Urinary tract infections in horses are very rare. Fortunately, horses with UTIs exhibit recognisable signs and, once the condition is definitively diagnosed, it is easily treatable.
Upper Urinary Tract Infections
Infections of the upper urinary tract are very serious because they affect the kidneys. This type of UTI typically develops as a secondary infection and almost exclusively seen in young foals as a secondary condition to bloodstream infections.
Lower Urinary Tract Infections
Infections of the lower urinary tract are less serious than upper UTIs. In very rare cases, a lower urinary tract infection can be caused by a stone blocking the urethra and making the horse unable to urinate. These infections are very serious and can be life-threatening.
Signs & Symptoms
Horses with upper urinary tract infections will often appear very sick and depressed, and sometimes have a fever. Lower urinary tract infections cause symptoms similar to human UTIs. The most recognisable sign of a lower urinary tract infection is the horse appearing uncomfortable during urination. Sometimes horses with urinary tract infections will squirt frequently without emptying the bladder completely. In mares, skin may become scalded from dripping urine. Blood in the urine or any abnormal behaviour during urination is cause for concern and may be indicative of a urinary tract infection.
The best way to definitely diagnose a urinary tract infection is by obtaining a urine sample and do a culture on the bacteria. To prevent contamination, a catheter is often used to obtain the sample.
Urinary tract infections in horses are treated with antibiotics. It is important to culture bacteria from the urine sample before beginning an antibiotic program so the best form of treatment can be determined based on the type of bacteria present.