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What You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Urinary tract infections in dogs, also known as bacterial cystitis, can cause pain and discomfort for your pup. If you suspect your dog has one, it’s important to get them checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at the signs, symptoms, and treatment options if you’re a pet parent who thinks your furry friend might be suffering from a urinary tract infection.

What do UTIs in dogs look like?

Urinary tract infections can be hard to spot, which is why you should always be on the lookout for changes in your dog's bathroom habits. If your dog is attempting to urinate small amounts every time you take them outside, needs to go more often, straining or crying when urinating, or having accidents in the house even when they are house trained, it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection. The most obvious and alarming symptom is blood in your dog’s urine; if you notice this, you should call us immediately for an appointment.

How do dogs get UTIs?

The most common cause of urinary tract infections in dogs is bacterial infection. In fact, bacterial urinary tract infections in dogs affect 14% of all canines at least once in their lifetime, which means it’s a common condition. The infection usually develops when bacteria that normally lives on the skin, in the mouth and the gastrointestinal system flows up the urethra into the bladder. This can occur if the area is contaminated with feces or other debris, or the dog has a condition that alters the normal composition of urine. Bladder stones can also predispose dogs to UTIs. In most cases, E. coli is the bacteria that causes UTIs in dogs. If you suspect infection in your pup, make sure you seek out treatment immediately to prevent your dog’s condition from worsening. Be prepared for your Veterinarian to run a urinalysis in house. If you can bring a urine sample along with your appointment, it should be as fresh as possible and put in a container that had never held tomato sauces (it could alter the glucose levels).

Which dogs are most at risk for UTIs?

While no dog breed is immune from developing a urinary tract infections, some breeds are more susceptible than others. Breeds like the Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, and Yorkshire Terriers are prone to developing bladder stones and may be more likely to develop urinary tract infections. What’s more, female dogs can be more prone than males, as male dogs’ longer urethra means that bacteria takes longer to travel upwards and cause infection. In addition, spayed female dogs with low estrogen related incontinence are at increased risk for UTI. Dogs with hyperadrenocorticism and diabetes mellitus are also at higher risk for UTI.

What are the symptoms of UTIs in dogs?

Common symptoms of UTIs in dogs include:

  • Bloody and/or cloudy urine

  • Increased urine odor

  • Needs to urinate more often, but when does, urinates smaller amounts

  • Straining or crying during urination

  • Accidents in the house

  • Licking the genital area

  • Fever

  • Increased thirst

  • Lack of energy

Make sure you’re always watching out for changes in your dog’s peeing and drinking habits to stop a UTI in its tracks, and be extra vigilant if you know that your dog is more susceptible to bladder stones.

How are UTIs in dogs diagnosed?

Once you notice your dog’s UTI symptoms and take them to the vet, your vet will take a close look at the chemical properties of your dog’s urine through a process called a urinalysis. For more diagnostics your veterinarian may want to send out a culture and sensitivity, that will tell exactly what kind of bacteria your pet has in their urine. To collect the urine for a culture, your vet will likely use a technique called cystocentesis, in which a needle is inserted into the dog’s bladder and urine is removed using a syringe. While your dog might squirm at the sight of a needle, the procedure is quick, relatively pain free, and leaves no lasting effects. We need the cleanest urine possible for a culture so we don't get false positives. The culture will also tell us what kind of antibiotic to use. Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog’s urine to confirm whether or not they see signs of a UTI. In some cases, your veterinarian might prescribe blood work, radiographs, or abdominal ultrasound to make sure that there are no underlying conditions such as bladder stones, kidney disease, or cancer causing the issue.

How are UTIs in dogs treated?

The good news is that treatment for UTIs in dogs is simple. In most cases, it consists of a course of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian, which often cures your pup’s urination problem right up. To aid the antibiotics, it’s helpful to increase your dog’s water intake, which will help dilute the bacteria in the bladder. For a common bacterial UTI, your pup should start feeling better within 24-48 hours of starting treatment. In some instances, your veterinarian might prescribe pain medication and recommend a diet change if your dog has any crystals in the urine, or if bladder stones are diagnosed. In some cases, surgery is required to remove bladder stones. If your dog has another underlying condition that is contributing to development of a UTI, then treatment is required for those conditions as well to prevent reoccurrence.

How much does it cost to treat UTIs in dogs?

After a vet visit and a course of antibiotics, the average cost of treatment for UTIs in dogs is about $274. However, if the UTI develops into something more serious or it's discover to be caused by an underlying condition – warranting surgery or other more intense treatments – fees can pile on and bring costs into the thousands. Its always easier to prevent problems than to let them build up to a serious medical condition.

How can you help prevent UTIs in your dog?

The best things pet parents can do to prevent UTIs in dogs is to make sure they drink lots of water, go to the bathroom on a regular basis, eat nutritious food that will maintain a strong immune system, and have any underlying disorders that contribute to the development of a UTI treated. If your dog suffers from recurring UTIs, your veterinarian might recommend supplements or probiotics.

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