How to Prevent and Treat Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs and Cats

Cat about to use litterbox
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You can help reduce your cat's risk of UTIs by providing him with a clean litterbox that's easy to access.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria colonize areas of the urinary tract that should be sterile. Normally, the bodies of dogs and cats naturally help prevent bacteria from adhering to and multiplying in the urinary tract. A UTI develops when something compromises your pet’s natural defense mechanisms, allowing bacteria that normally live around the urethral opening (for example) to ascend up the urethra and into the urinary bladder.

UTIs can be painful for both cats and dogs. Fortunately, prompt veterinary treatment can frequently relieve your pet’s discomfort.

Signs of a UTI

Take your pet to your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these warning signs of a UTI:

  • Blood in the urine (which causes red- or pink-tinted urine).
  • Difficulty urinating (straining).
  • Frequent attempts to urinate.
  • Passing small amounts of urine.
  • Urinary accidents.

It is important to realize that not all dogs or cats will show obvious signs of a UTI and that other urinary problems and diseases may exhibit similar signs.

There are a variety of disorders, including bladder stones and diabetes mellitus, that can put pets at increased risk for urinary problems. For this reason, pets at risk for UTIs should be screened regularly by a veterinarian.

Identifying the Problem

A urinary tract infection should be treated early to help prevent other more serious problems. A complete workup that reveals the source of the problem is best, especially in recurrent cases.

To diagnose a UTI, your veterinarian will take a sample of your pet’s urine and perform a urinalysis, an examination of urine that may point to an infection. Your vet may also recommend a urine culture. The culture can confirm infection and identify the bacteria causing the problem.

Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. To be sure the infection has been eradicated, a repeat urinalysis and/or urine culture may be recommended after the pet completes treatment.

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