Signs of a Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs and Cats

dog pees the floor

Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

Urinary problems are commonly seen in dogs and cats. Symptoms can range from "obviously sick" to very few visible signs, depending on the length and severity of the infection. Being familiar with possible warning signs could avoid additional treatment and even help save a pet's life.

Urinary tract infections are classified as upper or lower. An infection of the kidneys is an upper urinary tract infection. An infection of the bladder and urethra is a lower urinary tract infection.

Clinical Signs

The following clinical signs can be seen with pyelonephritis, urinary tract infections, urinary calculi (bladder stones), prostatitis (prostate inflammation or infection), and some urinary tract cancers. Any combination of these signs may be seen:

  • Unable to urinate
  • Straining to urinate before, during, or after urination (may be misinterpreted as constipation)
  • Painful urination, whining
  • Bloody urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urinary "accidents" or urinating out of the litter box for cats
  • Urinary incontinence (dribbling, leaking while sleeping)
  • Drinking and urinating more often than usual
  • Painful abdomen (belly area)
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Lethargic
  • Not eating, decreased appetite
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

It may be tempting to write off symptoms, such as inappropriate urination, as "bad" behavior, but medical problems should always be ruled out first. Urinary problems can quickly (within hours) become life-threatening medical emergencies if an animal becomes blocked. Prompt attention and care are essential.


Please call your veterinarian immediately if your pet exhibits any of these signs. Time is of the essence—urinary blockages and infections can quickly become life-threatening.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.