As it stands, 14% of dogs contract a urinary tract infection in their lives.
The urinary tract is generally split into two areas – the upper and the lower. The upper urinary tract contains the kidneys, whilst the lower urinary tract contains the bladder and urethra.
When we speak about urinary tract infections (UTI), this typically means the lower area of the urinary tract.
Dogs can be affected by many lower urinary tract problems like diseases or infections of the bladder, urethra and prostate. Urinary tract symptoms can also point to other problems such as cancers or bladder stones.
These types of infections are more common but are not limited to: female dogs, dogs with diabetes, dogs with bladder stones and senior dogs. Smaller dog breeds such as Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terriers and Bichon Frise are genetically predisposed to urinary tract stones, this makes their dog breed more prone to a UTI in their lifetime.
Male dog breeds have a longer urethra, meaning it takes longer for bacteria to travel upwards and cause an infection. Female dog breeds however, have a shorter urethra, making it easier for them to contract these infections.
Signs and symptoms of a UTI in dogs
UTIs are painful, especially in dogs. It’s not uncommon for your dog to show no signs of pain, making it difficult to know when they are experiencing discomfort.
You can look out for these signs if your dog is showing no signs of pain:
- Bloody and/or cloudy urine
- Straining or whimpering during urination
- Accidents in the house
- Needing to be let outside more frequently
- Licking around the urinary opening
- Strong odour to the urine
- Increased amount or frequency of urination
- Increased water consumption
Other problems to a dog’s urinary tract may create symptoms such as:
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
- Severe back pain
Untreated urinary tract problems can cause serious medical problems in dogs. Untreated infections can result in partial or complete blockage of the urethra, disrupting the urine output and leading to toxic levels of waste build up.
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, always consult with your vet.
What causes lower urinary tract problems in dogs?
There are many causes of UTIs in dogs. The most common is bacteria that enters through the urethra opening. Bacteria can develop when faeces or debris enter the area or if your dog's immune system is weakened from lack of nutrients.
Other causes of urinary tract infections in dogs include:
- Bladder inflammation or infection
- Stone, crystals or debris in the bladder or urethra
- Inability to hold their urine from excessive water drinking
- A weakened bladder
- Prostate disease
- Congenital abnormality
- Spinal cord abnormalities
How to treat urinary tract infection in dogs
In order to diagnose an infection of the urinary tract, a vet will perform a physical examination and urinalysis of the kidneys and bladder. This helps vets determine if the problem is caused by a UTI or if there is another underlying condition that is present, (such as stones, cancers or tumours).
Depending on the outcome of the examination, your vet will determine which treatment for a dog’s UTI is most suitable for your dog.
This could include:
- Dietary changes
- Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy
- An increase in water intake
- Urinary acidifier or alkalisers
- Surgery to remove bladder stones or tumour
- Surgery to correct congenital abnormality
Antibiotics for urinary tract infections in dogs are the most common and typical treatment. A vet may also prescribe pain medication to go alongside this as they can be extremely uncomfortable.
Remember, antibiotics for dogs not only rid of the bad bacteria but also the good. It is recommended to use probiotics alongside antibiotics to keep the gut healthy and balanced.
Dogs with reoccurring urinary tract infections are recommended to use supplements. Reoccurring UTIs are often seen more in dogs with conditions that alter the immune system such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism and obesity.
If you suspect your dog is experiencing symptoms of a urinary tract problem, always contact your vet for advice on your next steps. Your dog’s comfort and health comes first, you can try your home remedies for urinary tract infections later!