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Pyelonephritis in Dogs and Cats

Becky Lundgren, DVM

Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney (specifically, the parenchyma and renal pelvis). It is caused by a bacterial invasion. The kidney infection may have come from the bladder through the ureters, the bloodstream, or have invaded via other organs. Infection via the bladder/ureters is the most common route. Urinary stasis, urethral obstruction, kidney stones, trauma, and depressed immunity may predispose the pet to pyelonephritis. The bloodstream route of infection may be caused by bacterial endocarditis, diskospondylitis, abscesses, and dental disease.

The organisms invading the kidney may cause local or widespread lesions that destroy sufficient kidney tissue to cause kidney failure.

Pyelonephritis is a common condition that frequently shows no symptoms and thus it is not usually recognized until the signs become severe. It may not be diagnosed until histopathology is done on the kidney after the pet's death. The frequency of pyelonephritis increases with the age of the pet.

Diagnostic tests include hematology, blood chemistry, urinalysis, urine sedimentation, radiographs of the kidney, ultrasonography of the kidney, urine culture, kidney tissue culture, biopsy and histopathology, intravenous urography, and cystography.

Treatment requires long-term antibiotic therapy. Therapy may be necessary for only a month, but some pets may need antibiotic therapy for the rest of their lives. The antibiotics are chosen by sensitivity testing and given at prescribed intervals. Because the disease is so difficult to cure, frequent testing is required to determine the efficacy of the treatment.


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