Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Dogs
Dogs, like people, can get urinary tract infections (UTI) caused by bacteria in the bladder or other areas of the urinary tract. UTIs affect female dogs more often than male dogs. Young, non-spayed females seem to get UTIs more often; however, dogs of any age can be affected. Keep reading to learn about the common causes, symptoms, and treatments for bladder infections in dogs.
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What causes UTI in dogs?
UTIs happen when bacteria reach the bladder, causing infection and inflammation. This invasive bacteria typically comes from outside the urinary tract, usually from the skin, stool, or in the environment. Less frequently, UTIs come from bacteria circulating in the blood or from a kidney infection.
Health factors that may increase your dog’s risk of getting a UTI:
- Diseases that cause dilute urine such as diabetes
- Side effects from medications
- Bladder stones
- Urinary incontinence
- Weak immune system
- Physical problems such as a recessed vulva or obesity
- Recent urinary catheterization
- Kidney infection
Symptoms of Bladder Infection in Dogs
Dogs with UTIs experience mild to severe symptoms depending on the cause. The following is a list of symptoms often seen with UTIs in dogs:
- Urinating more often, having urine accidents inside the house
- Stranguria/dysuria (slow, difficult, and painful urination)
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Urine has an unusually strong odor
- Increased licking of the penis or vulva
- Irritation or infection of the skin around the vulva or penis
- Decreased activity
- Drinking more water than usual
Diagnosing a UTI in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has a bladder infection, she should see a vet right away. The vet will ask you questions about your dog’s symptoms and history and do a thorough physical exam. A urine sample will be collected, and a complete urinalysis will show if there is blood, bacteria, or crystals in the urine. Often, a urine culture and sensitivity test is needed to help determine which antibiotics will be most effective against the specific bacteria.
In more serious cases, blood work, x-rays, and ultrasound tests are needed to see if any underlying conditions need to be treated. These may include diabetes, bladder stones, kidney disease, cancer, and more.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Urinary Tract Infections
Treatment for UTI focuses on managing pain, giving antibiotics for bacterial UTIs. If there is an underlying cause, this must be addressed as well. Dogs with a recessed vulva often benefit from surgery which helps correct this problem. Some dogs with bladder stones can be treated by changing the diet. This helps prevent the future formation of stones in the bladder. For more information on bladder stones, click here!
Talk to your vet about other or alternative treatments such as supplements and/or acupuncture. Cranberry juice has not been proven to help dogs with UTI, but it can be offered to dogs along with their normal bowl of fresh water. It’s important to note that cranberry juice or cranberry supplements are thought to improve bladder health and decrease the recurrence of UTI, but they will not cure a current bladder infection.
Make sure that your dog finishes all medications as directed by your vet. If your dog stops eating, has vomiting or diarrhea, or worsening of UTI symptoms while on medication, call your vet right away.
Follow up with your vet to recheck your dog’s urine sample once the medication is finished. This will help determine if the UTI has cleared up or if your dog needs to continue treatment.
Can UTIs be prevented?
Treating your dog for UTI risk factors such as being overweight, diabetes, bladder stones, or surgical correction of a recessed vulva will help prevent UTIs.
If your dog is at risk for recurrent UTI, talk with your vet about other bladder infection preventatives, including supplements and special diets.
When to Contact a Vet
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. If your dog is straining or unable to urinate, this can indicate a medical emergency. Bring your dog to a nearby clinic or emergency hospital right away.
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