Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs & Cats
Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs & Cats
Urinary tract problems are not uncommon in cats and dogs. Owners usually notice that their pet is urinating more often than normal or having accidents in the house. It is important to know what is normal for your pet, so you can spot what is abnormal!
If your pet is passing small amounts of urine more frequently than usual, this normally indicates cystitis. Passing large amounts of dilute urine more frequently is more likely to be caused by kidney disease, diabetes, or other medical problems. Straining and passing nothing at all can indicate a blockage of the urinary tract and is an emergency.
In female dogs, bacterial cystitis is the most common cause of frequent urination. If possible, collect a urine sample before going to the vet. Most cases respond well to antibiotics and need no further treatment. In recurrent cases the vet may want to use radiography and ultrasound to examine the bladder and do urine tests to rule out crystals in the bladder. Crystals can often be treated with diets which alter the ratio of minerals in the urine, promote more dilute urine, and change the urine acidity.
In male dogs, bacterial cystitis is less common but can be seen with prostate disease. Enlarged prostates are found in almost all entire male dogs over 6, but seldom cause problems. Again, crystals and stones can be a cause of recurrent cystitis, and small stones are more likely to block the urinary tract of male dogs. Stones can sometimes be dissolved with veterinary diets, but large stones may require surgical removal. Certain breeds are more likely to get bladder stones, most notably Dalmatians, which convert purines into uric acid which is less soluble than the allantoin most dogs produce. Although not all Dalmatians suffer with urate stones, many owners choose to feed a low purine diet anyway.
Older female dogs, especially those which have been neutered, may develop mild incontinence. This usually presents as urine leakage when the dog is lying down or asleep, but can present as a urinary tract infection as the bladder sphincter is weaker and may allow bacteria into the bladder. Most bitches respond very well to medication to control this type of incontinence.
Frequent urination on walks or in the home, especially if preceded by sniffing, can be urine marking. Entire male dogs are most likely to do this, but females will sometimes mark too (this is more likely if they are coming into season). Marking can increase if there are new dogs in the house or walking area, if there is a female in heat, or sometimes if the dog is feeling insecure. A vet check and urinalysis are advisable, before looking at behavioural causes of excessive or indoor marking.
Normal cat urine is very concentrated, so in healthy young cats bacterial cystitis is very uncommon. Frequent urination in a young cat is more likely to be caused by inflammation of the bladder, or crystals in the urine. Bladder inflammation in cats is often triggered by stress, so think carefully about any changes which may have affected your cat. Cats should always have access to a litter tray, even if they prefer to toilet outside, and have at least one litter tray per cat. Consider offering different litters, and different types of tray (covered or open). Bladder crystals and stones can often be managed through dietary changes, as for dogs, but male cats are at higher risk of blockage. If you think your male cat can’t urinate he must see a vet as an emergency as untreated cats can suffer kidney failure and die. For stress prone cats, behavioural modification, pheromone treatments, and calming supplements can reduce the frequency of cystitis attacks.
In older cats, bacterial cystitis becomes more of a concern as the kidneys produce less concentrated urine. Urinary infections may also be seen in cats with glucose in their urine as a result of diabetes. Urinalysis will suggest underlying causes to your vet, but they may also recommend blood tests to make a diagnosis. Both kidney disease and diabetes can be managed with a combination of dietary changes and medications.