Urinary tract infections are extremely common in people, but dogs can get UTIs as much as people can, and so can a variety of other species.
The symptoms can differ depending on a number of factors, such as the severity of the health issue itself and how much damage it has produced to the dog’s system, the dog’s age and general health status, along with whether or not they have other chronic issues.
Read on to find out more about UTIs in dogs – how to spot them, how they’re diagnosed, and how they can be treated.
What causes urinary tract infections in dogs?
The most common germ that is at the root of this type of infection is Escherichia coli, but the truth is that urinary tract infections can be caused by a variety of other germs.
A dog’s urine is filled with bacteria, and if their immune system isn’t doing a good job of protecting them or if they have a history of recurring UTIs that might suggest that parts of their urinary system are sensitive, that might leave room for a potentially pathogenic microorganism to grow uncontrollably.
There are some predisposing factors, though, and while we might have mentioned a few in the introduction, we’ll note a few others here.
Some dog breeds are simply more likely to develop urinary tract infections, such as the following:
While both males and females are just as predisposed to UTIs, females tend to get them more often. They also tend to get recurring ones when they age, especially after their 7th birthday.
All dogs that have diabetes or that have had bladder stones in the past have a higher likelihood of getting UTIs.
Symptoms of UTIs in dogs
A urinary tract infection can be a very uncomfortable business, as anyone who has ever had one can attest. The majority of the clinical signs that dogs show in this situation are quite noticeable, so pet owners can immediately tell that something is wrong and that it’s time for them to take their canine friend to the vet clinic.
The most common canine UTI signs are listed below:
- Straining to urinate
- Abdominal pain
- Inappropriate elimination (the dog pees in the house or at unusual times)
- Constant licking of the nether region
- Blood in the urine
- The pee has a stronger scent than normal and seems to be cloudy
- A recurring fever
Unfortunately, even though up to 15% of all dogs are likely to get a UTI at one point in their life, not every one of those cases is symptomatic, especially at the beginning of the condition. This means that it can become complicated as more and more time goes by if they receive no form of treatment for it whatsoever.
Diagnosing and treating urinary tract infections in dogs
The diagnosis of a urinary tract infection can involve a number of different tests. A urinalysis is one of the most revealing such procedures, as it can determine changes in the viscosity, weight, crystal presence, blood presence, or protein/sugar presence.
The sample can also be sent out to a lab for a bacterial culture followed by an antibiogram, which can result in the veterinarian knowing specifically what antibiotic to use to treat the infection.
In the majority of cases, especially those where the dog is a healthy adult, the recovery is quite speedy and effective – we are referring to patients that are given the appropriate medication and for the right duration of time.
Your vet might begin with antibiotic injections, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory medication but may give you some antibiotic pills for you to continue the treatment at home. It is paramount for you to administer the treatment for the whole duration of the therapy, meaning for at least 5-7 days – and if it’s a complicated infection, sometimes even up to 10-14 days, all depending on your veterinarian’s advice.
Failing to comply with your veterinarian’s instructions can lead to the germ that has produced the infection in the first place becoming antibiotic-resistant, which can eventually lead to any recurring UTI being practically impossible to treat.
If the infection was caused by a bladder stone, there are specific medications that your vet can recommend. In some cases, if the stones cannot be broken down and eliminated through the urethra normally, your dog might have to undergo laser lithotripsy, a procedure where the stones are broken into multiple smaller ones that can then be eliminated naturally.
Laser lithotripsy is much safer when compared to procedures such as cystotomy, an operation where the urinary bladder is opened surgically so that the stones are removed in that way. This treatment option works well for both males and females.
Can UTIs in dogs be prevented?
Making sure that your dog gets enough water is one way of preventing a urinary tract infection because frequent elimination basically leads to the removal of any excess bacteria that might have built up in the bladder. At the same time, if your dog already has a UTI, making them drink massive amounts of water will not lead to the condition being treated.
Giving your dog some supplements and medications as preventatives can also minimize the frequency of UTIs that a dog experiences throughout their life.
If your dog is older than 7 and is among one of the breeds that we have previously mentioned, make sure to pay attention to their elimination habits and act as quickly as possible. Give them the treatment as per your vet’s recommendations to ensure that it doesn’t come back.
For pets that have a recurring bladder stone development issue, there are special diets that your veterinarian can suggest and that can acidify the patient’s urine so that the crystals have a higher likelihood of forming. Do take into account that urinary crystals are different, and diets can sometimes be specifically designed for particular ones (calcium oxalate, struvite, etc.).