If you’ve noticed that your dog has recently been whining to go out more often, he may be suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). In addition to frequent urination, the following signs may indicate a UTI:

  • Straining, pain or difficulty urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Urination in inappropriate places
  • Tender lower abdomen (in the area of the bladder)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

Similar signs can be seen with urinary stones or obstructions. Your veterinarian can rule out these other problems.

UTIs are a common problem in dogs but relatively uncommon in cats. However, inflammation of the urinary tract in cats may produce UTI-like symptoms, and is a serious health problem. If your cat exhibits any of the above symptoms, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Male cats can show the above signs when their urinary tract is obstructed. This can be life threatening in a short period of time.

Females have a wider and shorter urethra than males and are affected by UTIs more often. Males can get UTIs though, especially when they are intact (non-neutered).

"UTIs are also more likely to affect older, spayed dogs who experience incontinence," says Dr. Pam Epperson, AAHA member and owner of the Animal Care Center in West Bountiful, Utah. "Unfortunately, the cause of UTIs in pets is generally unknown."

Your veterinarian will test your pet’s urine to diagnose a UTI. A urinalysis is the examination of urine for abnormal substances such as blood, protein, sugar or white blood cells, which may indicate a UTI. Urine samples can be collected by having the pet urinate in a container. A sample can also be retrieved from the bladder by catheterization or by drawing urine directly from the bladder with a needle.

A bacterial urine culture will be performed to identify the presence of bacteria, which will confirm that a UTI is present.

"If the urinalysis indicates that your pet has a UTI, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition," says Dr. Epperson."

There are some steps you can take at home to decrease the incidence of UTIs.

  • Make sure that your pet has access to plenty of clean, fresh water.
  • When urine remains in the bladder for a long time, bacteria can multiply and your pet will be more prone to infection. Let your pet outside every few hours to help him eliminate bacteria. If you have an indoor cat, make sure her litter box is always accessible and clean.
  • Taking your dog on at least two walks a day will also increase the frequency of urination and may reduce the risk of infection.

Occasionally the infection causing bacteria will swim up your pet’s ureter and may cause a dangerous kidney infection called pyelonephritis. If you notice any changes in your pet’s normal urinary habits, take him to your veterinarian before an infection turns into a potentially serious health problem.

Copyright © 2009, American Animal Hospital Association

Reprinted with permission from the American Animal Hospital Association.