There’s little data on the prevalence of urinary tract infections in pets in Australia. Nonetheless, the American Kennel Club reports that bacterial urinary tract infections affect 14 percent of all dogs throughout their lifetimes. Urinary tract infections are usually caused by a strain of E.coli entering the urethras and setting up home in the urinary bladder.
Furthermore, some dogs are more predisposed to urinary tract infections. For example, older female dogs and canines with diabetes are more likely to develop a urinary tract infection than the broader dog population.
Also, dogs with bladder stones are typically more likely to have recurrent urinary tract infections.
With regards to cats, however, urinary tract infections are thought to be quite uncommon in younger cats but the rate of infection is higher in older cats.
Urinary tract infection in pets: spotting the signs
Helping pet owners and clients to recognise the potential signs of a urinary tract infection in pets is important. Common symptoms include:
- Attempting to urinate more frequently
- Straining to urinate
- Showing signs of pain when urinating (i.e. whimpering or whining)
- Noticing spots of blood in pets’ urine
- Licking of genitals
- Dripping urine
- Urine with a noticeably strong scent
Other signs that may be indicative of a more serious infection include:
- Reduced appetite
- Shows signs of pain or tenderness around the genital area
- Fatigue/lack of energy
Treatment for urinary tract infections in pets generally involves a course of antibiotics. Choice of treatment will be based on the severity of the infection and whether the dog has other co-existing health conditions.
However, a rising concern is the issue of antibiotic resistance. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared antibiotic resistance one of the biggest global health concerns amongst both humans and animals.
The Australian Infectious Diseases Advisory Panel (AIDAP) says that while Australia is in a much better situation than America, antibiotic resistance is an emerging issue in veterinary medicine.
Over the last decade, multi-resistant E. coli and some methicillin-resistant Staphs have appeared in Australian small animal practices. As such, the advisory panel recommends choosing antimicrobials based on the most likely pathogen(s) that are associated with a particular infectious disease—for example, E. coli would be a likely cause of a lower urinary tract infection.
Furthermore, the length of antibiotic treatment also needs to be appropriate. As such, vets are urged to identify where an owner might be non-adherent and attempt to find ways to achieve compliance.
Aside from providing treatment, vets play a really important role in educating pet owners about antibiotic resistance. In the meantime, new canine UTI therapies are being tested, which may help reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
There are several things pet owners can do to help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in pets. It’s important for pet professionals to raise awareness of these key actions.
Change in diet — offer wet food or a mix of dry and wet. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet will help protect a pet’s immune system.
Hydration — Make sure pets always have access to clean, fresh water by changing the water bowl often or introducing multiple water sources.
Routine — Ensure pets go outside frequently to encourage urination. Clean kitty litter trays regularly.
While it’s important to not alarm pet owners, it’s also useful for them to know that common UTI symptoms may be associated with other health concerns. If owners notice any changes in urinating habits in their pets they should be encouraged to visit their local vet for a check-up.
5 common dog health problems
Caring for a dog with a broken bone
Separation anxiety in dogs
- Does Your Dog Have UTI Symptoms Or Something Worse? American Kennel Club. 2019. Accessed online via: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/noticing-dog-uti-symptoms-could-be-something-more/
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIS) in Dogs. American Kennel Club. 2016. Accessed online via: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/urinary-tract-infections-uti-in-dogs/
- Australian Infectious Diseases Advisory Panel (AIDAP). Antibiotic Prescribing Detailed Guidelines. 2013. Accessed online via: https://www.ava.com.au/library-resources/other-resources/fighting-antimicrobial-resistance/amr-resources/
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash