Urinary tract diseases are very common in dogs and cats. I will limit this discussion to disease of the urinary bladder. Common conditions affecting the urinary bladder are bacterial infection, bladder stones (also known as urinary calculi), and sterile cystitis (also known as idiopathic lower urinary tract disease). Common signs include blood in the urine, straining to urinate, and urinary tract obstruction – causing inability to produce a urine stream.
The approach to addressing these various complaints depends on the species (dog vs cat), the sex of the patient, and whether or not there is evidence of a urinary tract obstruction. The testing used to make a diagnosis may include a urine test (called a urinalysis), a urine culture (to determine the presence or absence of an infection), x-rays and/or abdominal sonogram (used to detect bladder stones and bladder tumors). On occasion, blood testing may be recommended as well.
Of the conditions noted above, only an obstruction of the lower urinary tract is immediately life threatening. The most common individual to develop an obstruction is a male cat. For this reason, if you have a male cat that is straining to urinate, and you are not finding any urine in the litterbox, you must bring him to a veterinarian immediately. On occasion, we see male dogs that form urinary stones that cause obstruction as well. The same recommendations hold true for them as for the male cats. While extremely rare in female dogs and cats, urinary obstruction can been seen, on occasion.