Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Dogs & Cats, Crystals & Stones
Infections of the BLADDER or Urinary Tract, including Crystals or Stones, can be very complex and challenging - due to so many variables, including resolution approach. Cats are just as susceptable to some of these issues as dogs, maybe more so - in the realm of Struvite Crystal formation. In male cats an infection that forms Struvite crystals can quickly become lethal - by clogging up a urethra much more narrow than found in females. If you notice a male cat having difficulty urinating, reluctant to eat, and licking at genitals, you should take the pet to a Vet as quickly as possible.
The kidneys make urine every moment of the day. The urine is moved down the ureters and into the bladder. The urinary bladder is a small muscular bag which stores the urine until we are ready to get rid of it. The bladder must be able to expand for filling and contract down for emptying and respond to voluntary control. The bladder is a sterile area of the body which means that bacteria do not normally reside there. When bacteria (or any other organisms for that matter) gain entry and establish growth in the bladder, infection has occurred and symptoms can result. People with bladder infections typically report a burning sensation during urination. With pets we see some of the following signs:
- Excessive water consumption
- Urinating only small amounts at a time
- Urinating frequently and in multiple spots
- Inability to hold urine the normal amount of time (apparent incontinence)
- Bloody urine (though an infection must either involve a special organism, a bladder stone, a bladder tumor, or be particularly severe to make urine red to the naked eye)
From the Great Dane Lady (on Pets):
Most urinary problems start with an irritation in the bladder, which in turn causes an infection. This irritation is caused by not consuming enough water on a daily basis, so adding water to the food at each meal can be very important. Another cause for bladder irritations and infections can be an imbalance in the pH of the urine caused by grain based kibbles or poor quality diets.
When the bladder is repeatedly irritated, then opportunistic bacteria set in, and cause an infection. With each re-infection, scar tissue develops and it makes it even more difficult when another infection occurs. This can be prevented, NOT by using a prescription diet, but by using a quality meat based diet that keeps the proper pH balance in the bladder to begin with. I offer a specific diet in hopes this will take care of the problem. If you suspect a urinary infection then make sure your vet runs a "culture" on the urine to determine exactly which antibiotics are needed so there is no waste time (or money) on antibiotics that will not take care of the problem. The wrong antibiotic will not kill the bacteria but it will still disrupt the flora of the gut, which in turn alters the pH of the urine making matters worse. This is what causes the constant reoccurring bladder infection cycle which seems impossible to deal with. The shotgun approach, with antibiotics, is not the best method of handling these infections. MORE from greatdanelady.com...
Bladder stones come in several mineral compositions. The two most common stone types are Oxalate and Struvite. Since the corrective approach is different for each type, it is essential to determine the stone type. The stone type can easily be confirmed if a sample stone has been obtained (either passed naturally or via surgery). A lab analysis will easily determine the composition of the stone and even determine if the stone consists of layers of different mineral types.
Struvite stones in dogs are almost always the result of urinary changes that occur with specific types of bacteria involved in bladder infections. Almost always, it is a Staphyloccocal infection, but sometimes it may be a Proteus infection. If the urine culture obtained from a patient with a bladder stone should grow either Staph or Proteus, this would make Struvite more likely than Oxalate. Also, Struvite requires an alkaline pH to form; Oxalate requires an acid pH to form. Urine pH is a part of any urinalysis and thus provides another clue as to the stone identity.
HOW DO STRUVITE STONES FORM?
Struvite is the name given to the crystal composed of Magnesium, Ammonium, and Phosphate. Struvite crystals are not uncommon in normal urine and are usually of no consequence but when they are present in very large amounts, they can form stones.
Urea is an important biochemical excreted in urine. When urine is infected with bacteria that are able to digest urea, urea is broken down into ammonia (NH3). Ammonia in water ionizes into ammonium (NH4+). Ammonia is toxic to the cells of the bladder wall and its presence generates inflammation (though the infection present also generates inflammation as well). The proteins released in the inflammatory reaction form a matrix which the struvite crystals use to form an actual stone. The reaction takes place only in an alkaline pH but the presence of ammonia creates just the alkaline pH needed for stone formation.
Bacteria capable of digesting urea are called “urease positive” bacteria, and in most cases we are talking about Staphylococci. In the dog, the general rule is: No infection, no bladder stone.
WHY WOULD A DOG FORM CALCIUM OXALATE STONES?
There is a strong hereditary component to the formation of oxalate bladder stones. The same holds true for humans as well. The substance “nephrocalcin”, in urine, naturally inhibits the formation of calcium oxalate stones. When this substance is defective in either humans or dogs, the formation of calcium oxalate bladder stones is a likely result. The production of defective nephrocalcin is thought to be a genetic problem.
In humans, the genetic predisposition for stone formation is coupled with dietary issues (problem foods include: spinach, peanuts, chocolate, dairy products, calcium supplements, vitamin C supplements, and tea). Dogs are more likely to eat a commercial dog food, without the variety in diet that humans experience. This means that diet can be used to manage the problem in the dog, but the diet is probably is not the cause.
OXALATE STONES MUST BE REMOVED
The immediate concern for a dog with bladder stones is that the urinary opening may become obstructed as the dog attempts to pass the stones. This problem occurs mostly in male dogs as their urethra (urinary passageway) is narrower than that of females. The results can be life-threatening uremic poisoning. In such cases, the veterinarian will attempt to dislodge the stone, flushing it back into the bladder to restore the patency of the urinary opening. If the stone cannot be dislodged, a new urinary opening may have to be surgically created. The urethra (the narrow tube connecting the urinary bladder to the outside world) is a difficult place to perform surgery, so it is preferable to move the stone back into the bladder for removal rather than attempting removal from the urethra.
Bladder stones are irritating to the bladder simply by rubbing on the tender bladder lining. Bleeding typically results and, of course, the chance of developing chronic bladder infections is markedly increased with the presence of bladder stones.
BECAUSE CALCIUM OXALATE STONES CANNOT BE DISSOLVED BY DIET CHANGE, SURGICAL REMOVAL OF THE STONES IS USUALLY NECESSARY
STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT 50% OF DOGS THAT HAVE UNDERGONE SUCH SURGERY WILL DEVELOP NEW CALCIUM OXALATE STONES WITHIN THREE YEARS.
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