Top 5 Signs of Urinary Tract Troubles in Cats and Dogs

A urinary tract blockage is life-threatening

Cat in the Litterbox
Cat in the Litterbox. Leslie Morris/Getty

Some of the most common questions and concerns about cats as pets relate to urinary problems. Is your cat "spraying" or does it have urinary tract troubles? What are some signs that your dog is in urinary distress?

Top 5 Signs of Urinary Tract Troubles

For pets experiencing urinary difficulties, it is always best to have it checked out by your veterinarian and have treatment initiated as soon as possible. A partial or total urinary tract blockage can become life-threatening within hours.

Accidents in the House

Cats may associate urinary pain with the litter box and find other places to urinate. There may be a behavioral or environmental reason why a cat is having accidents (cat doesn't like the litter, stress, or too many cats using the same box), but a medical problem—urinary tract infection, inflammation or blockage—must always be ruled out first.

The same goes for dogs. If the dog goes on regular walks but is still eliminating in the house, there may be a medical reason for it.

Do not confuse a cat spraying (usually a behavioral issue) with a cat that has a urinary tract infection. When a cat sprays, urine is usually, but not always, released on vertical surfaces. The spraying posture differs from normal urination. When spraying, the cat backs up to the wall or ​another vertical surface with the tail extended and often twitching rapidly.

For example, a cat with a urinary tract problem will assume a normal elimination posture and void urine on horizontal surfaces. They may also urinate in the sink, in the laundry basket, or other places besides the litter box.

As for senior cats, especially those that suffer from arthritis, the litter box might be too difficult for it to access. In this case, find a low, large box that is easy to use. This may eliminate inappropriate urination. However, urinary and kidney infections are common in older cats, so a medical problem should be ruled out first.

Cats recovering from a urinary or bowel issue may have accidents in the house since they might associate the litter box as a place of pain and discomfort. To reset this mindset, try thoroughly washing out the litter box, get a new litter box, or get fresh or different litter.

Urinating More Frequently 

Do you notice your cat or dog squatting or trying to urinate but not produce any urine? This repeated straining and squatting could indicate a partial or complete blockage of the urethra, particularly in male dog and cats, this is a life-threatening emergency. Inflammation and infection of the urinary tract are painful and when crystals are present, potentially deadly for male pets that have a smaller diameter urethra. Medical treatment is essential. Time matters.

Sometimes this may be mistaken as constipation, which is another condition that warrants a visit to the vet's office.

Pain or Blood with Urination

If your pet is crying, howling, or you notice your pet wincing in pain when it is being picked up, especially in the abdominal area, then these are clear signs you need to get to a vet immediately. If you notice blood in the urine, this is another definite reason to get to a vet as soon as possible.

Excessive Licking of its Private Parts

In cats or dogs, excessive licking of the areas in pain can sometimes temporarily soothe the pain. But, it does not make the problem go away. In fact, the longer the problem lingers, the higher the chances of the problem becoming worse. In addition, constant licking can cause secondary irritation, too.

Lethargy, Not Eating, Cranky Behavior

These signs may indicate a urinary tract infection or may be observed for a variety of reasons and any number of diseases. Regardless, these signs should always be checked out at first notice.