Testing After Urinary Tract Infection Is Crucial

Can you see bacteria?

Claire had previously been diagnosed with a Urinary Tract Infection. Followup testing shows that she had a relapse, or never cleared from the first one.

Not with the naked eye, you can’t. They’re microscopic.

Bacteria are the agents of most urinary tract infections in dogs (UTIs). They come in two basic shapes. Cocci are the round ones and bacilli are the rod-shaped ones. There are hundreds of genera (the plural of genus) and thousands of species.

Diagnostic procedures leading to an initial diagnosis of UTI are covered here and here.

What happens after the treatment of UTIs is just as important as initial treatment. Two to six weeks after medication is finished, according to your pet’s doctor’s instructions, a followup examination and laboratory tests are needed to ensure that all of the infection is gone.

“I don’t see the need for followup testing,” clients sometimes say. “Fluffy is eating well, feels good, there is no more blood in her urine and she’s no longer having accidents in the house.”

While those are all good things, they are all signs of advanced UTI. We don’t want to wait until your pet’s signs are serious, we want to know whether all of the infection is gone and we want to know early, not after months of silent suffering, just because the suffering was too subtle to detect.

Just like you can’t detect microscopic bacteria in your pet’s urine.

An examination at the time of followup allows your pet’s doctor to palpate the urinary bladder again, and he may detect a stone or mass that wasn’t palpable at the time of the initial diagnosis.

A followup urinalysis not only detects bacteria, but tells the veterinarian about the cells that are in the urine, including tumor cells. Excessive quantities of white blood cells may indicate an inflammatory process. Excessive quantities of red blood cells indicate release of blood in the urinary tract, which is always abnormal. Cells from “upstream,” in the kidneys, also give us important information.

The most sensitive way to detect infection is the urine bacterial culture and sensitivity. Even though it takes 3-7 days to obtain a result, it is time well spent. Infections will grow in a culture even in cases where there are too few bacteria to see on the microscopic portion of the urinalysis.

Having that information gives us the headstart for preventing infections from lingering.

And causing needless suffering.

Claire, pictured above, is a perfect example.

Her mom moved here when the Navy stationed her at our nearby Construction Battalion Center. Claire had been treated for a urinary tract infection months prior to the move, and seemed fine. However, the medical records from her previous veterinarian indicated that the necessary followup testing had never been performed.

All of her physical examination parameters were normal, but when we obtained her urinalysis results, cocci were present in large numbers, indicating that the original infection had never cleared, or, that there was a new infection.

In either case, our concern is that when a dog or cat has a recurrent urinary tract infection, there may be predisposing factors. Urinary bladder stones are the most common, and schnauzers are one of the breeds of dogs who are overrepresented among stone sufferers. Resistant bacteria, strains of organisms that have developed the ability to resist response to antibiotics, are another factor. Bladder tumors are another common cause of reoccurring UTI. Should she experience additional infections, we will be looking for those factors that might contribute to relapse.

See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.

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