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Urinary tract infections (UTI's) are a relatively common pet disorder, both of dogs and cats, and of any age.
The term UTI theoretically encompasses all of the infectious diseases of the urinary tract, including both the upper urinary tract (kidneys and ureter) and lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra).
Infectious organisms generally enter the tract via the urethra and ascend into the bladder and even into the kidneys. Potential infectious causes include bacterial, fungal, viral, mycoplasma, and chlyamdial. In dogs, bacteria are the most common infectious agents. In cats, bacterial infections are much less common, with cats more commonly suffering from the non-septic disease process (FLUTD - Feline lower urinary tract disease).
The urinary tracts of dogs and cats, are susceptible to infection as it presents a point of entry into the body for bacteria. In saying this, the body has developed many self defense mechanisms to prevent the establishment of disease, including:
Frequent urination help to flush most of the bacteria from the urinary tract.
Males have a long urethra with fast flowing urine which makes it very difficult for organisms to ascend. Since the urethra is shorter in females, they are more prone to urinary tract infections.
The presence of normal healthy bacteria in the urinary tract helps to compete an inhibit the establishment of bad bacteria.
The acidity and large solute content in urine makes it uninhabitable to many bacteria.
A strong immune defence system helps to combat low levels of bacteria infiltration.
Why do dogs and cats develop urinary tract infections?
Bacterium (mainly from the gastrointestinal tract and skin) manage to invade the urinary tract and cause disease. Any abnormality that affects the above defense mechanisms will increase the likelihood of urinary tract infections. These abnormalities or disorders may include:
Conformational abnormalities such as congenital urethral and bladder problems, strictures, and fistulas
Any underlying disease or medication that affects the concentration or properties of the urine or the immune system itself such as diabetes, polyuria, and certain immunosuppressive drugs
Symptoms of UTI's in dogs and cats
Urinary tract infections will usually cause clinical signs that are limited to the urinary tract and local region. Occasionally animals can become systemically ill with nasty infections.
Clinical signs associated with urinary tract infections may include:
More clinical findings may be apparent on a veterinary examination and examination of a urine sample. If you are concerned about a urinary tract infection, collect a urine sample in a clean, sterile jar and go straight into your local veterinarian.
How vets diagnose UTI's in dogs and cats
If your vet suspects your pet may have a urinary tract infection, they will normally do a full set of urine tests. Examination of the urine may show signs of bacteria, blood, inflammatory cells, or crystals.
In cases where an infection is suspected, a sterile sample is often sent to the lab for a culture and sensitivity. This should identify the presence and type of bacteria in the urine, and which antibiotics will be effective against that infection. Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended to identify potential underlying causes. These may include any of the following:
How to treat UTI's in pets?
If no underlying factors or complications can be identified, most cases of bacterial urinary tract infection can be resolved using an appropriate antibiotic as determined by culture and sensitivity tests. Antibiotic treatment should be continued until all evidence of infection has resolved and should be carried out in consultation with your vet.
In complicated cases of urinary tract infection, or those that have an underlying cause, it's important to address these pre-disposing factors. This may include the treatment of diabetes or removal of bladder stones. Without dealing with the underlying cause, there is a high likelihood of re-infection.
In cases where clinical signs reoccur either due to inappropriate antibiotic choice, too short a course of antibiotics, neglecting to address the underlying issues, or just reinfection, it's important to extensively diagnose the case and treat aggressively. In addition to antibiotics, other treatments that may be required after consultation with your vet may include:
Urine acidification through medication, such as acid urine or special prescription diets
Surgical correction of abnormalities such as ectopic ureters
Surgical removal of bladder stones
Dog and cat UTI's
Urinary tract infections are a common occurrence, and are more often than not easily resolved with a course of antibiotics. However, there are many reasons why urinary tract infections develop and without addressing the underlying causes, re-occurences are likely to occur. Please consult your vet if you are concerned about urinary tract infection in your dog or cat.