A dog UTI is an infection of the dog’s urinary tract. The abbreviation UTI stands for urinary tract infection. According to the VCA Hospitals, dog UTIs are “fairly common.“
Interestingly, urinary tract infections are more likely in female dogs than male dogs. Also, the American Kennel Club states that dog UTIs are prevalent in older dogs (over seven years of age) and certain breeds (Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzu, and Bichon Frise).
The most common cause of a dog UTI is the spread of bacteria that invade the urinary tract causing painful inflammation – frequent peeing, bloody urine, and accidents in the house.
However, there are several underlying causes of a dog UTI, and each case requires veterinary attention for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treating a dog UTI takes time and frequent check-ups at the vet’s office.
Bacteria entering the dog’s urinary tract through the urethral opening is the most common cause of dog UTIs. However, bacteria can invade the urinary tract via other roots, and there are some additional causes of UTIs in dogs.
Here is a more detailed review of the potential causes of a dog UTI:
- Bacteria. As noted, bacteria usually enter the dog’s urinary tract via the urethral opening and come from feces, the skin, and the environment. Bacteria can also descend from the kidneys. More often than not, bacterial urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli.
- Weak Immune System. The mentioned bacteria are more likely to trigger an infection in dogs with compromised immune systems. The dog’s immune system may become weak due to chronic conditions and autoimmune diseases.
- Recent Catheterization. Catheterization is when a DVM inserts a tube called a catheter into the dog’s urinary tract to enable urination. Sometimes, bacteria can tag long the tube and cause infection.
- Bladder Stones. The presence of bladder stones leads to a bladder infection (cystitis) which often culminates in a dog UTI. There are different bladder stones, and they tend to be more common among certain dog breeds (e.g., Dalmatians, Poodles).
- Kidney Disease. As mentioned, bacteria from the kidneys can descend and travel to the bladder and urethra, causing a dog UTI. And, it is not just bacteria – many kidney disease forms can result in a urinary tract infection.
- Other UTI Issues. Dogs with urinary tract diseases are more likely to develop a UTI. This refers to all conditions – from urinary tract tumors to prostate disease. If the dog UTI stems from such underlying conditions, there will be additional signs and symptoms.
- Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that dilutes the urine and may be a risk factor for urinary tract infections. Basically, all systemic or urinary diseases that change the urine concentration can contribute to dog UTIs.
- Physical Abnormalities. A dog UTI can develop due to genetic conditions (like recessed vulva). It can also be caused by excess skin folds around the vulva – an issue particularly common in overweight and obese dogs.
Painful and frequent urination paired with peeing accidents in the house is the telltale signs of a dog UTI. Here are the most common dog UTI symptoms:
- Urination Issues. Frequent urination with or without increased urine volume (pollakiuria) is one of the main signs of a dog UTI. The urination is also painful (stranguria) – the dog can squat or raise the leg without producing urine.
- Urinary Incontinence. This is a medical term indicating the dog does not have control over the urination process. As a result, accidents in the house are common. In fact, if a housebroken dog starts making accidents, chances are it has a UTI.
- Bloody Urine. Blood in the urine (hematuria) is another common symptom of a dog UTI. The blood can be in the form of speckles (red dots) or dispersed into the urine, making it look pinkish to red.
- Abdominal Pain. Pain is also a sign of a UTI in dogs. Usually, the pain is limited to the abdomen, but back pain is also possible. As a result of the pain, the dog may refuse to eat or become lethargic and disinterested in everyday activities.
- Genital Licking. A dog UTI can also make your pet lick its genitals more frequently and intensely. Dogs often lick painful areas in an attempt to calm the pain. In this case, they can also be attempting to clean the dripping urine.
- Increased Thirst. A dog with a urinary tract infection will urinate more frequently, making it thirstier and prone to drinking more water. This can be hard to notice as most dogs are keen water drinkers.
If your dog shows some of these signs and symptoms, you need to call the veterinarian and schedule an appointment. The sooner you seek veterinary help, the better.
No, a dog UTI will not resolve on its own. In fact, if left untreated, it is likely to progress and spread to other parts of the body or cause permanent damage to the urinary tract.
One of the most severe consequences of untreated dog UTIs is kidney failure. Kidney failure is a fatal condition.
Can You Test a Dog for UTI at Home?
No, there are no diagnostic tests for determining if a dog has a UTI at home. Based on signs and symptoms, you can suspect a urinary tract infection, especially if your dog has recurrent UTIs.
However, the definitive diagnosis must come from a licensed veterinarian.
How do Vets Check for UTIs in Dogs?
The vet may suspect a dog UTI based on the dog’s symptoms. However, they will start with a thorough physical examination and ask questions about its history.
Then, for a more specific diagnosis, the vet will take a urine sample and perform a urinalysis and a urine culture. These tests of the dog’s urine will confirm the diagnosis and provide info on the bacteria involved in the infection.
To assess the dog’s overall health, the vet will order blood work (dogs with UTIs usually have elevated white blood cells). Abdominal ultrasound and radiographs (x-rays) can be obtained to determine whether the urinary infection has spread or caused damage.
The treatment for a dog UTI depends on its underlying cause and stage. In general, these are the possible treatment options:
- Antibiotics. The golden standard for managing bacterial UTIs in dogs is antibiotics. The vet may prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics or if they have performed a urine culture, a specific antibiotic that can kill the type of bacteria causing the infection.
- Pain Killers. Urinary tract infections can be painful. Since pain harms the dog’s quality of life, the vet is likely to prescribe pain medications. Make sure you use the exact drug the vet prescribed (human pain meds can be toxic to dogs).
- Surgery. Sometimes, managing the underlying cause of a dog UTI requires surgery. For example, if the infection is caused by bladder stones, the vet will remove them. Also, in the case of a recessed vulva or wrinkling, the vet will perform a surgical correction.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help reduce inflammation in the dog’s bladder and urinary tract while supporting overall dog health. According to Daily Paws, vitamin C provides relief to dogs with UTIs.
- Cranberry Supplements. There are several studies supporting the use of cranberries in the management of dog UTIs. However, it is important to use the right type of product and, if necessary, combine it with a mainstream approach.
Cranberry supplements are among the most popular home remedies for dogs with urinary tract infections. However, we suggest talking to your vet before self-treating your dog.
While it is true that cranberries are helpful, they are not universally fit to treat a dog UTI. For example, cases of severe infection must be managed with a course of antibiotics – using the fruit is not enough.
Also, not all cranberry supplements are safe for dogs. Namely, cranberry products made for humans can be loaded with sugars or contain artificial sweeteners like xylitol, which are toxic to dogs.
There is no single way of preventing dog UTI cases. Urinary tract infections in dogs can be triggered by many causes, and not all of them are preventable. However, there are some things pet parents can do to decrease the risk of UTIs:
- Healthy Lifestyle. This includes providing high-quality food and ample physical exercise which will support the dog’s overall health. This also helps prevent obesity which can be a risk factor for UTIs.
- Adequate Hydration. Keep your dog’s water bowl clean and filled with fresh water. Dirty bowls are a source of bacteria and repel dogs from drinking. Low water intake will make the dog’s urine concentrated and increase the risk of a UTI.
- Urinary Supplements. It is a good idea to include some urinary health supplements to the dog’s health regimen, especially if prone to recurrent UTIs. You can use probiotics, vitamin C, and cranberry-based products formulated for dogs.
- Pet Health Insurance. It is advisable to invest in good pet insurance. That way, you will be able to provide the best treatment for a dog UTI. Our pick is OneVet as it gives 24/7 access to vets and $3.000 in emergency funds for $19.99 a month.