If you have ever had a bladder infection or a UTI, then you know how painful they can be. The urgency to urinate hits you out of nowhere. You quickly rush to the bathroom to only dribble out a few drops of urine. Luckily, a quick trip to the doctor’s office and a prescription for antibiotics usually does the trick. After a few days, life is back to normal. Sure, we as humans have it relatively easy when it comes to urinary tract infections, but dogs aren’t so lucky. In fact, UTI in dogs are more serious than you might think!
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder stones are common in dogs and cats. These urinary conditions are also incredibly painful for dogs. Furthermore, there is also a difference between a bladder infection and a UTI in dogs.
Read on to learn more about the common signs and symptoms of a urinary infection in dogs and cats, the differences between a bladder infection and a UTI in dogs, and how to treat these issues.
What is a Canine Urinary Tract Infection?
A canine urinary tract infection (UTI in dogs) is a buildup of bacteria that forms in the opening of the urethra. The most common types of bacteria are feces, debris, or even E. coli. Once bacteria enters the urethra and the urinary tract, it multiplies and spreads.
In some severe yet rare cases, a UTI may be due to cancer, bladder disease, kidney stones, diabetes, a bladder infection, or even prostate issues. All in all, UTIs are also common in dogs that are weak, ill, or lacking proper nutrition.
The Differences Between a UTI and a Bladder Infection
Many people often think that a UTI and a bladder infection are the same thing. However, there are key differences between the two. The primary differences typically relate to the location of the infection as well as the symptoms.
To make matters more confusing, a bladder infection IS a urinary tract infection. But a urinary tract infection might not necessarily be a bladder infection. A bladder infection often involves the inflammation of the bladder, but not necessarily the buildup of bacteria. A professional veterinarian may refer to bacteria that enter the urethra and the urinary tract as infections or UTIs. If the bacterial infection moves into the bladder, this then causes inflammation in the bladder, thus causing a bladder infection, or cystitis.
Many pet owners often confuse urinary tract infections and bladder infections for other urinary issues. For instance, one of the most common signs of a urinary tract infection and a bladder infection is an accidental wee. Oftentimes, pet owners often shrug it off as a little accident or a behavioral issue rather than a disease or a serious infection.
Many older dogs will also suffer with urinary incontinence. As dogs age, their urinary sphincter muscle, which helps them control urination, begins to weaken, allowing urine to leak out during movement or activities.
Furthermore, other bacterial infections and urinary diseases may also be the cause of urinary incontinence, housebreaking accidents, or frequent urination. These other diseases and conditions can include adrenal disease, diabetes mellitus, and other endocrine diseases, such as Cushing’s Disease. These diseases can also compromise the overall urinary tract health of a dog, leading to more bacterial infections in the urinary tract.
Uncomplicated UTI vs. Complicated UTI
There are two different types of UTIs: uncomplicated and complicated. The difference between the two lies within frequency. An uncomplicated UTI is typically the first-time occurrence of an infection of the lower urinary tract that occurs in a healthy dog or cat. Uncomplicated UTIs are typically treated within 10 days.
On the other hand, complicated UTIs are often recurring UTIs, which typically means that there is another urinary tract health issue going on that could be potentially serious. Recurring UTIs or complicated UTIs typically require an in-depth diagnosis as well as a treatment and care plan.
Furthermore, some dogs suffer from methicillin-resistant staphylococcus or staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which are infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics and medications. These types of conditions are often diagnosed by a veterinarian with a bacterial culture.
UTI Symptoms in Dogs
Now that you have a better understanding of what a dog urinary tract infection is and how it is different from a bladder infection, what are some clinical signs and symptoms of a UTI and/or an infection?
Depending on the dog, symptoms can vary in severity. If your dog seems to be asking you to go out more often than normal, or if potty accidents are more frequent, then this is likely the first sign that something is up with your pup. All in all, your dog will most likely not seem like him or herself and may feel pretty miserable.
Here are some of the most common clinical signs and symptoms of urinary tract problems in dogs:
- Mild fever
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Straining to urinate
- Painful urination
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Urinate contains strong odor
- House training mistakes and accidents
- Frequent licking or tending to the genital area
You may not know that there is blood in your dog’s urine until he or she has an accident on your kitchen floor or carpet. If you notice a pinkish stain on your floor, then this is a pretty obvious sign that there is blood in your dog’s urine.
Additionally, if you notice that your well-behaved, house-trained dog is now having accidents all over the house, or if he or she is taking longer than normal to go out, then these could also be signs and symptoms of an infection. If you notice one or several of these symptoms, be sure to call your veterinarian as soon as possible to get a firm diagnosis and begin treatment.
Kidney or Bladder Stones in Dogs
In addition to urinary tract infections (UTI in dogs) and bladder infections, your dog may be suffering from kidney or bladder stones. Bladder stones are also referred to as struvite crystals or calcium oxalate stones, which are essentially a buildup of calcium deposits that harden into a stone-like form. These can be incredibly painful for your dog to pass, and can also cause some pretty severe abdominal pain.
Any dog can get struvite crystals or bladder stones, but there are some dog breeds that are more prone to them than others. Here are some of the most common breeds:
- Shih Tzus
- Lhasa Apsos
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Bichons Frises
- Male Dalmatians
- Scottish Deerhounds
If you believe that your dog may be suffering from kidney or bladder stones, then a vet will likely do blood work or a radiograph to reach a firm diagnosis.
Although most bladder stones cause immense pain when passing, they are actually super tiny. Due to their size, it’s hard to see them clearly in a radiograph or X-ray. As a result, many veterinarians will recommend radiographs that use a dye, an ultrasound, or a cystoscopy. These tests allow a vet to look deeper into the urethra and bladder.
Regardless of the condition, making a firm and accurate diagnosis is one of the most important steps to take when treating a dog with a urinary tract issue. A good veterinarian will never assume that a dog or cat has a typical urinary tract infection without fully investigating the issue. This could lead to a misdiagnosis or neglecting the real problem.
Diagnosis and Medical Treatment for UTI in Dogs
So, how is a dog urinary tract infection or a bladder infection diagnosed? If you have any reason to believe that your dog has a urinary tract infection or a bladder infection, then your next step should be to call your veterinarian.
The first thing a vet will do is take a urine sample. A vet will test the urine pH and also look for the presence of white blood cells or struvite crystals. White blood cells are a good indication that your dog has a urinary infection. Struvite crystals will suggest that your dog may have bladder stones, which are a more serious issue.
A veterinarian may also perform a urinalysis or some form of susceptibility testing. Both of these testing methods involve taking a urine culture. A urine culture lets bacteria grow, which allows the vet to determine if an infection is present. A urine culture typically takes a few days for results to develop. If and when bacteria develops, a vet will likely prescribe antibiotics, depending on the type of bacteria that grows.
Furthermore, a urine culture will also show the cause of the infection. For example, a UTI in dogs is more commonly found in female dogs. This is because the urethra in a male dog is longer, which means it is harder for bacteria to climb up. This is why urinary tract infections in male dogs aren’t as common. Therefore, if a male dog is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection or a bladder infection, then there is likely a more serious problem going on, such as a prostate infection or even kidney stones. All in all, a urine culture will help identify the issue.
The good news is because urinary infections in dogs, particularly females, are incredibly common, UTI treatment is relatively easy. As briefly mentioned above, most urinary infections in dogs and cats are treated with antibiotics, depending on the bacteria present, of course.
However, if a dog has a different urinary tract health issue, such as urinary tract stones, kidney stones or struvite crystals (calcium oxalate stones), then this will likely call for a different treatment method or antibiotic. For example, a dog with struvite stones is often treated with a special diet. Apparently the proper foods will cause the stones to dissolve on their own.
Preventing UTI in Dogs
Although urinary tract infections and bladder infections in dogs are incredibly common and relatively easy to treat, this doesn’t mean that you want to see your pup suffer. Although they don’t work 100 percent of the time, nor are they a one-size-fits-all approach for every dog, there are some things you can do to help prevent the onset of urinary tract infections and bladder infections in dogs.
Here are some things you can put into immediate practice to help prevent UTIs and other urinary infections in dogs:
Ensure your dog is well hydrated—getting him or her a drinking fountain wouldn’t hurt!
Keep your dog well groomed—regular baths and grooming sessions help!
Take your dog out as frequently as possible. The more your pup feels he or she has to hold in urine, the more likely he or she will develop a UTI or bladder infection
Probiotics—many studies show that probiotics can reduce the growth and buildup of bacteria as well as even prevent recurring UTIs
All in all, making it easier for your dog to stay hydrated is important. Encouraging him or her to drink more water is one of the easiest and natural ways to prevent UTIs, bladder infections, and kidney stones. This is because water will help flush out toxins and certain types of stones that otherwise could build up in your dog’s system.
Probiotics are also a great way to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your dog’s body. When the body has a healthy balance of “good” bacteria, this can help enhance the immune system to fight off the “bad” bacteria.
Although these might seem like small or insignificant ways to prevent UTIs and bladder infections, they can actually go a long way, especially for female dogs or elderly dogs. Furthermore, having a good understanding of how to treat UTIs, what causes them, and how to prevent them can save your dog a great deal of pain and discomfort as well as a trip to the vet.
Home Remedies for UTI in Dogs
As we mentioned above, most veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics or other medications for dogs and cats with UTIs or bladder infections. However, if you prefer taking a natural or holistic approach to treating or preventing UTIs, bladder infections, and bladder stones in your dog or cat, then here are some home remedies to try.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a common household item that acts as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Simply add one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in your dog’s water twice a day for up to 10 days. This will help alleviate some of the pain and symptoms associated with a UTI or bladder infection.
As mentioned above, the more fluids in your dog’s system, the better. Water helps flush and remove toxins, bacteria, and even struvite crystals from your dog’s system. This can help prevent UTIs, bladder infections, and bladder stones. Ensure that your dog always has fresh water to prevent bacteria growth in his or her water bowl.
Vitamin C Tablets
Not only is it an essential vitamin for humans, Vitamin C is also great for dogs and cats. Vitamin C is a crucial vitamin for boosting the immune system and fighting infections. In addition, Vitamin C also helps urine become acidic, which can help flush out toxins and bacteria and enhance the healing process. You can simply add Vitamin C tablets to your dog’s food or even crush them up into peanut butter for a delicious and healthy snack.
Fresh Cranberries or Blueberries
Cranberries and blueberries are some of the best fruits that help reduce pH levels in the bladder and urine, which can also help prevent bacteria from spreading. If for some reason you have trouble feeding your dog fresh whole cranberries or blueberries, try giving him or her fresh and natural blueberry juice or cranberry juice.
However, try to avoid blueberry juice or cranberry juice that contains high amounts of sugar. Excess sugar can cause or worsen dehydration, which can have an opposite effect of treating a UTI or bladder infection. Fresh cranberry juice can also help flush out toxins and bacteria from your dog’s system and urethra.
Natural and fresh citrus juice can also help restore pH levels and fight off bacteria in your dog. Some examples of great citrus juices include lemon juice, orange juice, lime juice, and of course, cranberry juice. These juices contain potent levels of essential vitamins and minerals and also act as natural antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents.
Signs of a Kidney Infection
Now that you know more about UTIs in dogs, bladder infections, and bladder stones, let’s discuss another serious issue—kidney infections. If left untreated, kidney infections can cause some pretty serious issues such as kidney failure and even death.
Similar to UTIs and bladder infections, kidney infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract. Bacteria enters the urethra and bladder, and then moves to the kidneys, if left untreated. Kidney infections can also be caused by other issues, including kidney stones, parasite infestations or infections, and other diseases.
It’s also important to keep in mind that symptoms of kidney infections may not be apparent in dogs during the beginning stages of the disease. It can take some time for the symptoms to develop. However, when symptoms begin to develop, this typically means that the disease has already reached advanced stages. At this point, the disease will require sufficient care and treatment.
So, how can you tell if your dog is suffering from a kidney infection? Here are some of the most common clinical signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Frequent urination
- Difficult urination or straining to urinate
- Excessive thirst
- Cloudy or discolored urine
- Bloody urine
- Odor in urine
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in the side
- Depression or general disinterest
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mild fever
It’s also worth mentioning that kidney stones have similar symptoms to kidney infections. Similar to kidney infections, symptoms of kidney stones may not appear at first but they can eventually worsen over time, eventually leading to a kidney infection.
As mentioned above, untreated kidney infections can eventually lead to kidney failure, which can inevitably lead to death.
Signs of Kidney Failure
- Bad breath
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Decreased visibility or blindness
What is scary is that many symptoms of kidney stones and kidney infections are similar. This is why it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a professional vet. This will ensure that your dog gets the right treatment and care that he or she needs. So, if you notice any of the symptoms outlined in this article, call your vet.
UTIs in Dogs: The Prognosis is Good!
Finally, if you notice any clinical signs or symptoms of UTIs, bladder infections, bladder stones, kidney stones or kidney infections in your dog or cat, then the best thing you can do for him or her is to seek to immediate veterinary attention.
The good news is UTIs and urinary tract issues are treatable, as long as they haven’t progressed to a dangerous level. All in all, recognizing the signs and symptoms of an infection as soon as they appear is the best thing you can do for your dog to maintain urinary tract health.
Illustrations inspired by our furry friend, Baby Rose!