Canine Urinary Tract Infection: All You Need to Know

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection at some point in your life, you would never wish that increasingly tormenting pain on your beloved dog. That familiar urge to go pee every now and then but managing to only dribble tiny drops of urine when you do is frustrating to remember. Fortunately for you, a single prescription of antibiotics would be all it takes to make the pain go away.

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If you’re suspecting that your dog has a urinary tract infection, it’s not going to be as easy as that. For information on symptoms, causes, and treatment, read on.

Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Etc.

Symptoms

Watch out for the following symptoms that may indicate that your dog is experiencing the discomfort of a urinary tract infection:

  • Inability to urinate 
  • Passing a small amount of urine
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Crying out when urinating
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Frequent urination
  • Soiling in inappropriate places
  • Constant licking of urinary opening
  • Strong odor of urine
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased water consumption

Diagnosis

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A veterinary visit for a urinary tract infection will start with a physical examination and usually will include examination of the kidneys and bladder, a urinalysis, and possibly urine culture, blood work, radiographs, or ultrasound. Initially, the veterinarian will need to analyze a urine sample for the presence of white blood cells signalling infection or crystals suggesting that the dog may have bladder stones. Culturing the urine, which involves taking a sample and letting bacteria grow, allows the veterinarian to know for sure if there’s an infection and identify the bacteria causing it. It usually takes a few days to get the results of a urine culture.

Without this process, your veterinarian won’t know exactly which antibiotic to prescribe or if one is even necessary. Veterinarians don’t like to prescribe antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary and know exactly which bacteria to target because of the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

If the veterinarian suspects bladder stones, blood work and radiographs are done to make a diagnosis. Occasionally, stones may be difficult to find. When that is the case, the vet may use more sophisticated procedures such as radiographs with dye, ultrasound, or cystoscopy, allowing them to take a look inside the urethra and bladder.

Causes

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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 suspect of such infections.

Other causes include

  • stones, crystals, or debris accumulation in the bladder or urethra;
  • bladder inflammation or infection;
  • incontinence from excessive water drinking or weak bladder / hormonal issue;
  • trauma;
  • cancer;
  • stress;
  • spinal cord abnormalities;
  • congenital abnormality; and
  • prostate disease.

Endocrine diseases such as adrenal disease and diabetes mellitus can also predispose dogs to a urinary tract infection. Some breeds are known for a predisposition to certain types of stones. Male dalmatians are prone to urinate stones, and Scottish deerhounds and some dachshunds and bulldogs are likely to develop cystine stones. Small breeds such as shih tzus, Lhasa Apsos and Yorkshire terriers seem to be predisposed to calcium oxalate stones.

Treatment

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Canine urinary problems are potentially serious in nature, so your first and immediate step is to get veterinary care for your pet. Depending on your dog’s diagnosis and the infection’s cause, one of the following may be recommended:

  • Antibiotics
  • Supplements
  • Dietary changes
  • Increase in water intake
  • Urinary acidifiers or alkalinizers
  • Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy
  • Surgery or other procedures to remove bladder stones or tumor
  • Surgery to correct congenital abnormality
  • Treatment of underlying condition that is contributing to urinary problem (e.g. diabetes mellitus)

If left untreated, urinary tract infections can lead to serious medical problems! The infection can move to the kidneys and cause life-threatening conditions. Stones can cause partial or complete obstruction of the urethra, preventing a dog from urinating. This medical emergency can lead to kidney failure and/or rupture of the bladder.

Prevention

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Getting more water into your dog is never a bad thing. 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. Try providing a drinking fountain for your fur baby to encourage them to drink more. Drinking plenty of water and urinating frequently will wash crystals out before they turn into stones.

Mary H. Bowles, DVM, an internal medicine specialist at Oklahoma State University, says that based on successful studies in women, your veterinarian may also recommend probiotics to help prevent recurring UTIs. Probiotics are thought to help by displacing the bacteria causing the infection and enhancing the immune system’s response to infection-causing bacteria.

Lastly, make sure the area around your dog’s urinary opening is clean of any debris, scratches, or any foreign object. Most pet stores sell antibacterial wipes, which can be used to clean this area.