Litter Box

Over the past few weeks, I feel like every time I turn around at work there is a urinalysis for me to look at. Urine issues are on the upswing right now. For reasons we don’t completely understand, urinary issues are more prevalent with drastic weather or light changes, both of which are happening right now.

The most important thing to recognize at home is when your pet is drinking or peeing too much or too little. Keep information about how often you fill the water bowl, take your dog out or empty the litter box in the back of your mind. Have you gone from cleaning the litter box every other day to noticing it is a pool? Did you used to fill the water bowl once a day and now can’t seem to keep it full enough? Is your dog getting you up in the night to go out when you used to sleep a nice eight hours?

If you notice any changes in your pet’s urination your first call should be to your veterinarian. I will talk about some of the things this can indicate, from the run-of-the-mill to more complicated.

Urinary tract infection

This is the most common and often is simple to fix. While this is most common in female animals, any pets can suffer from them. While there is often not an exact cause we can put our finger on, they can be caused by decreased drinking, diabetes, improper vulvar conformation, inability to clean after urination (seen in our more rotund companions), licking around the urinary openings and conditions which change urine concentration. Generally, these are cleared up by a course of appropriate antibiotics. A physical examination can help your veterinarian pinpoint causes in some cases which can help prevent a recurrence.

Crystals and stones

Oftentimes crystals in the urine can be a result of infection. However, some pets form them due to metabolic issues. Often these are related to their breed (dalmatians and bulldogs are common offenders) but can be seen in pets with liver shunts or without any identifying “factor.” These pets usually need to be on a special veterinary diet to dissolve crystals and prevent stone formation. Crystals can cause pets to become blocked and unable to urinate. This can lead to very serious heart and kidney issues and even death. It is especially important in male cats since their urethra, or the tube that carries urine from the bladder out, is much smaller than other animals.

Once stones have formed in the bladder it is often a surgical resolution. Depending on the case, stones can also be dissolved with special food. This is something that your veterinarian will decide based on their size and if they are able to be passed safely. The sooner we can find and treat these issues, the less risk of secondary complications.


This is a disease of both dogs and cats that changes the levels of blood glucose. It is more common in cats, especially those that are overweight. In overweight animals, this develops due to insulin resistance, or the body not responding to insulin. Uncontrolled blood glucose leads to increased thirst and urination. Additionally, excess glucose spills into the urine, which makes it an ideal environment for bacteria leading to urinary tract infections. Diabetes can lead to many other problems the longer it is untreated, including liver problems and vision loss.

Cushing’s disease

This is an endocrine disease of dogs. It affects the adrenal glands and causes excess cortisol to be released. There are many other side effects seen with this disease, but excessive drinking and urination is one of the most commonly seen. This is another disease that can cause lasting effects on the body, so it should be diagnosed as soon as possible.

Loss of muscle control

Urination is controlled by sphincters, which are muscle bands that act as valves. These often lose tone as animals age, which is especially common in older spayed female dogs. The cause of this is mainly hormonal. Instead of posturing to pee, this results in leaked urine, most often in beds while pets sleep. There are several treatments for this, and like always, early treatment is better. The longer a pet goes with improper control, the easier it is for bacteria to make their way into the bladder. Their urine also tends to pool and makes them more prone to skin sores. This is treated simply with medication, but left to occur without treatment it makes complications of urinary tract infections.

Feline idiopathic cystitis

This is a fancy name for ongoing bladder inflammation in cats, also known as FIC. This often is sterile, or present without an infection. This is confusing because it is the most common issue we see in cats and isn’t caused by bacteria or treated with antibiotics. It is brought on by stress, and sometimes the stress can simply stem from having a urinary tract infection which is uncomfortable.

The stress that begins FIC can also be something not physical at all, but an emotional stressor. We can see this begin with new pets, if you are spending less time with the cat, drastic schedule changes or moves. It can also be seen with daylight changes. Although this shouldn’t be stressful to our indoor cats, it is! While this can be treated with special diets and medicine, feline-friendly enrichment is the best treatment. Spending time playing with your cat and making sure their environment is cat-comfortable goes a long way. A behavior consultation and some simple changes help these cats (and you) live a happier life at home.

Kidney changes

Since the kidneys control concentration and filtering of urine, urination change is one of the early indicators of kidney changes. Looking at concentration of urine along with protein levels and microscopic indicators of damage gives us a lot of information.

Urine samples are an important peek into overall pet health, and shouldn’t be overlooked. As with all issues, the sooner we address it the better. If you are noticing changes, please let your veterinarian know so that we can run a screen before issues escalate.

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