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Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs and Cats

UTI in Dogs and Cats Commmon Questions Answered

How do dogs and cats get urinary tract infections?

UTIs in dogs and cats are caused by uropathogenic bacteria, like Escherichia coli, that are introduced into the urinary tract. These bacteria are usually introduced from the perianal region because they are common in an animal’s digestive tract. Female dogs are at a greater risk of developing UTIs primarily because their urethra is shorter and more easily contaminated by these bacteria. When introduced into the urinary tract the pathogenic bacteria should be eliminated by the dog or cat's immune system or kept in check by native beneficial flora. When one or the other of these two lines of defense breaks down the animal is subject to infection.

Why do dogs and cats get urinary tract infections?

UTIs in our pets are caused by uropathogenic bacteria, like Escherichia coli, that are introduced into the urinary tract. In an animal with a strong immune system or healthy urinary tract microbiome these pathogenic bacteria would be kept in check. However there are a number or reasons why this protective system might fail and allow a UTI to occur. They include:

  • A declining immune system in an older animal
  • Diabetes mellitus that results in high urine glucose content and lower defensive immune factors
  • Frequent infections that can damage the healthy protective lining of the urinary tract
  • Frequent use of antibiotics that have weakened the immune system response and/or created resistant organisms

Do female or male dogs and cats get urinary tract infections?

Both male and female animals are susceptible to urinary tract infections. However, UTIs are more common in female dogs and cats. This is because the primary reason for UTIs is the introduction of uropathogenic bacteria from the anal region into the urinary tract. Taking that into account, females are at a greater risk of developing UTIs because their urethra is shorter and more easily contaminated by these bacteria.

How to treat urinary tract infections in dogs and cats?

Treating UTIs in our pets can be approached in two different ways. The first is the most common and that would be the use of antibiotics. The most common would be Cephalexin or Clavamox due to their ability to destroy and inhibit the growth of bacteria. While antibiotics may be needed in some instances they can also contribute to damaging the microbial balance in the urinary tract and the creation of resistant organisms that can make the animal susceptible to future infections.

Another way to treat UTIs in animals would be a more natural approach. This method includes using antiseptic herbs like Uva ursi and immune boosting herbs like cat’s claw and echinacea. In addition, a natural UTI protocol would include probiotic organisms to support a healthy microbiome in the urinary tract and and cranberry powder to help prevent uropathogenic bacteria from proliferating in this area.

How long does a urinary tract infection last in dogs and cats?

A UTI in an animal left untreated can last indefinitely and eventually move up into the kidneys where it can become life-threatening. When treated with antibiotics a UTI will resolve within days with the usual treatment lasting 10 - 14 days. However, there are cases where eliminating the UTI is more complicated and antimicrobial therapy can last 4 - 6 weeks. Sometimes for chronic urinary tract infections a veterinarian will recommend low dose continuous antibiotic therapy. In our experience this can be very damaging to an animal and should be avoided if possible. Alternative therapies like probiotics, immune boosting herbs and cranberry powder should be considered.

What causes urinary tract infections in dogs and cats?

UTIs in dogs and cats are caused by what is referred to as uropathogenic bacteria. The most common of these is the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacteria is prevalent in the digestive system and because of this it can be found in the area surrounding the anus and from there easily contaminate the urinary tract.

What antibiotics treat urinary tract infections in dogs and cats?

The most common antibiotics used to treat UTIs in our pets are Cephalexin and Clavamox. Cephalexin belongs to a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins. They are similar to penicillin in action and side effects and work to stop or slow the growth of bacterial cells by preventing bacteria from forming the cell wall that surrounds each cell. Clavamox is a broad spectrum penicillin antibiotic containing both Amoxicillin and Clavulanic acid to make it last longer and better resist stomach acid.

What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections in dogs and cats?

The most common UTI symptom in dogs and cats is frequent urination that may include straining and signs of discomfort. Cloudy urine, indicating an infection is present, or pink/red coloration indicating blood in the urine will help you to tell if your pet has a UTI. The urine will also often have a stronger odor than usual. A break in house training is a red flag for dogs while the same can be said for a cat that faithfully uses the litter box having an accident in the house. Dogs and cats may also more frequently lick their genitals due to dripping urine and discomfort.

Why does my dog or cat keep getting urinary tract infections?

Your dog or cat can be chronically getting UTIs because they have become more susceptible due to their general health or the treatment they have received. Uropathogenic bacteria, like Escherichia coli, are continuously being introduced into the urinary tract. An animal with a strong immune system or healthy urinary tract microbiome will keep these pathogenic bacteria in check. However, animals with declining health or those in which continual use of antibiotics have damaged the protective urinary tract microbiome and/or created resistant bacteria will be more susceptible to chronic infections. Other reasons for the recurrence of UTIs include:

    • A declining immune system in an older animal
    • Diabetes mellitus that results in high urine glucose content and lower defensive immune factors
    • Frequent infections can damage the healthy protective lining of the urinary tract making it more susceptible to infection
    • Frequent use of antibiotics that have weakened the immune system response and/or created resistant organisms

Why do older dogs and cats get urinary tract infections?

Uropathogenic bacteria, like Escherichia coli, are continuously being introduced into the urinary tract. Younger animals with a strong immune system and flourishing urinary tract microbiome will keep these pathogenic bacteria in check. However, older animals are at a disadvantage because their immune system activity will be less protective. Also, the tissue in the urinary tract can become more “spongy” as an animal ages making them more susceptible to infection. Poor quality diet and the overuse of antibiotics can contribute to the decline in an animal’s immune system function and vitality of their beneficial bacteria microbiome as they age making them more susceptible to UTIs.

What can I do for my dog or cat’s urinary tract infection?

You have two options to deal with your pet’s UTI. The first is the usual treatment that is antibiotic therapy. Your other option is a more natural route that includes antiseptic and immune boosting herbs. This more holistic approach can also include the use of probiotics, cranberry powder and an herb like astragalus that supports the immune system. In our view the most important thing to do for your pet is prevention of future UTIs. This would include a healthier diet that doesn’t include poorer quality, dry kibble pet foods, but instead healthy raw foods or home-prepared meals that are higher in moisture and whole food nutrition. Clean filtered water and high-quality supplements like digestive enzymes, probiotics and organic, whole food vitamins would also improve your animal’s health tremendously. You can view our Natural UTI Protocol for more information and supplement suggestions.

References

Urinary tract infections in dogs. Retrieved from: https://wagwalking.com/condition/urinary-tract-infection.

Allen, M. Cat and dog uti treatment. Retrieved from: https://www.petcarerx.com/article/cat-and-dog-uti-treatment/264

Omudhome, O. Cephalexin. Retrieved from: https://www.medicinenet.com/cephalexin/article.htm

About the author

Philip Reich
Philip Reich is a Master Herbalist and co-founder of The Pet Health and Nutrition Center. He specializes in formulating natural, whole food supplements and organic herbal remedies that benefit the health of dogs and cats. The holistic pet health protocols he has developed are followed by clients from all over the world.

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