Welcome to our page about Urinary Tract Problems.
In one sense, the urinary tract is a pretty simple system; a pair of kidneys that filter out waste products from our blood resulting in urine, a tube called a ureter from each kidney to a storage sac we call the bladder, and finally another tube we call the urethra controlled by a sphincter muscle that empties the bladder to the outside world.
Well, simple or not, as you probably know from experience, a lot can go wrong with the various parts of the urinary tract ... and as you might suspect, it turns out that things aren't so simple. For example, we now suspect that many bladder problems are actually the result of diseases of the neural system! We know that diet, water consumption, urine pH, frequency of urination, exercise, anxiety, and stress are all factors in urinary tract problems.
We know a lot about the urinary tract system, but there's also a lot we don't know; are you familiar with the term "idiopathic"? The root of this word, you will notice, is where the word idiot comes from. It's a medical term meaning, more or less, that the cause is unknown. Sometimes it means we have lots of good theories, but we're not 100% sure and sometimes it means we don't have a clue.
Well, listen to this; about half...maybe much more than half... of so called bladder infections in cats, and apparently in people, are probably not true infections caused by bacteria or virus' at all. They are "Idiopathic"!
And in more recent medical texts, articles, lectures, and so forth, we in the medical profession are dropping the inaccurate label of urinary tract infection and replacing it with the term "idiopathic cystitis" meaning bladder inflammation from causes not yet determined.
Urinary tract problems are especially common in cats, and tend to differ from those in dogs, so there will be lots of information specific to cats on this page.
Thanks for coming. The information about this subject is scattered over several pages and not yet complete. But it's more or less organized into information about bladder problems in cats, bladder problems in dogs, the less common problems involving ureters, the urethra, and the prostrate gland, and finally; problems of the kidney. And as usual, a smattering of jokes, comments, links, pictures, philosophy and so forth. There's a rudimentary list of contents with links in the column to your left. Thanks again, Roger Ross, DVM
A few other general comments and clarifications before we begin:
The Urinary tract consists of the Kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, the urethra, and finally, the urethral opening at either the end of the penis or just within the vaginal vestibule.
In the male, problems associated with the prostate gland, the seminal vesicles, and the testicles occasionally affect the urinary tract as they share the urethra.
If you've forgotten what the ureters are, they're the little tubes that connect each kidney to the bladder. You don't commonly hear much about ureters, but every once in a while they are damaged by trauma, passing kidney stones, surgical accident, or cancer.
Sometimes people say kidney infection when they really mean bladder infection...and vice versa...and as I explained above, it turns out that "bladder infection" is a term often used inacurately to describe urinary tract problems from many possible causes, but for the purposes of this page, please understand the difference
Spaying and castrating a pet prior to their first heat does NOT make them more prone to bladder infections and blockages. This idea is something we thought to be true in the '70s, but this idea has now been proven to usually false.
It's not just male cats that have urinary tract problems; both female and male cats get bladder infections and other urinary tract diseases. It's just more common for a male to become "blocked" or unable to urinate freely because of a plug made up of pus, mucus, and mineral deposits. These plugs tend to get stuck in the penis, which of course is not present in females. Males simply have this additional problem, and it's real obvious that something is seriously wrong when a male cat can't pee.
Disclaimer: As with all my treatment pages, the information provided here is not intended to allow you to treat your pets yourself...JUST THE OPPOSITE...these pages are provided to help you understand what to expect...to help as a reference after a visit to your vet, and to make you appreciate how complicated getting a correct diagnosis and choosing the appropriate treatment can be.
Trust the experience of your veterinarian.
Loving, responsible pet care means going to the vet when problems occur...and understanding that good veterinary care requires attention to detail, a good exam, the possible expense of additional lab work, and careful treatment, monitoring, and follow up until the problem is improved as best as possible.
This Page is an Introduction and Comment Page about Urinary Tract Problems in Dogs and Cats
On Other Pages:
Stones, Calculi, & Uroliths
Chronic or Recurrent Infections
(Feline Urinary Syndrome)
Cats urinating outside the litter box
Nutritional Management of Urinary Tract Problems
Upper Urinary Tract:
On Other Pages of This Site:
Cats are more prone to getting bladder infections than dogs, perhaps because cats originally evolved in desert climates and therefore have very concentrated urine.
Here's Something Interesting Just for Fun:
Almost 100% of the energy in firefly's light is given off as light. By comparison, a normal lightbulb gives off just 10% light and 90% heat.
The chemical reaction that does this is very efficient.
The chemicals that produce this light, particularly a chemical called luciferin, can now be synthesized in a laboratory, and are used in common glow sticks, which mix chemicals to give off a bright but cool light.
They also have medical applications. Because luciferin reacts to a substance in living organisms (ATP), scientists use it to detect bacteria. By using luciferin in blood or urine samples, or in foods such as milk or orange juice, scientist can determine how many bacteria are in the sample by the amount of light that it gives off.
NASA may use it to detect living organisms on other planets.