When you notice your pet needing to go outside more often, or urinating in spots they’re not supposed to and straining to urinate, it could be a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Both dogs and cats are able to develop UTIs, they are, however, more common in dogs, and in females as well. This article explores UTIs including how to recognize when your pet has one, and your treatment options.
WHAT IS A UTI?
When bacteria travel from a source outside of the body, up the urethra, and into the bladder it causes an infection in (what should be) a sterile place. Dogs are more prone to UTIs than cats because they pee outside (an uncontrolled environment) often. Females are more likely to experience UTIs than males in most mammals because the urethra is much shorter and wider in females, so bacteria can travel up quickly and easily.
SYMPTOMS OF A UTI
The symptoms for a UTI are very similar in dogs and cats, because of their lifestyle and behavioural differences, however, pet owners need to be on the lookout for different signs.
- CATS: Will start urinating in places other than their litter box and urinating more frequently. You may also see signs of blood in their urine.
- DOGS: Will be going outside to pee more often. There may be blood in their urine, but it can be harder for dog owners to spot, unless the dog ends up needing to pee inside.
Both female cats and dogs may lick their vulva more often than normal while experiencing a UTI, but not all pets fall into this behaviour. If the UTI persists and a kidney infection has developed, symptoms extend into drinking more water than usual, not eating, and vomiting.
HOW IS A UTI DIAGNOSED?
UTI’s are very painful for dogs and cats, it can also turn into a much bigger infection very quickly. That means you’ll want to bring your pet to your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will perform a urinalysis to confirm a UTI diagnosis. The culture and sensitivity of the urine will be tested as well. The culture will likely be obtained by inserting a syringe directly into the bladder. This is the quickest, and least painful method on your pet, who is already experiencing significant discomfort.
Testing the sensitivity portion and the culture will help your veterinarian decide which antibiotic is best to use. This is why it’s important to bring your pet to the vet for every possible UTI, because the antibiotic needed may be different each time.
If a kidney infection is suspected, your vet will perform additional bloodwork and/or recommend an abdominal ultrasound.
WHAT IS THE BEST TREATMENT FOR A UTI?
Antibiotics are the only way to fight a urinary tract infection. Most treatments are 10-14 days long. Your dog or cat should be feeling better within the first five days though. Even if there are signs of improvement, it’s important to continue giving your pet the antibiotics, as the infection often lives on for a week after symptoms disappear.
Be sure to provide your pet with plenty of water during this time, and to keep an eye on their peeing habits, as well as their eating. If symptoms persist or worsen then your vet will likely want to examine your pet again, testing for a kidney infection. These infections are usually much longer to treat, averaging six to eight weeks. A serious kidney infection may require your dog or cat receiving intravenous fluid therapy and be monitored for a few days.
CAN UTIs BE PREVENTED?
There are no preventive measures to take to avoid occasional UTI’s. Ensuring your dog or cat always has access to fresh water is your best bet. If your pet is experiencing recurrent UTIs, then your veterinarian can recommend supplements to make such infections less likely to occur or strengthen the immune system. Further diagnostics may also be needed, such as x-rays and ultrasound of the abdomen, to rule out bladder stones.