Are you worried that your dog might have a urinary tract infection (UTI)? Whether this is the first time your dog has had a problem with a UTI or whether they have had repeat episodes, you may have questions about symptoms, causes, and treatment options. We’ll answer some of your most-asked questions, so you’ll know what to expect. If you think your dog has a UTI, it is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian.
What Causes a UTI in Dogs?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by a bacterial infection in the bladder. The most common infection is E.coli, though other bacteria can cause problems too. The bacteria cause inflammation and irritation, which contributes to your dog’s discomfort, blood in the urine, and an increased urge to urinate.
UTIs are a very frequently diagnosed condition. Female dogs are more commonly affected than male dogs due to their anatomy. They have a relatively short urethra (the connection between the bladder to the outside world), making it easier for bacteria to enter. Dogs can get a single urinary tract infection, which resolves with simple treatment and doesn’t require much further investigation. However, some conditions can make repeat urinary tract infections more likely:
Diabetics are more prone to infections due to the increased amounts of sugar in their urine, providing more energy for bacteria to grow and multiply.
Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incompetence (USMI)
Older female dogs are commonly affected by this condition. This is where the small sphincter muscles that hold the urethra closed become weakened, leading to urinary incontinence but also allowing bacteria to pass back up into the bladder.
Some dogs may be born with issues that predispose them to infection, such as a bladder that is abnormally positioned.
Cancer or inflammation in the urinary tract can make infections more likely.
Different stone types exist, which require different treatments.
Male dogs can suffer from prostate infections which can take several weeks of antibiotics to resolve.
Spinal Cord Issues
Weakness and incontinence due to spinal cord disease can make infections more likely.
What are the Symptoms of a UTI in Dogs?
The symptoms of a UTI in dogs include the following –
- Blood in the urine
- Straining to pass urine
- Passing small amounts of urine at a time
- Needing to urinate more often than usual
- Licking the genital area excessively
- Changes in thirst or appetite
How is a UTI Diagnosed?
The vet will want to try and confirm the diagnosis of a UTI by looking at a urine sample. It can be helpful to take a sample of your dog’s urine to your initial appointment, so your vet can do an initial basic analysis. A urine dipstick can tell the vet whether there are markers of infection, like the presence of blood. Checking for glucose (sugar) is also important to look for underlying issues like diabetes.
They may also check the concentration of your pet’s urine and look at it under the microscope. Examining urine under the microscope can help identify urine crystals, which could indicate bladder stones. Bacteria, as well as red and white blood cells, may also be seen.
Urine samples can be sent to the laboratory for culture and sensitivity. This is where bacteria are encouraged to grow in order to identify what type it is and also which antibiotics may be most effective at treating it.
Your vet may also recommend some additional tests, such as x-rays or an ultrasound examination. These are particularly important if your dog is suffering from repeat episodes of urinary problems. Underlying bladder stones, prostate issues, tumors, or anatomical abnormalities may be identified this way. Your vet may also find it helpful to get a more sterile urine sample this way. Bacteria from the genitals or environment can sometimes contaminate free-catch samples collected at home.
How to Treat a UTI in Dogs
Confirmed cases of UTI will need treatment with antibiotics to clear up the infection. The exact antibiotics and length of course required may depend on any tests your pet has had, including culture and sensitivity. Anti-inflammatories can help settle down inflammation and provide some pain relief which will make your dog feel happier again.
Your pet may also need treatment for any concurrent health issues, such as insulin therapy and diet change for diabetes, medication for incontinence in USMI cases, or even surgery for some dogs with anatomical issues or bladder stones.
In conclusion, while some urinary tract infections are straightforward, this is not always the case. It is important to get your dog checked over by one of our vets so that they can guide you through the best course of action for your pet. Don’t forget you can make an in-home sick visit appointment with one of our friendly vets if you would like your dog to be seen at home. We also offer telemedicine video consultations if you are unsure whether your pet should be seen.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my dog has a UTI?
The most common signs of a UTI in dogs include frequent urination, bloody urine, and excessive straining when passing urine. Affected dogs may also lick their genitals more than usual or seem a bit off-color. Your vet will be able to perform some tests to confirm whether your dog has a UTI or not.
How do you treat a urinary tract infection in a dog?
UTIs need appropriate antibiotics to clear up the infection, and many dogs will also benefit from anti-inflammatories. Other treatments may be aimed at any underlying causes of their infection. Your vet can advise you as to the best treatment for your dog.