Sunday, October 31, 2010

Veterinary fact of the day: playing detective with bladder infections

I’m learning about urinary tract problems at the moment. I love this section, because the guessing game of finding out where the problem is can be so much fun. As a small example: an owner brings in a female dog who has been asking to go outside more often. Recently the dog had an accident in the home and there was blood in the urine. You suspect a urinary tract infection, and are curious about where the actual infection is: kidneys? ureters? bladder? urethra?

We like to know if the infection is in the kidneys, because that can be a much more serious and hard to manage infection, so it is better to be prepared at the outset. Do you have to do an ultrasound to see what shape the kidneys are in?

One thing you can do instead is watch the dog pee. Does the blood appear in the urine stream at a particular time? If it’s in the entire stream, that’s not much help. However, if it is at the very beginning, you can suspect that the infection is fairly far down in the urinary tract, so that it gets washed out early in urination. (You’d be less likely to suspect kidney involvement in this case.) If you see blood only at the very end of the stream, you can suspect that the bleeding is in the bladder, pooling at the bottom of the bladder and therefore not getting out until very late in urination. (Here again, the kidneys may be safe.)

Of course, there are lots of other tests that get done, but I like the simplicity of this part of the equation. As always, please do not use information you find here to diagnose your dog! If your dog is peeing blood, or even just peeing more often than normal, your dog needs to see a veterinarian.

This week’s test: Small animal medicine/surgery. Why do they always schedule tests in the two most demanding classes right next to each other? This exam is mostly renal stuff (kidney disease, urinary tract infections, uroliths) and endocrine stuff (Addison’s, Cushing’s, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, diabetes).


  1. Uroliths -- nasty things. And could be getting more common, thanks to these alleged "supplements" that "naturally" reduce the acidity of your dog's urine to keep it from making brown spots on your lawn. There are horror stories all over the Web about people using these tablets and then being surprised and horrified at the consequences to the dog. Which strikes me as a little, y'know, disingenuous; HOW and WHY could anyone think it would be perfectly OK to mess with your pet's body chemistry that way? Of COURSE there are going to be consequences!
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  2. Interesting! I'm tempted to say "this is a good example for why it's important to mention new supplements to your vet at your pet's annual wellness exam." But your point that it should in fact not be surprising to anyone is well taken.