Most people have probably experienced a urinary tract infection, also known as bacterial cystitis, in their lifetime. Usually, it’s easy to obtain treatment and pain relief from a doctor or pharmacy. Dogs get UTIs too, and experience similar symptoms. Urinary tract infections are common in dogs, and are more frequent in older dogs ages 7 and up. Any dog breed can get a urinary tract infection, but breeds such as Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, and Yorkshire Terriers are predisposed to urinary tract stones, a similar condition. Female dogs are prone to these infections-- male dogs have a longer urethra, meaning bacteria takes longer to travel upwards. Either way, this condition should be treated once symptoms are observed for a faster recovery.
What Causes UTIs in Dogs?
The most common cause of UTIs in dogs is bacteria, which enters upwards through the urethral opening. The bacteria can develop when feces or debris enter the area, or if your dog's immune system is weakened from lack of nutrients.
In most cases, E. coli is the bacterium that causes such infections. In more severe, but less common cases, causes include cancer, bladder disease, kidney disease and stones, diabetes, bladder inflammation or infection, spinal cord abnormalities, and prostate disease.
Symptoms of UTIs in Dogs
- Bloody and/or cloudy urine
- Straining or whimpering during urination
- Accidents in the house
- Wanting to be let outside more frequently
- Dribbling urine
- Licking around urinary opening
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your veterinarian will review your dog’s health history and symptoms and likely will conduct a urinalysis. This typically includes either you or the veterinarian obtaining a urine sample from the dog to be examined for bacterial, crystals, and protein. Once the vet determines the cause, he will usually give the dog a round of antibiotics for one week to 10 days to clear the infection. Be sure your dog finishes the antibiotics entirely to prevent the infection from recurring, unless otherwise instructed by your veterinarian. It’s recommended that you increase your dog’s water intake, as well, to flush out bacteria during urination. You may need to bring your dog back for a second visit, so your veterinarian can conduct a second urinalysis to determine if the infection has cleared.
Can UTIs be Prevented?
While not a cure for UTIs, providing more water for your dog can lessen the chance of this infection from starting. Be sure your dog always has plenty of fresh, clean water--change the bowl when you see globs of drool or food floating around. Let your dog outside more often if possible--don’t let him hold it for hours and hours. This can prevent an accident from happening in your home as well! You can also give your dog probiotic supplements to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. Last, make sure the area around your dog’s urinary opening is clean of any debris, scratches, etc. Most pet stores sell antibacterial wipes, which can be used to clean this area.
UTI Symptoms Return Repeatedly. Can It Be Something Else?
Repeated presentation of typical UTI symptoms could the be the sign of a more serious condition – canine bladder cancer (TCC/UC). Often, a positive diagnosis of TCC/UC will be found after rounds of antibiotics to treat symptoms do not fully resolve. The dog may then be evaluated for the presence of a tumor, usually via urine cytology, abdominal ultrasound, and/or cystoscopy. These procedures are expensive, invasive and take additional time, which allows for the mass to continue to grow and spread within the bladder and potentially beyond.
Diagnosis is now easier with the free-catch urine analysis test: CADET℠ BRAF Mutation Detection Assay. The CADET℠ BRAF Mutation Detection Assay is a non-invasive, free-catch urine analysis test that can detect canine bladder cancer (TCC/UC) months before symptoms present, allowing for the earliest therapeutic intervention.
Note: The information in this article is meant to inform you about urinary tract infections in dogs and is not meant to take the place of a veterinary diagnosis. If you have questions about your dog’s health or possible symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away.