Featured image for post: Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Dogs

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Dogs

Every pet owner wants the best for their furry friend, and part of that is understanding the health issues they might face. One common health issue that you might encounter is a urinary tract infection in dogs, often called a UTI. Although many dog owners don’t realize that their canine companions can get UTIs, learning the basics – including key symptoms and treatment information – can help you better care for your beloved pet.

In this guide, we’re explaining everything you need to know about dogs and UTIs, including:

  • How to tell if a dog has a UTI
  • What causes UTIs in dogs
  • How to treat UTIs in dogs

It’s a quick, easy resource that can come in handy when the unexpected occurs – let’s get started.

Can Dogs Get UTIs?

Absolutely. Just as humans can suffer from UTIs, our canine companions are equally susceptible. While they might not be able to communicate their discomfort verbally, their behaviors and symptoms might indicate the presence of an infection.

What is an Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs?

A urinary tract infection in dogs occurs when harmful bacteria invade the urinary system. This includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. The bacteria can lead to inflammation, causing discomfort and other symptoms in affected dogs.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in dogs, much like in humans, are primarily caused by microorganisms (most commonly bacteria) that invade the urinary system, causing inflammation and discomfort. However, there are various factors can play a part in this painful condition, including:

  1. Bacterial Infections: The most common cause of UTIs in dogs is bacterial infiltration. This can occur when bacteria, typically from fecal contamination, enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply. The anatomy of female dogs makes them more susceptible to this type of contamination, as their urethra is shorter and more easily accessed by bacteria.
  2. Immune Deficiencies: A dog’s immune system plays a pivotal role in warding off infections, including UTIs. If a dog has a weakened or compromised immune response due to conditions such as autoimmune diseases, malnutrition, or even age-related decline, they’re at a heightened risk for UTIs.
  3. Bladder Stones or Crystals: These hard “stones” form when there’s an imbalance of minerals in the dog’s urine caused by pet’s diet or breed predisposition. Not only can these stones cause physical pain and obstruction, but their presence can lead to inflammation. This, in turn, makes the bladder’s environment more conducive to bacterial growth. The stones provide a surface for bacteria to latch onto and multiply, exacerbating the infection.
  4. Prolonged Use of Catheters: Just as in human medicine, dogs may occasionally require the use of urinary catheters—often post-operatively or during certain treatments. While these catheters are helpful medical tools, their prolonged use can introduce or give rise to bacterial infections in the urinary tract.
  5. Medications that Suppress the Immune System: Some dogs, due to other medical conditions, may be on medications that intentionally suppress the immune system. These can include steroids or drugs for conditions like autoimmune disorders. While these medications are beneficial for the condition they’re prescribed for, they can inadvertently increase the dog’s vulnerability to infections, including UTIs.

Are Some Dogs Predisposed to UTIs?

While any dog can suffer from a UTI, some breeds are more likely to be affected. Older dogs, dogs with diabetes, and those with weak immune systems might be more susceptible. Female dogs are also more likely to get UTIs compared to males due to their shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to travel up to the bladder.

Signs & Symptoms of UTI in Dogs

Detecting a UTI early can lead to more effective treatment. Common dog UTI symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination or attempts to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain during urination (yelping or whimpering)
  • Excessive licking of private areas
  • Dribbling urine or accidents in the house
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Lethargy or discomfort

It’s also worth noting that some dogs might not display obvious symptoms or may exhibit only very subtle changes in behavior. That’s why it’s essential for pet owners to be observant and in tune with their dog’s regular habits and behaviors – if something seems “off,” trust your instincts and visit UrgentVet for a quick check-up.

Diagnosing a UTI in Dogs

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life, making prompt and accurate diagnosis crucial.

Here’s a closer look at the diagnostic process:

  1. Physical Examination: A vet will initiate the diagnosis with a detailed physical examination of the dog. This involves checking the dog’s abdomen for any signs of tenderness or bloating, which might suggest bladder inflammation or other related problems. The vet may also assess the bladder to determine its size and shape, checking for any abnormalities.
  2. Review of Medical History: Understanding a dog’s medical history can provide vital clues. The vet will likely ask questions about the dog’s symptoms, the duration and onset of these symptoms, their frequency of urination, and any other related health concerns or behavioral changes. Knowing whether the dog has had UTIs in the past or any related treatments can further guide the diagnostic process.
  3. Urinalysis – The Gold Standard: The most definitive diagnostic tool for a UTI in dogs is a urinalysis. But exactly what is a urinalysis, and what does it look at? The process involves collecting a urine sample from the dog and examining it in the lab. The sample is analyzed for the presence of:
    • White blood cells: An increased number can indicate an inflammatory response, typically due to an infection.
    • Red blood cells: Their presence can suggest bleeding within the urinary tract.
    • Bacteria: The type and number of bacteria can provide insights into the nature and severity of the infection.
    • Crystals: The presence of crystals can indicate bladder stones or other underlying conditions that might predispose a dog to UTIs.
    • Protein and other compounds: Elevated levels can hint at kidney issues or other conditions.
  4. Urine Culture: If bacteria are detected during the urinalysis, a urine culture may be recommended. This test involves growing the bacteria in the lab to determine its type and the most effective antibiotics for treatment. This step ensures that the prescribed treatment is targeted and effective.
  5. Additional Diagnostic Tools: Depending on the findings from the initial tests and the dog’s overall health, additional diagnostic tools might be employed. These can include ultrasounds, blood tests, and/or X-rays.

Treatment for UTIs in Dogs

Once a UTI is diagnosed, antibiotics are typically the first line of treatment. The type of antibiotic will be tailored to target the specific bacteria causing the infection. While the specific antibiotic and its duration are based on the infection’s severity, it’s crucial for owners to administer the entire course, even if symptoms seem to subside.

Your vet might also recommend increasing your pet’s water intake to help flush out the bacteria. In cases where bladder stones contribute to the UTI, dietary changes can help dissolve certain types, but larger stones or those causing obstructions may require surgical intervention. Throughout the treatment process, regular veterinary follow-ups ensure effective recovery and prevent potential recurrences.

Is There a Cure for Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs?

Yes, most UTIs in dogs are entirely treatable, especially when detected early. With the right treatment, most dogs recover fully with no lasting effects.

What is the Cost of Treating UTIs in Dogs?

The cost can vary based on location, severity, and necessary treatments. Basic treatments with antibiotics might be relatively affordable, but if surgical procedures or extended stays at the vet are required, costs can increase.

Recovery and Management of UTIs in Dogs

Post-treatment, it’s crucial to ensure your dog has plenty of clean water and opportunities to urinate. Regularly cleaning their living spaces can prevent recurrent infections. Follow-up visits to the vet might be required to ensure the infection has fully cleared.

What Can Happen if a Dog’s Urinary Tract Problems Go Untreated?

If untreated, a simple UTI can escalate, causing immense discomfort and pain for your dog. Beyond the immediate distress, potential complications can arise, such as severe kidney infections that can impact their long-term health, the formation of painful bladder stones, or even the onset of sepsis—a life-threatening response to a rampant infection that can quickly compromise a dog’s overall well-being.

Preventing UTIs in Dogs

Prevention is always better than cure. Ensure your dog has continuous access to fresh water and regular bathroom breaks. Proper hygiene and proper grooming, especially in female dogs, can also significantly reduce the risk.

UTI Symptoms? Contact UrgentVet for Quick, Effective Care.

If you suspect your dog might have a UTI, don’t hesitate. Early detection is key.

At UrgentVet, we’re committed to providing top-tier care for all your urgent pet needs. If you’re trying to determine how to tell if a dog has a UTI, come in for a professional assessment and effective treatment solutions. Your dog’s health and comfort are our top priorities, and we are dedicated to providing compassionate care when your pet needs it most.

We accept walk-in visits, or you can reserve your appointment online. Find the UrgentVet nearest you now!

Image Credit: SeventyFour / Shutterstock