You and your dog might not agree about how many treats a day they should get. But you can certainly agree that urinary tract infections (UTI) are a pain. Urinary tract infections are uncomfortable at best, and downright dangerous at worst.
In most cases, these infections resolve with treatment and do not cause any lasting damage. In other cases, a dog’s supposed UTI symptoms could be indicative of more serious conditions, such as poisoning or cancer. Staying informed and educated about symptoms is important for any dog owner.
What Is a UTI?
As with humans, a UTI in dogs refers to an infection of the urinary tract. The most common causes of UTIs in dogs are bacterial. In fact, bacterial urinary tract infections are the most commonly occurring infectious disease in dogs, period. Bacterial UTIs affect 14 percent of all dogs throughout their lifetimes. That means the odds are comparatively high that your dog could experience a UTI at some point in their life.
Most dogs get UTIs when normal skin and gastrointestinal (GI) tract flora get past the urinary tract’s defenses. These bacteria then colonize the urinary tract, leading to an infection. E. coli is the most common bacterial cause of UTIs, but several bacteria and even some fungi can cause infections.
Some factors could increase your dog’s risk of getting a UTI. Female dogs are more likely to get UTIs than males, but male dogs may still get them. UTIs also have an increased rate of occurrence in dogs with other health problems, such as chronic kidney disease and Cushing’s disease.
Symptoms of UTI in Dogs
Some common UTI symptoms include:
- Bloody and/or cloudy urine
- Straining or whimpering during urination
- Accidents in the house
- Needing to be let outside more frequently
- Licking around the urinary opening
Sometimes, however, dogs don’t show any symptoms of a UTI at all. In these instances, your veterinarian might discover the infection while testing for other things.
For symptomatic dogs, these signs could point toward a possible UTI. However, there are some more serious conditions that your veterinarian will want to rule out first.
When UTI Symptoms Are Something Worse
Urinary tract infections are serious enough on their own. If left untreated, they can lead to dysfunction of the lower urinary tract, kidney or bladder stones, inflammation of the prostate gland, infertility, blood poisoning, and even kidney infection and kidney failure. Likewise, some symptoms could be a sign of something far more serious than even a UTI.
One of the most alarming symptoms of a UTI is blood. If you think there is blood in your dog’s urine, contact your veterinarian immediately. While this could be a sign of a UTI, it also could be a sign of the following conditions:
- Kidney disease
- Stones in the urinary tract
Certain types of rodent poison can lead to platelet breakdown, which can be fatal. The faster your dog is seen by a doctor, the better their prognosis. You can also check your dog for other symptoms of anemia, such as pale gums or dark, bloody stools.
Bloody urine could also be a sign of trauma. Car accidents, dog fights, or slight injuries don’t always leave obvious signs, but there could be internal damage to your dog’s organs.
Stones in the kidney, bladder, or elsewhere in the urinary tract are painful for your dog. They may also lead to scarring and even obstruction of your dog’s urethra, which is a veterinary emergency.
Difficulty urinating, or an inability to urinate, is a medical emergency. It can lead to a rupture in your dog’s bladder, and if left untreated can be fatal, so make sure you call your veterinarian immediately if you notice this symptom.
There are several possible causes of difficult urination, including the following:
- Urinary tract infection
- Scar tissue in the urinary tract
- Spinal cord injuries or disease
- Prostate disease
Your veterinarian is the person best equipped to deal with this dangerous situation. As with bloody urine, trauma and obstructions can be fatal if not treated, and scar tissue in the urinary tract could be the result of chronic urinary tract infections or other diseases.
Spinal cord injuries or conditions can affect the nerves that control your dog’s bladder, and trauma or degenerative diseases may require immediate treatment to keep your dog comfortable. Certain breeds of dogs, such as German Shepherd Dogs, are at an increased risk for these diseases.
Prostate disease affects male dogs, especially intact males, and can be the result of infection, abscesses, trauma, or cancer.
Changes in Urination Habits
Like it or not, most of us are attuned to our dog’s elimination habits. Many of us have been caught in the act of examining our dog’s poop by non-dog owners, and the same goes for urination. This attention to detail is more than just excessive caring — it can help your veterinarian diagnose a medical condition before it gets out of hand.
Changes in your dog’s urination habits always necessitate a visit to your veterinarian. While accidents in the house could be a behavioral issue, they could also be a sign of a serious medical condition. Accidents or increased frequency in urination may be symptoms of diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, cancer, trauma, or urinary tract infections, just to name a few possible conditions.
Nothing is as alarming to a dog owner as the possibility of cancer. Luckily, bladder cancer is rare in dogs. But owners should still be aware of the symptoms of bladder cancer, especially if they own a breed predisposed to the condition, such as Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, West Highland White Terriers, Beagles, and Wire Fox Terriers.
Recurrent urinary tract infections, or urinary tract symptoms, can be a sign of bladder cancer. The most common kind of bladder cancer is a cancer called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). These cancers are very invasive and have a high incidence of metastasis. Early detection can often improve your dog’s prognosis.
Bladder cancer can cause both UTIs and UTI symptoms, which can make it tricky to diagnose. Tumors can obstruct the flow of urine, leading to difficulty urinating. Cancer can also cause blood in the urine. Combined with the likelihood of a UTI on top of this, diagnosing a dog with bladder cancer can be tricky. Veterinarians look for other risk factors, such as age and breed. Additional diagnostic tests, like radiographs and ultrasounds, may be performed to look for blockages, tumors, or other causes for your dog’s symptoms.
Currently, a study by the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine is screening dog urine for markers of TCC as well as urothelial carcinoma (UC). As part of this study, the CADET® BRAF Mutation Detection Assay is being utilized to screen dog urine, in an attempt to hopefully diagnose cancer prior to dogs developing warning signs.
The best course of treatment for cancers of the urinary tract is tumor removal. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also be beneficial, and your veterinarian will help manage recurrent bacterial yeast infections.
UTI Symptoms? Call Your Veterinarian
Whether your dog’s UTI symptoms are just a UTI or something more, it’s important to find out for sure. If your dog is exhibiting UTI symptoms, your best bet is to call your veterinarian sooner rather than later.