This month we wanted to focus upon a relatively common problem named a Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI. UTIs can be both painful and very harmful to your pet — and they require immediate identification and treatment.

What is a UTI?
A UTI is typically a bacterial infection that occurs within your pet’s lower urinary tract system — most often the bladder. This often occurs when skin or gastrointestinal microorganisms bypass the body’s upper urinary defenses, or when bacteria ascend up the urethra into the bladder. Then these microorganisms (often E. coli or fungi) colonize and produce an infection that limits your pet’s ability to urinate, are painful, and potentially result in a serious health concern.

Male Dog
Are UTIs common?
Yes. In fact, one out of seven pets will experience a UTI. Statistically, females are more likely to contract UTIs given a shorter lower urinary track and the closeness of their urethra to the ground when peeing. But males also contract UTIs. Unfortunately, the probability of being impacted by a UTI increases with age and the presence of other underlying health conditions such as diabetes or bladder stones.

Female Dog

How can I tell if my pet may have a UTI?

While the diagnoses of UTIs often require a culture or examination under a microscope, there are several common indications that you should contact us.

Unexpected in-house urination. If your pet is housebroken (they typically don’t pee in the home) and they have an unexpected accident, this might indicate a reason to suspect a UTI. Often an infection can produce involuntary relaxation of the urinary sphincter resulting in uncontrolled peeing. So, don’t get mad. Use this action as a signal that your pet may require medical attention.

In-House Peeing

Frequent desire to urinate. If your pet tries to pee frequently, and each attempt results in no or little flow, then you should contact us immediately. Infections can limit your pet’s ability to relieve themselves. This can be painful and create a life-threatening situation as the body is unable to expel urine.

Straining to urinate. If you sense your pet is straining to urinate as indicated by long periods in their favorite peeing position with little (perhaps just a few drops) or no output, this also indicates a potential UTI. Listen carefully for any whining or crying during their attempts to pee.

Blood in the urine. If your pet pees, and you see any red hues (from blood) in their urine, then it’s possible that your pet has a UTI. The redish color is the result of your pet’s body fighting an infection, and attention is required.

Frequent licking. If your pet frequently licks their genitals or there is a strong smell of urine, then please call us. This action indicates your pet’s desire to heal themselves, but medical assistance may be required.

Please note that these symptoms may not only indicate a UTI, they can also be associated with other potentially severe conditions such as urinary tract masses, kidney disease, poisoning, cancer, or bladder stones.

How is a UTI treated?
Given the cause of UTIs can be varied, so are the specific treatments. An exam and culture results will indicate the best possible treatment. However, an antibiotic to address the most common UTI sources can be immediately prescribed to help restore flow and mitigate pain. Then adjustments to the treatment program can be made after the lab results are received. Of course, any underlying health condition, such as bladder stones or diabetes, will need to be addressed.

Treatment

How dangerous is a UTI?

The ability for the body to expel urine is an essential bodily function. You should expect that your pet urinates at least twice per day, if not more frequently. If your pet is unable to produce or pass urine, it is a life-threatening situation and it is important that you contact us immediately.

How can I help prevent a UTI?
The first step is to monitor your pet. Knowing their peeing patterns and recognizing when they deviate from their regular habits is essential. If you notice any discomfort or change in frequency or duration, then pay closer attention — attempting to monitor the volume and color of the expelled urine. If you suspect a problem, or if your pet is prone to UTIs, then please call us. As with all health-related topics, early identification tends to lead to early diagnoses and faster resolutions.

For some pets that experience recurring UTIs, it’s possible that the daily use of treats or vitamins containing cranberries may limit the ability of bacteria to attach to the bladder lining thereby reducing the risk of UTIs. Also ensure their drinking bowls are full of clean water.

Particularly for females, you may also consider trimming any excess hair around their vulva to help keep the area clean when urinating.

Questions?
For UTIs and any health or related concerns, please contact us. The entire staff at Kirkwood Animal Hospital is dedicated to the health, wellness and longevity of your pet.

Kirkwood Veterinarians