A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), can make it uncomfortable for a dog to pass urine. The most common cause for straightforward cystitis in dogs is a bacterial infection. However, similar signs may be seen with urinary stones and crystals, bladder inflammation, incontinence due to excessive water consumption or a weak bladder, kidney disease, cancer, stress, spinal cord disease, prostate disease or an abnormality in the urinary tract from birth.
Older female dogs and dogs with diabetes are particularly prone to urinary tract problems.
Some breeds of dog are prone to certain types of bladder stones, including; Dalmations, Bichon Frise and Miniature Schnauzers.
Symptoms of a dog UTI
Signs of a urinary infection in a dog include:
- Passing urine more frequently than usual, sometimes only passing a small amount
- Drinking more than usual
- Dribbling of urine/loss of bladder control — often seen as accidents in the house
- Blood in the urine
- A strong smell to the urine
- Pain on urinating — straining and sometimes even crying out
- Licking the area more than usual after urination
How are urinary tract problems in dogs diagnosed?
Dogs are examined in a free consultation at Animal Trust where the vet will carry out a physical examination to detect a fever, painful or enlarged bladder or kidneys. Following this, urinalysis is carried out by testing a fresh urine sample for acidity, blood, infection, sugar, concentration and crystals. A urine culture test may also be carried out if bacteria are found in the sample or when an animal experiences recurrent/on-going cystitis.
Blood tests can also be carried out to check for kidney disease, infections and signs of underlying hormonal disorders such as diabetes or Cushing’s disease which may cause your dog to drink more than usual. X-rays and ultrasound scans may be used for ongoing or recurrent UTIs, to check for urinary stones in the bladder or urethra, diagnose bladder tumours and to see if urinary tract anatomy is normal. Prostate and spinal disease may also be picked up on imaging.
Treatment of a dog urinary infection
Once the cause has been determined, treatment for a urinary infection in dogs may include:
- Antibiotics. Where a bacterial cause of cystitis has been diagnosed. Symptoms will usually improve after a couple of days of the dog having antibiotics. It’s important that the entire course of antibiotics is completed to help prevent the infection from returning or becoming resistant to antibiotics.
- Pain relief. Cystitis in dogs can be very painful. Often vets will prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain killer to help manage the pain. Sometimes stronger painkillers, by injection, are required.
- Control of any underlying disease. This may be long term medication for conditions such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes to reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Prostate disease may be controlled by chemical or surgical castration. Bladder tumours can be medicated to slow their rate of growth.
- Special diet or food additives. Often these are used to alter the urine acidity, reduce the presence of factors needed for stone formation or to encourage drinking to help dilute the urine. This will discourage the formation of urinary stones or dissolve small ones already present. The diet required will depend on the kind of stones found in your dog and your veterinary surgeon can talk through options and make recommendations.
- Surgery. For removal of large urinary stones or those which don’t respond well to dietary treatment, cystotomy surgery may be required. Often animals will recover within 1-2 weeks. Some blood may be seen in the urine for the first week following surgery. The stones will be sent away for analysis so a longer-term plan can be made for your dog’s treatment.
- Urethral sphincter medications. Medication to help hormonally ‘tighten’ the muscles inside the dog’s urethra that helps to control the exit of urine. This method is suitable for dogs who are experiencing urinary incontinence and have had other causes ruled out first.
- Bladder support. Medications such as Cystopro, which contains antioxidants to prevent bacteria adhering to the bladder lining, probiotics and prebiotics to support good bacteria within the gut and precursors of the GAG layer of the bladder to line and protect the sensitive bladder cells.
How to prevent a dog UTI
You can prevent a dog UTI once the cause of a dog’s urinary infection is known, and your veterinary surgeon can make a long term plan to prevent cystitis from returning. There are also some more simple steps you can follow and build into your dogs daily routine. These include:
- Regularly providing fresh drinking water is essential for all causes. It helps to flush away any bacteria and dilute the urine.
- Urinary tract supplements can help prevent inflammation and improve resilience to infection. Talk to your veterinary surgeon about options available, they include; Cystopro, Cystaid.
- Keeping your dog groomed and clean around their back end will help to avoid ascending UTIs due to soiling.
- Allow your dog plenty of opportunities to go to the toilet regularly. Regular voiding of the bladder helps to prevent inflammation.
- Feeding any prescription diets as advised by your veterinary surgeon to help prevent further bouts of stones/crystals.