Chances are in your pet's lifetime, she/he will have some sort of urinary issue. My own dog urinated in the house twice in the last week and initially, I blamed it on myself (that we had asked her to hold it too long.) After running some tests, I found out that she had a urinary tract infection which is currently being treated with antibiotics.
The goal of this article is to inform you:
- How to identify at home if there is a problem
- What tests are used to diagnose
- Possible causes and treatment
It is important to realize that most pets are going to show only subtle signs of a urinary tract infection. Pets don't commonly show signs that infections in other parts of the body might cause such as fever, lethargy or appetite loss.
The most common signs of a bladder infection that you will notice are:
- urinary accidents in the house
- attempting to urinate frequently with little to no urine produced
- increased drinking
- inability to hold urine the normal amount of time
Bloody urine is also something owners can detect if the pet urinates on a light-colored surface.
If your pet presents to us with these symptoms, the first test we will run is a urinalysis. This test involves a chemical analysis to look at pH (acidity of urine), specific gravity (concentration), and the amounts of sugar and protein in the urine. A veterinary technician then reviews the urine sediment (this is what is obtained after spinning the urine in a centrifuge) under a microscope to look for abnormal cells or crystals. This test helps us to identify the specific medical problem.
The other tests we may run for chronic conditions are:
- urine culture
- blood work to evaluate kidney function
A urine culture is run on urine we have obtained here in the hospital because the test needs to be run on sterile urine. Sterile urine (meaning without contamination) is most commonly obtained through a method called cystocentesis which means using a needle and syringe. Yes, this does sound scary but this process is no more painful than a vaccination! A culture involves sending the urine to a lab where they incubate the urine for 48-72 hours in a special container and identify whether bacteria is present. If bacteria grows in the urine, then the lab performs another test to identify which antibiotics are best to use against that specific bacteria type. X-rays and ultrasound are used if a bladder stone or bladder tumor is suspected.
The most common urinary conditions we diagnose are:
- bacterial urinary tract infections (UTI's)
- sterile cystitis (inflammation of bladder wall without infection)
- bladder stones
- bladder tumors
Dogs more commonly get UTI's while cats more commonly have sterile cystitis (inflammation without infection.) Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for a UTI. A 14 day course is typically prescribed. Most patients' symptoms will resolve within a few days but it is SO IMPORTANT that the entire 14 day course be finished so the infection doesn't return. A recheck urinalysis is always recommended to ensure that the UTI has resolved fully. Diet changes, reducing stress in the home, and supplements to improve bladder wall health are the treatments of choice for sterile cystitis. Bladder stones can occasionally be dissolved by a prescription diet but typically require surgical removal.
One other important fact to know about UTI's is that they are NOT CONTAGIOUS! They cannot be caught from other dogs or cats! The bladder is usually a sterile environment but bacteria can ascend or "climb" from the external genitalia (which naturally have bacteria) to create a bladder infection.
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet, please have them screened for a urinary condition. We will help with collecting the urine sample-have no fear!