Signs of a Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs and Cats

French Bulldog wets the floor & looks embarrassed
Getty Images/Andrew Bret Wallis

Urinary problems are commonly seen in dogs and cats. Symptoms can range from "obviously sick" to very few signs seen, depending on the length and severity of the infection. Being familiar with possible warning signs could help save your 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.

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 the signs may be seen.

  • unable to urinate
  • straining to urinate -- before, during or post urination (may be misinterpreted as constipation)
  • painful urination, whining
  • bloody urine
  • foul-smelling urine
  • cloudy urine
  • urinary "accidents" or urinating out of the litterbox 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.

Important note: 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!