Pet Pee Problems: From Urinary Incontinence to Spraying and Beyond

cat in litter boxUrinary trouble is one of the more common reasons we see pets for a sick visit. Pet pee problems can stem from health problems or instinctual behavior, but one thing's for sure, urinary problems can be frustrating and worrisome. An accurate diagnosis by your veterinarian will help treat your four-legged friend successfully, and help them get back to a normal pee routine.

Common Urinary Problems in Pets

While some of these are more common in one or the other, both cats and dogs can experience these urinary problems.

1. Incontinence/Frequent Urination

Leaking urine is a sign of a loss of control of the urethral sphincter (the muscle that prevents urine from leaking out of the bladder). It could be caused by hormonal deficiencies, or due to structural or neurological problems.

Incontinence can vary from mild, mostly while sleeping, to extreme cases of dripping urine almost constantly. Animals with incontinence or frequent urination may also develop skin ulcerations due to urine scald.

Urinary incontinence may also lead to urinary tract infections.

2. Urinary Tract Infection
Also known as a UTI, this condition can be caused by several types of bacteria. Signs of a UTI include:
  • Frequent, painful straining with urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Bad odor to the urine
  • Fever
  • Accidents inside the house

UTIs are easily diagnosed with a urinalysis and culture to identify the bacteria and pets are typically given the proper antibiotic to treat it. If left untreated, however, a UTI could progress to a more serious kidney infection, so it's important to see your vet when you first spot any of the above signs.

3. Spraying/Marking

Cats spraying or marking with urine outside the litter box causes frustration to the owner. While in many cases the cause is a behavioral problem, sometimes medical issues are to blame.

In some cases it is due to the cat having issues with some characteristic of the litter box. For others, urine marking is a form of indirect communication used by cats.

Mimicking their wild habits, cats spray urine to signal mates, leave their scent to alert other cats to their presence, and to mark their territory. Certain characteristics of a cat or household that can contribute to marking include:

  • An unneutered male cat - namely, the reason is to advertise reproductive availability
  • Change in household - cats don't like change and will let you know when they are stressed
  • Conflict between cats - usually anxiety-based reaction

Treating urine marking in cats is aimed at changing behavior:

  • Neuter male cats
  • Close windows, blinds and doors to stop indoor cats from seeing outdoor cats
  • Provide enough litter boxes for all cats and place in low-traffic areas; scoop at least once daily
  • Apply synthetic cat pheromone in areas the cat has marked, which may have stress-relieving effects
  • Administer medications, if recommended by your veterinarian

Any elimination outside of the litter box is a sign to have your cat examined by your vet. 

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4. Chronic Diseases

Symptoms include excessive thirst, hunger and urination accompanied by weight loss. Blood work can confirm this condition, and your vet will create a plan to treat it.

Kidney Disease
In the early stages, this can be managed somewhat with diet and medication.

Cushing's Disease
Fairly common hormone disorder that occurs in dogs.Symptoms include incontinence, excessive drinking, eating and urination. If diagnosed, it can usually be treated with medications.


Diagnosing Pet Urinary Problems

To determine the cause of your pet's problem, we must gather as much information as we can, starting with the most simple and progressing to more specific as needed. This includes:

History - Tell us what is happening at home. Be sure to include your pet's diet, habits, medical history, along with a complete description of the problem as you observe it.

Physical Examination - We will conduct a thorough nose-to-tail exam to help us determine the proper diagnosis so that we can tailor the correct treatment plan.

Urinalysis - Bring a urine specimen, if possible, so we can run a basic urinalysis.

Urine Culture - This test can help determine if infection is present; if so, it also determines what it is and which antibiotics are effective to treat it.

Blood Work - Blood testing can confirm or eliminate diseases such as diabetes or kidney problems.

Imaging - Radiographs (X-rays) can show whether or not kidney or bladder stones are present. Ultrasound imaging is a good way to examine the urinary tract, identifying tumors, stones, and anatomical abnormalities.

Cystoscopy - Using an endoscope, we look at the lining of the urethra and/or bladder.

The overall goal is to get a clear picture concerning what is going on within the kidneys, bladder, and perhaps even other organs, like the liver.

Treatment of Pet Urinary Problems

Successful treatment of pet pee problems depends on an accurate diagnosis. Following testing we will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your pet's exact needs.

Antibiotics - If urinalysis reveals an infection, culturing to find the microorganism causing it also helps determine the correct antibiotic to effectively treat it. When prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to complete the entire course of treatment and give your pet all of the medicine. This helps to totally eliminate the microorganisms responsible and prevent drug resistance in the future.

Dietary changes - Some foods can cause or exacerbate urinary conditions; follow veterinary recommendations.

Increase in water intake 

Urinary acidifiers or alkalinizers

Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy

Surgery - To remove bladder stones or tumors, or correct a congenital abnormality.

Treatment of underlying condition - Diabetes, Cushing's disease, or other conditions.

If you notice any changes in your pet's urinary habits or behavior in general, do not ignore them. Delaying diagnosis and treatment can lead to more serious problems, even cause a life-threatening event. To schedule an appointment for any reason, contact us today.