How to Treat Bladder Infections in Dogs

Treating a bladder infection of your dog

Adult dogs usually need a toilet break 3 to 5 times a day. That creates plenty of opportunities for them to experience the pain that a bladder infection or other Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can cause.

Although UTIs are common in dogs (affecting females more than males), they can be a sign of something more serious. Find out what you should do if your dog has a UTI as we examine the symptoms as well as the steps you can take to prevent one from happening.

Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs Explained

A UTI in dogs refers to an infection of the urinary tract. They can occur in the ureters, kidneys, urethra, and/or bladder. They happen to be the most common infectious disease in dogs. The most typical cause tends to be bacterial. 

Bacterial UTIs will affect around 1 in every 7 dogs, making the chances of your pet experiencing one at some point in their lives relatively high.

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Bladder Infection?

It’s a good idea to keep your own eye on how your dog behaves when they normally go for a pee. You’ll then be more mindful of when something doesn’t seem right. Common symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Urine that looks cloudy or has blood in it
  • Straining or whimpering while peeing
  • Sudden and unusual accidents around the house
  • Your dog wanting to get outside more often than usual
  • Your pet constantly licking the area around the urinary opening
  • Fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and a strong urinary odor
  • An increase in the amount of water your dog drinks

UTIs are more common in dogs with diabetes. Dogs with bladder stones typically get them frequently. Lower urinary tract disease and UTIs tend to happen more in dogs aged 7 and above no matter what their breed or gender. 

Although any of the symptoms above might mean your dog has a UTI, your vet may also want to rule out other more serious conditions first. You should seek the advice of a vet straight away if your dog’s urine contains blood.

Some dogs don’t display any symptoms when experiencing a UTI. Your vet might encounter the infection while testing for other diseases.

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What Causes Urinary Infections in Dogs?

E. Coli is the most common bacterial cause of UTIs, although other bacteria and even some fungi can lead to infections. Dogs with certain types of health problems are also more prone to UTIs. These include: 

  • Bladder stones 
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence 
  • Diabetes and Cushing’s disease
  • Intervertebral disc disease  
  • Certain anatomic abnormalities e.g. hooded vulva and ectopic ureters
  • Some types of immunosuppressive conditions or medications
  • Chronic kidney disease 

Conditions That Make Urination Difficult

If your dog is struggling to urinate or finding it impossible to do so, you should consider it a medical emergency. Left untreated, it could cause a rupture in your dog’s bladder. This can be fatal, so you should always contact a vet straight away.

Aside from UTIs, potential causes of problems with peeing include:

  • Obstructions
  • Scar tissue in the urinary tract
  • Spinal cord injuries or disease
  • Cancer and prostate disease

Scar tissue in the urinary tract could be due to chronic urinary tract infections or other diseases. Spinal cord injuries can interfere with the nerves that control a dog’s bladder. 

Degenerative diseases may also make peeing harder for a dog. Certain breeds like German Shepherds are more prone to these. Prostate disease occurs in male dogs and can be due to (among other things) cancer, trauma, and infections.

How Do I Get a Bladder Infection Diagnosis For My Dog?

If your vet suspects your dog has a UTI, they’ll carry out a urinalysis (diagnostic examination of the urine). A urinalysis can give an enormous amount of useful information about the body, and certainly can give clues about a possible UTI.

Your vet may obtain a urine sample through a cystocentesis. It’s a simple procedure that involves inserting a needle into the bladder and extracting urine in a syringe. It can look a bit scary, but it is a common, standard procedure.

Urine culture and sensitivity tests may follow. These will confirm the type of infection. They’ll establish the precise type of bacteria infecting the bladder and the most effective antibiotics to treat it.  

It’s possible your vet may wish to carry out further tests depending on the age of your dog. These could include blood work, ultrasounds, and x-rays.

What Is the Treatment for a Bladder Infection?

Your vet will typically treat UTIs with antibiotics. In the first instance, they may choose a medication that will target the likely bacteria. Once they can get a clearer picture from the culture, they may then change to a different type of antibiotic depending on the result.

As well as antibiotics, they’ll often prescribe pain medication to relieve some discomfort. For those infections that have other more serious underlying causes, treatment will also involve managing those conditions. 

Although bacteria may sometimes show up on a routine urinalysis, this does not always mean an infection is present. Usually, only dogs with symptoms of a UTI would receive any treatment to avoid them becoming resistant to antibiotics through an unnecessary prescription. 

Your vet may suggest a special diet to encourage your dog to drink more in order to help dilute the urine. They may also want to try out certain medications that can stop bacteria from sticking to the bladder lining and give it more protection.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Getting a Bladder Infection in the Future?

There are a few simple ways to make a UTI less likely. Always providing lots of fresh drinking water to flush away any bacteria and dilute the urine.

You should also keep your dog well-groomed around their rear end to reduce the risk of ascending UTIs. Give your dog all the opportunities they need to go to the toilet. Certain prescription diets can help prevent further bouts of stones or crystals. 

When Should I Contact the Vet?

If there is blood in your dog’s urine or if your dog is finding it impossible to urinate, you should contact a vet straight away. We have a team of veterinary experts waiting to offer reassurance and help, even on weekends. Get in touch now if you have any concerns at all that your pet may have a UTI.

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