The urogenital system includes the urinary and reproductive organs.
The urinary system is divided into two regions based on anatomy and function: upper (kidneys and ureters) and lower urinary (urinary bladder and urethra) tracts. The upper urinary tract filters metabolic wastes from the blood to be excreted into the urine. The kidneys also participate in blood pressure regulation and maintenance of the delicate electrolyte and water balance within the body-keeping only what is needed. The lower urinary tract serves as a reservoir for urine (bladder) and a pathway for excretion (urethra). Indications of a urinary tract problem are varied: excessive urination and drinking, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, odor to urine, vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, incontinence, and lethargy.
The genital system consists of the reproductive organs: the uterus and ovaries. These organs produce hormones and allow reproduction. Signs associated with genital tract problems include: discharge, odor, straining to urinate and/or defecate, and lethargy.
Common urogenital ailments affecting dogs:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI): common in female dogs. Urinary tract infections in male dogs are uncommon due to the length of their urethra. UTI in a male dog may signal the presence of an underlying problem, such as bladder stones, poor immune function, or prostatic disease.
- Kidney failure: acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure can be caused by infections, kidney stones, toxins, and drugs to name a few. Aging pets may develop chronic kidney failure. Often, by the time chronic kidney failure is diagnosed, the cause cannot be determined.
- Urinary bladder stones : some stones form due to the presence of infection; others form by mineral imbalances in the urine. Kidney stones are less common.
- Uterine infections (pyometra) : may occur in intact females following a heat if pregnancy does not occur.
Urine, produced by the kidneys, is stored in the urinary bladder before exiting the body through the urethra. The urethra acts as a channel for urine excretion; its length offers protection against infection. Dogs with repeated or persistent urinary tract infections or inflammation need to be evaluated for an underlying cause, such as stones in the urinary bladder, prostatic disease (males), and cancer. Dogs with bladder inflammation strain to urinate; they may have obvious blood in their urine. An inability to urinate (posture to urinate and nothing comes out) requires emergency treatment to relieve the painful obstruction.
The kidneys, lying just under the spinal column, receive nearly 25% of the blood pumped out of the heart. The kidneys maintain water and electrolyte balance, regulate blood pressure and provide an elimination route for toxins. Illness due to kidney disease may be due to infection, inflammation, toxin ingestion (e.g.: lilies and antifreeze), and cancer. Symptoms of kidney disease vary widely depending on the underlying cause. Dogs with acute (sudden) kidney failure are quite ill: vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia. In contrast, dogs with chronic (slow onset) kidney failure may not show any outward signs of a problem; the kidney disease is often incidentally found on screening lab work. Regular wellness testing with blood and urine evaluations allows early detection and treatment of kidney disease.
Pyometra refers to a life threatening infection of the uterus. All intact female dogs and cats that have not been spayed are at risk. Symptoms of pyometra develop several weeks following a heat cycle that did not result in pregnancy. Pets with pyometra may present for an increase in thirst and urination, lethargy, vomiting, fever, and a foul smelling vaginal discharge. Every sick intact female should be suspected of having pyometra; lack of a vaginal discharge does not rule out pyometra. Diagnosis of pyometra is based on history (usually 2 -3 months after a heat cycle), physical examination, and imaging studies (x-rays and/or ultrasound). Treatment for pyometra requires aggressive fluid therapy, antibiotics, and careful surgical removal of the infected uterus. The best treatment for pyometra is prevention through early spaying, before the first heat cycle occurs.
Female dogs that will not be used for breeding should be spayed prior to the first heat cycle. Spaying dogs prior to the first heat cycle not only prevents unwanted pregnancies, but also prevents life threatening uterine infections and mammary cancer later in life. Spaying is the surgical removal of both ovaries and the uterus. Your dog will be placed under general anesthesia for this procedure. The surgery is done commonly, however, it is important to remember that it is major abdominal surgery and recovery time from surgery will be needed.
The reproductive tract of a female dog includes two ovaries and a two-horned uterus. Female dogs not used for breeding should be spayed (surgical removal of the uterus and hormone-producing ovaries) to prevent pet overpopulation, cancers, and potentially life threatening infections. Spaying your dog prior to the onset of the first estrous cycle significantly decreases your pet’s chances of developing mammary cancer later in life.
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