Common Causes of Urinary Issues in Dogs

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Common Causes of Urinary Issues in Dogs

If your dog appears to be straining to urinate, has an increased frequency of urination with abnormally small or large amounts, has blood in the urine, and/or has accidents around the house, you should have your pet checked by a vet. These are signs that there is something wrong and should never be ignored. The most possible culprits are problems affecting the dog’s urinary system which is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Early identification of the underlying cause can help ensure that an appropriate treatment regimen can be given, which can significantly improve the chances of a favorable prognosis. Keep reading to learn more!

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1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur when bacteria enter the urethra through the genital area. Cases are more common in female dogs but can occur in dogs of any age, sex, or breed. A bladder infection is not really a serious issue but it will be a different matter if the infection ascends the urinary tract and spreads to the dog’s kidneys.

Based on the symptoms exhibited by your dog, a vet may perform a urinalysis to confirm the initial diagnosis. Blood work and other diagnostic procedures may be necessary when cases appear to be more complicated.

Most infections of the urinary bladder respond well to antibiotic treatment. Identifying the bacteria with a urine culture can help ensure that the appropriate antibiotic is given. But when the infection involves the kidneys, hospitalization is usually required so intravenous fluid therapy and close monitoring can be given.

If your dog experiences recurrent urinary tract infections, your vet will take steps to identify the underlying cause.

2. Bladder Stones

Stones (uroliths) commonly develop in the urinary bladder but can form in any part of the urinary system. Stones are formed when crystals in the urine fuse and harden. There are different types of stones, and they are classified based on the type of mineral(s) that they are composed of. There are struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate stones, to name a few.

The treatment regimen will be based on the type of stone that is present. Most cases of struvite stones can be dissolved with a special diet and/or medications, but other types of stones need to be surgically removed.

A urolith can get lodged anywhere in the dog’s urinary tract and has the potential to cause pain, irritation, and persistent urinary tract infections. When a stone becomes lodged in the urethra, the passage of urine is blocked. This is a medical emergency that needs prompt veterinary intervention.

3. Kidney Disease

Kidney failure in dogs may be acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure occurs when certain conditions, such as an infection or toxins prevent the optimum function of the kidneys for a shorter period. On the other hand, chronic kidney failure develops over a considerable length of time. Oftentimes, the underlying cause cannot be fully established or understood.

Kidney failure treatment will depend on the specific condition that’s causing the problem. The treatment regimen, however, typically involves special diets, fluid and electrolyte therapy, and medications aimed to treat the underlying cause or alleviate symptoms. Most cases of kidney failure tend to worsen over time, but the rate of deterioration will vary between cases.

4. Urinary Incontinence

Dogs with urinary incontinence leak urine. Most don’t show any other clinical symptoms and appear healthy and normal. The condition is most common among spayed, female dogs but can develop in dogs of any age, gender, or breed. Hormonal deficiencies are often implicated in the loss of control of the sphincter (muscle) that opens and closes the urinary bladder. But some cases can be a result of anatomical or neurological problems.

In mild cases, dogs may only leak small quantities of urine occasionally. This often occurs while they’re sleeping. But in extreme cases, urine drips continuously. This can increase the dog’s risk of ‘urine scald’ that results in skin problems around their rear end. Incontinent dogs are also more predisposed to urinary tract infections.

Treatment of urinary incontinence in dogs includes medication and/or hormone replacement therapy. However, the latter is not without risks of side effects. Surgical intervention may be necessary if medications fail to control incontinence. Your vet will evaluate your dog’s circumstances before deciding which option is best for your dog.

5. Bladder Cancer

A dog’s urinary system can be host to a variety of cancer but the most common is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder. This type of cancer is aggressive and malignant. A battery of tests and procedures can help identify and confirm TCC. These include urinalysis, microscopic examination of urine sediment, antigen testing of the bladder tumor, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, and biopsy.

As with many types of cancer, the treatment regimen for TCC may include surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, and radiation. Medications to relieve the dog’s discomfort and slow down the development of the disease may also be given.

Even with aggressive treatment, TCC cannot be cured, but it could help give the dog more time to enjoy a better quality of life.

6. Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

Infections that develop in the kidneys are usually caused by bacteria that ascend from the urinary bladder via the ureter to the kidneys.

In addition to a urinalysis, bacterial culture and sensitivity testing are necessary to identify the pathogen so the best antibiotic can be administered.

7. Diseases of the Prostate Gland

Prostatic disease is prevalent among male dogs. Dogs that have been neutered have higher risks for prostate cancer while intact ones tend to be more prone to benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and infections of the prostate gland.

An enlarged prostate gland can be felt by a vet during a digital rectal exam. There may be a need to perform specific tests to identify the disease so the appropriate treatment regimen can be made. When an intact male dog has BPH, neutering is the best treatment that is recommended. Prolonged antibiotic treatment can be prescribed for infections of the prostate. If there’s an abscess, surgery may be necessary to drain it.

When a dog has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and/or palliative care. However, the prognosis is generally poor.

8. Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism)

Cushing’s disease is caused by abnormally high levels of cortisol in the blood. There are many potential causes of the condition. These include a pituitary gland tumor, adrenal gland tumors, or as an adverse side effect of corticosteroid treatment. The symptoms exhibited by dogs with Cushing’s disease include an increased frequency and amount of drinking and urination, voracious appetites, and skin and hair coat problems. They may also have a distended abdomen that gives them a pot-bellied appearance.

Several laboratory tests are often needed to diagnose Cushing’s disease. There is a need to identify the underlying cause so the appropriate treatment can be given. If your dog is on corticosteroid therapy, the dose may need to be slowly tapered off. Surgical removal of the adrenal tumor can also be a viable option. If the cause is a problem in the pituitary gland, your vet may prescribe medications to suppress the production of cortisol.

9. Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a hormonal and metabolic condition that is characterized by excessively high blood glucose levels and low glucose levels within the body cells. It can be caused by the failure of the pancreas to produce sufficient amounts of insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or the body’s cells become resistant to normal concentrations of insulin (Type 2 diabetes).

Dogs with diabetes exhibit increased thirst and urination, weight loss even with a good appetite, recurrent infections (most commonly in the urinary tract), and cataract development. Without proper treatment and management, diabetes can lead to serious dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Dogs can die if diabetes remains uncontrolled.

Diagnosis of diabetes in dogs is based on a combination of clinical symptoms, elevated glucose levels in the blood, and detection of glucose in the urine.

The treatment regimen usually involves dietary modifications, insulin therapy, and sometimes oral medications.

Read more:

Housebreaking: Everything You Need to Know About Potty Training Your Puppy

Ask a Vet: 10 Important Questions to Ask at Your Next Vet Visit

The Importance of Kidney Health and Function in Dogs and Cats

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Published: 5/10/2022
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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