Accidents in the house are not always a break in your pet’s house training, but often a message for help. Urinary disease includes a collection of conditions that can cause illness, pain, and discomfort. Let’s walk through a typical urinary appointment at Groves Animal Hospital to understand how Dr. Groves diagnoses your pet.

Yellow, but not mellow: Defining urinary disease in pets

Urinary disease includes a group of conditions involving any portion of the urinary tract, a multi-organ system composed of:

  • Kidneys, which create urine by removing the body’s toxins
  • Ureters connecting the kidney to the bladder 
  • Urinary bladder, where urine is collected and stored until your pet eliminates
  • Urethra, which is a narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body

You would expect that a urinary problem would be about urine, and it is— partially. But, the urinary system involves multiple organs and structures, so diagnosing the origin of a pet’s urinary signs is critical to effective management or treatment.

Urinary disease signs in pets

Pets suffering from urinary disease may show a combination of the following signs:

  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Painful urination—pets may vocalize or lick the urogenital area
  • Frequent accidents
  • Bloody or foul-smelling urine
  • Bad breath
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Your pet should see a veterinarian if they are exhibiting any of these signs, because urinary conditions can progress rapidly, and some are fatal, if left untreated.

Your pet’s urinary appointment

Since health is dynamic, a physical examination is essential for every visit. Dr. Groves will pay special attention to: 

  • Your pet’s history — The nature and frequency of your pet’s urinary signs will be gathered.
  • Your pet’s breath — Malodorous breath can signal urinary disease. 
  • Hydration — A dehydrated pet is more at risk for disease.
  • Back pain —  Back pain can also signal potential kidney-related issues.
  • Bladder size — The bladder will be palpated for size and fullness.
  • Urogenital region — This area will be evaluated for swelling, irritation, or discharge.

Your pet’s urinary work-up 

Based on your pet’s examination, the diagnostic work-up may take several directions. If your pet’s abdominal examination reveals a tight, distended bladder, that can indicate a urinary obstruction and require X-rays or ultrasound, and emergency surgery. If the examination is normal, a urine sample will be collected and analyzed. For greatest accuracy, urine is collected through a sterile method known as cystocentesis. 

  • Urinalysis A sample of your pet’s urine is evaluated with several tests, collectively called a urinalysis. The urine is checked for:
    • Color Urine may be colorless, yellow, brown, or bloody.
    • Clarity — You can read a paper through normal urine, but cloudy urine indicates bacteria or crystals.
    • Odor Odor can change when sickness is present, or the urine is highly concentrated.
    • Specific gravity — This is a measure of how well the kidneys are concentrating the urine, and the pet’s hydration.
    • Chemistry — This measures pH, glucose, protein, blood, and other values.
    • Microscopic sediment The sediment is examined for bacteria, parasites, cancerous cells, and crystals
  • Urine culture If your pet’s urinalysis is positive for bacteria, or the veterinarian suspects an unseen infection, the urine will be observed for bacterial growth. If your pet’s urine culture is positive for growth, the organism can be identified, and sensitivity testing will determine the most effective antibiotic. Be aware that bacteria do not always grow quickly, and culture results may take days or weeks, depending on growth rate and additional testing required
  • X-rays — If a  pet’s physical exam and urinalysis suggests urinary or kidney stones or a urinary blockage, X-rays can show the size, location, and quantity of stones. Stones form from crystals in urine, which develop when the pH is out of balance.
  • Ultrasound This imaging, considered the gold standard, is used to observe the fine detail of the kidneys, and the bladder wall thickness. Ultrasound can reveal deteriorating kidney structure, tumors, bladder inflammation, and obstructed ureters. 

Urinary disease diagnosis in pets

Diagnosis is made by viewing the full picture of a pet’s history, exam, and diagnostic results. While unexplainable cases do exist, most urinary ailments can be traced back to their cause with careful clinical assessment, data, and imaging. Common urinary disease diagnoses include urinary tract infection, which can be bacterial or idiopathic, or have no known cause; bladder or kidney stones; urethral blockage, which is always an emergency, in cats and dogs; kidney failure or insufficiency; and cancer.

Urinary disease treatment and management in pets

Based on the diagnosis, Dr. Groves will recommend a treatment or management plan for your pet. While many common urinary conditions are treatable with medication or surgery, others have a poorer prognosis. Kidney failure can be slowed with supportive care of subcutaneous fluids and a quality diet. Transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder can be treated with chemotherapy, which can shrink the tumor in some patients, but is not curative.

The urinary tract can be a source of various problems, but if you bring your pet to Groves Veterinary Clinic at the first indication, we can pinpoint the cause of their discomfort, and provide relief. Call us to schedule your pet’s wellness visit, where we will check their urine, or for a specific urinary health appointment.