Urinary tract disorders are very common in cats and dogs and are a regular part of our case load here at VSHB. The urinary tract system enables the production of urine to eliminate metabolic waste products, storage of urine and then the appropriate emptying of urine. The urinary tract itself is divided into the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. The upper urinary tract consists of the Kidneys and ureters. The lower urinary tract consists of the bladder and urethra. The kidneys produce urine by filtering the blood, urine is transported to the bladder via the ureters. Urine is stored in the bladder until it is emptied via the urethra. It is useful to divide the urinary tract into the upper and lower sections as the signs of problems are very different.
Signs of Upper Urinary Tract disease
The most common sign of upper urinary tract issues is an increase in the amount of urine produced. You may notice more urine passed on a more frequent basis. This may also appear as incontinence or a loss of house training. This increase in urine production will often lead to a degree of dehydration. This dehydration will cause an increase in drinking. This increase in drinking is often easier to identify.
Kidney disease is the most common Upper Urinary Tract issue resulting in an increase in drinking and urination. This is especially common in older cats.
Signs of Lower Urinary Tract disease
The most common sign of lower urinary tract disease is difficulty urinating. You may notice straining and producing small amounts of urine more often. There may also be visible blood present in the urine. Cats may look constipated.
Inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) is the most common Lower Urinary Tract issue and is often caused by a bacterial infection and/or the presence of urinary stones. It is import to note that male cats with cystitis are at risk of a bladder blockage due to their anatomy. Thus any male cat with lower urinary tract signs needs to be checked.
Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Disease
We use the signs discussed above to identify whether it is upper or lower urinary tract disease. To narrow down the causes further we often will examine a urine sample checking the concentration (specific gravity) and also the presence of protein, red and white blood cells and glucose. We can also look at the urine sediment under a microscope to check for urinary crystals and inflammatory cells. The urine can also be sent to the lab for a culture of any bacteria present. We can tell a lot from urine!
If you are able to bring in a fresh (same day) urine sample in with you this will be of great help. It is important to make sure the container you collect the urine in is clean and dry. We only need 1ml to do the basic tests. Often though we will need to admit your pet for a urine sample. We can do this 2 ways.
Free catch sample
This involves waiting for them to urinate and then catching the urine. We will place non- absorbent litter in cat trays and will follow dogs around to catch some when they go!
This is when we use a small fine needle to draw urine directly from the bladder. This is the method we need to use when sending urine for a bacterial culture.
If you have any concerns about how much your pet is drinking or issues around urinating please give us a call and we can arrange a check- up with one of the vet team.