbling and lack of bladder control, cloudy urine, whining or vocalizing while urinating, increased water consumption, fatigue and fever and trying to urinate without producing anything. Some dogs, particularly females, may lick at the genital area.
Most UTIs are bladder infections that can be easily treated with a variety of different types of antibiotics. The infection typically occurs because of the design of the dog’s urinary tract. In females in particular the urethra, which is actually a very short tube that allows urine to move from the bladder to the outside world, also allows bacteria to move from the exterior to the bladder, increasing the risk of a UTI. However, there can also be chronic types of reoccurring UTIs. These tend to be much more involved and difficult to diagnoses. Often they may be a symptom of another medical condition such as bladder stones, antibiotic resistant bacteria or crystals or chemicals in the urine that predispose the dog or cat to problems. In less common situations the chronic UTI may also be a sign of cancer, diabetes, problems with the hormonal levels in the body, prostate disease or some type of congenital malformation of the urinary tract.
Diagnosing a UTI starts with collecting a fresh urine sample and checking for the presence of the common causes of infection. Often a course of antibiotics is all that is needed along with access to lots of fresh water. For some dogs and cats there may be a need to treat with intravenous fluids to counteract any dehydration that may be present. Changing the diet can also help based on the specific cause of the UTI.