UTI in Dogs & Cats: Signs, Treatment, & More [Vet-Approved]

Regular urination is essential for a dog’s or cat’s health. It is normal for dogs to urinate around 3 - 5 times a day. For cats, around twice a day. When a pet’s urinary system is in good condition, urination should not cause pain or discomfort. The urine would appear pale yellow.

When pet parents observe symptoms like straining to urinate, painful urination, or blood in the urine, this can be a sign of UTI in dogs or UTI in cats. .

In this complete guide, we talk about everything a pet parent needs to know about canine or feline urinary tract infection: its symptoms, preventive measures, treatment, and more. 

What’s in This Guide?

What is UTI in Dogs & UTI in Cats?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in dogs and cats are common health issues that affect the urinary system. Veterinarians classify UTI in dogs and UTI in cats as upper or lower, depending on where the infection is occurring. 

Upper UTI in pets means that the kidneys and/or ureters are infected with a pathogen — while lower UTI in pets means that the urethra and/or bladder are infected. If left untreated, a lower UTI can progress and become an upper UTI. 

What Causes a Dog or Cat to Get UTI?

Essentially, a urinary tract infection occurs when the pet’s urinary tract becomes infected with a microbial organism (typically a bacteria). The most commonly isolated species of bacteria in cases of feline or canine UTI is E. coli. However, bacteria from other genera (Proteus, Enterococcus, etc.) have been isolated as well.

Though any dog or cat can get UTI, a few predisposing factors include the following: 

  • Female dogs and cats — female pets tend to have wider and shorter urethras, increasing the chances of developing UTIs more frequently.
  • Older dogs and cats — senior dogs and cats are typically more susceptible to developing UTI.
  • Certain medical conditions — pets with bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease can make a dog or cat more likely to develop UTI.
  • Lifestyle factors — factors like lack of regular grooming, frequent dehydration, or dirty litter boxes can make a pet more susceptible to developing feline or canine UTI.
A cat using a litter box to represent one of the potential causes of UTI in cats: a dirty litter box

Cat & Dog Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infection in dogs and cats include the following: 

  • Straining to urinate and/or crying or whimpering while urinating
  • Frequent urination or urinary incontinence (going outside the litter box or indoors — even if trained otherwise) 
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Frequent grooming or licking on the genitals

Note: If you observe the above symptoms, contact an urgent care veterinarian

Diagnosing UTI in Dogs & UTI in Cats

Prompt diagnosis allows veterinarians to administer prompt treatment for UTI in dogs and UTI in cats. This helps relieve pain sooner and prevent potential complications such as the spreading of the infection (e.g. lower UTI becoming upper UTI), kidney infection, and bladder stones. 

To screen for UTI, veterinarians will collect a sample of the dog’s or cat’s urine for urinalysis. They will look for indications of an infection such as the presence of white blood cells, red blood cells, and bacteria. A urine culture may also be requested to help determine the best course of treatment.

In addition, veterinarians may request imaging tests (e.g. radiographs) to be done if complications like bladder stones are suspected.

Note: Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose UTI in dogs and UTI in cats as they make use of screening and confirmatory laboratory tests, along with clinical observations.

Close up of agar plates which represent urine culture, one of the ways to diagnose UTI in dogs and UTI in cats

How to Treat Feline & Canine Urinary Tract Infection

Treating UTI in dogs and UTI in cats may involve medication to help manage discomfort. Depending on the patient’s medical history and case, a veterinarian may wait for the results of  the urine culture before prescribing antibiotics — this helps prevent antibiotic overuse which can lead to stronger strains of bacteria.

If any complications are present (e.g. bladder stones) or if underlying medical conditions are discovered (e.g. diabetes, Cushing’s disease), steps to address these will also included in the dog’s or cat’s treatment plan.     

How to Prevent UTI in Dogs & Cats

Whether you’re looking to prevent UTI or UTI recurrence in dogs and cats, these helpful tips will help your furry friend stay healthy.

1. Provide Clean Water at All Times

Ensure that your pets have access to fresh and clean water at all times. Proper hydration helps dilute urine and flush out potential bacteria.

2. Ensure Cleanliness

Make sure your pet is well groomed. This helps prevent the accumulation of bacteria on their fur and reduces the risk of infections. Take note that senior dogs and cats may need more assistance with grooming because mobility issues might hinder them from effectively grooming themselves. 

In addition, for cat parents, make sure to regularly clean litter boxes to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

3. Regular Wellness Exams

Schedule regular check-ups or wellness exams with a primary care veterinarian. Routine examinations can help detect any early signs of urinary issues or other related medical conditions, allowing for timely intervention.

A dog having a wellness exam with a veterinarian at Sploot Veterinary Care in Denver and Chicago; this preventive measure helps in detecting UTI in dogs

Final Thoughts About UTI in Dogs & UTI in Cats

We trust that you've found this guide on managing urinary tract infections (UTIs) in cats and dogs informative! If you have specific inquiries about dealing with UTIs in your pets, Sploot Veterinary Care is here to help!

If you suspect UTI in your furry friend, our skilled veterinarians are equipped to diagnose and treat UTIs in both dogs and cats. Schedule an appointment online or via the Sploot Vets app! We also accept walk-ins and same-day appointments in our convenient clinic locations, open 365 days a year (10 am to 10 pm).

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!

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