New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
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Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA

Common Urological Ailments

There are many conditions that can affect the lower and upper urological systems of companion animals. Common problems of the urinary system and kidneys include urinary tract infection, urinary crystals and bladder stones, feline urological syndrome (FUS), urinary tract obstruction, incontinence, kidney disease and failure, and cancer.

  • Urinary tract infection

    Lower urinary tract infection, or UTI, is also referred to as "bladder infection" or "cystitis." A UTI occurs when bacteria colonize the urinary tract.

    The first signs of a lower urinary tract infection are increased frequency of urination, straining to urinate, and inappropriate urination. Further symptoms include foul urine odor or blood in the urine. To treat this condition, a urine sample needs to be analyzed and the bacteria identified such that your veterinarian can prescribe the appropriate antibiotic. If the infection involves the kidneys, this is referred to as pyelonephritis.

  • Urinary crystals and bladder stones

    Bladder stones are formed by the accumulation of urine crystals. Urine properties and underlying metabolic conditions may influence the formation of urine crystals. Bladder stones result with the oversaturation of crystals in urine.

    Urinary tract infections can be associated with bladder stones. Smaller stones may become lodged in the urethra, especially in male animals, causing urinary tract obstruction and the inability to urinate. If left untreated, this condition can result in severe electrolyte abnormalities, acute kidney failure, and even death within a few days.

  • Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS)

    When urine crystals combine with mucus along the urinary tract in cats, these can form a plug in the urethra that blocks urine flow. Symptoms include straining to urinate with little or no urine production, crying, blood in the urine, and inappropriate urination. An animal that is unable to pass urine can die within a day or two, if left untreated. 

    Once a cat has had FUS, recurring blockage can become a problem and can be life-threatening if not treated. Treatment may include special diet, medical therapy, or surgical options.

  • Ureteral obstruction

    Blockage of urine can also occur in one or both of the ureters. The ureters connect the kidneys to the bladder. Bladder stones in dogs and crystal/mucus plugs in cats are usually the causes of urethral tract obstruction. Ureteral obstruction can occur secondary to stones, fibrous material, stricture, or cancer, among other causes.

    Urinary obstruction is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment through an emergency service. If you believe your animal is experiencing a medical emergency, please contact Ryan Emergency Service at 215-746-8911.

  • Incontinence

    An animal is incontinent when they cannot control urination normally. Sometimes, an animal is born incontinent and unable to control urination. This condition is more common in dogs than cats. Signs include dribbling when the animal is not actively trying to urinate, urine-soaked fur around the tail or hind leg area, and spots of urine wherever the dog has been lying down.

    There are numerous causes for this problem, including hormonal abnormalities, congenital disorders, urinary tract infection, muscle weakening, neurologic disease, and more. In most cases, incontinence can be controlled with drug therapy. However, urethral bulking and surgical options may be pursued in severe or refractory cases.

  • Kidney disease and failure

    The kidneys play an important role in many body functions by helping to control blood pressure and regulate the chemical makeup of the blood. They produce hormones and enzymes and contribute to the production of red blood cells. They also remove metabolic waste from blood. When the kidneys no longer function properly, and the blood is not properly filtered as a result, severe complications ensue.

    An animal with kidney disease can be diagnosed with either acute or chronic renal failure. In acute renal failure, there is a rapid onset of symptoms, while chronic renal failure progresses over a longer period of time. The most common cause of acute kidney disease is the ingestion of toxic substances such as antifreeze, Lily plants, grapes raisins, and certain types of human medications or obstruction. 

    If diagnosed early and treated immediately, acute failure or damage can be reversible. Chronic kidney disease is not reversible. It is the result of the deterioration of kidney tissue and progresses over many months or years.

    Animals with kidney failure require a global approach to therapy. Diet, medications and blood pressure control, hemodialysis, and renal transplantation may be considered.

Causes & Symptoms of Urinary Tract Conditions

Symptoms animals can display:

  • Inability to urinate or passing only small amounts of urine
  • Bloody or clouded urine
  • Fever
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Increased frequency of urination or amount of urine
  • Straining or crying out in pain during urination
  • Soiling in inappropriate places
  • Constant licking of urinary opening
  • Strong odor to urine
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss or changes in appetite

Causes can include:

  • Stones, crystals, or debris
  • Infection or inflammation
  • Ingestion of toxic substances
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Stress
  • Spinal cord abnormalities
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Prostate disease