The low down on Cystitis and urinary tract infections in dogs

A urinary tract infection is quite common in dogs and dogs are more commonly affected than cats. Females are more commonly affected than males.  The most common cause of a UTI is bacterial, although fungal can occur. Clinical signs seen are pollakiuria (frequent small amounts of urination), haematuria (blood tinged urine), stranguria/dysuria (strained or painful urination), inappropriate urination (dog starts urinating in the house even though house trained), malodorous urine, perivulvar dermatitis (reddening/inflamed skin around the vulva area).

Causes of bacterial UTI include –

  • Bladder disease – bladder stones, neoplasia.
  • Other infections – systemic bacterial infection, prostatitis, vaginitis, pyometra, pyelonephritis.
  • Urinary Incontinence.
  • Urine Retention – some dogs avoid going outside in the rain or cold to urinate, and this holding in of the urine can predispose to infection.
  • Congenital or Acquired structural defects of the lower urinary tract.
  • Other conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus or Cushing’s Disease can dilute the urine and predispose to infection.
  • Immune suppressive drug therapy.

Your vet will need to do some diagnostic tests such as culture the urine, ultrasound and/or x-rays, blood tests and urinalysis (examination of the urine under the microscope).

Most uncomplicated bacterial UTI’s respond well to antibiotic treatment. Some cases do prove to be more difficult to treat and often if the primary cause is not resolved, then the infection does not resolve either.

Taking note of your pet’s daily urination habits may sound strange but it is often the only way you as an owner can detect if something is wrong. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, please take your pet to your local vet for a check-up.

Urolithiasis is a urinary tract disease in which crystals or stones form within the bladder and cause irritation, pain and possible blockage.  The most common crystals/stones found are calcium oxalate, struvite and biurate. Many risk factors can predispose your dog to urolithiasis such as; age, breed, diet, infrequent urination and therefore concentrated urine, and several diseases.

Clinical symptoms seen are again pollakiuria, stranguria, inappropriate elimination, haematuria, and general discomfort in the dog. The same diagnostic tests are done by your vet as with cystitis. Treatment is aimed at addressing the underlying cause. Bladder crystals/stones can reoccur if proper treatment is not done or if owners do not adhere to the strict prevention guidelines laid out by the vet. Treatment and prevention is done via medications, change of diet and promoting water intake to avoid concentrated urine (placing water over the food or giving canned food can increase water intake). If bladder stones are large then surgery will be required to remove them.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is when a dog loses voluntary control over its bladder. Owners often notice that their dogs are dribbling urine, and have urine staining or perivulvar dermatitis, or owners find a wet patch where the dog has been sleeping or lying.

Causes of incontinence are hormonal, neurological damage or anatomical disorders. Hormonal incontinence is most common and is most often seen in older, spayed female dogs.

Your vet will most likely need to do previously mentioned diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has true incontinence or if there is another cause. If incontinence is due to an underlying condition, that condition needs to be corrected first. If there is no underlying condition found and hormonal incontinence is suspected, then your dog will have to go onto lifelong hormonal treatment. Treatment in most cases is good and successful.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma

Transitional Cell Carcinomas (TCC) are relatively common bladder tumours in dogs. Dogs are generally older and females seem to be more affected than males. There is a definite breed predisposition to TCC and Scottish terriers are one specific breed that this tumour is most often found in, but all dogs can develop a TCC.

Pollakiuria, haematuria, stranguria, abdominal pain and abdominal distension are some of the clinical symptoms seen. Your vet can diagnose a TCC on ultrasound together with a biopsy of the mass.

Recurrent secondary bacterial bladder infections or bladder blockages are common and are often the first complaint. TCC’s can metastasize to other organs in the body.

Treatment is aimed towards managing the bladder infections and other complications. Delaying growth and spread of the TCC and controlling pain. Chemotherapy can be done in some cases. Surgery can be tried if the mass is operable. Survival time once diagnosed is anywhere from 6-12 months.

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