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UTIs are common in dogs. UTIs are caused by bacteria infecting the bladder and multiplying there.
The anatomy of a dog UTI
Recurrent infections of the urinary tract can lead to a veterinarian wanting to culture the urine. The veterinarian places the dog on her back with a V-shaped cradle, and then uses ultrasound to locate the bladder. Next, the veterinarian can insert a needle into the bladder to collect the urine. Nancy Kerns
The kidneys are where the dog’s urine is made. The urine then flows down tubes (ureters), into the bladder, and out through the urethra.
The expression “UTI” could refer to infection in any part of the urinary tract. Usually, the term “UTI” refers to a bladder infection, also known as bacterial cystitis or a “lower UTI”, which is the most common type of infection.
The kidney infection (“upper UTI”) can cause severe illness in dogs. We will be focusing on lower UTIs and bacterial cystitis.
UTIs are quite common in dogs, particularly in females. This is because the opening for urine to escape the body in females is larger than in males. This means that bacteria can easily enter the urinary tract.
Although this anatomical difference might seem to be a curse for girls, it is actually a blessing in disguise. It’s very rare for female dogs with the larger opening to experience life-threatening bladder blockages. Bladder stones are far more common in male dogs. We accept the positives and the negatives for our girls.
How to tell if your dog has a UTI
The symptoms of UTI in dogs are the same for male and female dogs. These are the symptoms of UTI:
Frequent need to urinate (pollakiuria)Urinating only small amounts at a timeDiscomfort while urinating (dysuria)Straining to urinate (stranguria)Bloody urine (hematuria)Excessive water consumption (polydipsia)Inappropriate urination (i.e., urinating in the house, lapse in house training)Leaking urine (urinary incontinence)Excessive or compulsive licking of the external genital area.
Dogs with bladder infections that are not severe usually don’t experience symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy or vomiting if the infection is kept in the bladder. Dogs with UTI symptoms in dogs are often just mildly uncomfortable.
How can a UTI be diagnosed in dogs?
UTIs can only be diagnosed by urinalysis. A fresh specimen of your urine should be brought to your appointment with you. Make sure the container you use is dry and clean. Your veterinarian will appreciate the fresher the sample. It is best to catch one outside of the hospital before you enter. You should refrigerate any one you find at home before your appointment.
You should be looking out for signs such as a dog that needs to urinate more often than usual or in areas and times she normally wouldn’t. UTIs are often characterized by a need to urinate frequently and in an urgent manner. (c) Andrew Norris | Dreamstime.com
Your veterinarian might request a sterile sample from your dog’s bladder if your dog has had a previous UTI. Ask your veterinarian if you need to bring a urine sample or if your dog should have a full bladder.
Any dog suffering from a UTI should have a thorough physical exam. Your veterinarian will examine your dog and check for any underlying conditions or concurrent diseases. Most veterinarians will treat a UTI on the basis of the results alone, if the physical exam is clear and the urinalysis indicates that there has been an infection.
It is important to know that your veterinarian can only make a presumptive diagnosis based on the results of the urinalysis. A urine culture is the only way to confirm a bacterial infection in the urinary tract. Culture medium is used to cultivate any bacteria found in urine when it is taken to a laboratory. This allows the organism to be identified and tested to determine which antibiotic is most effective in treating it.
How to handle recurring UTIs in dogs
UTIs are more common in female dogs because of their natural anatomy. Most dogs who have had a first UTI are able to get treatment quickly. If a dog develops a second or third UTI, whether male or female it is time to look for the underlying cause.
It is equally important to distinguish whether repeat patients are experiencing relapses due to a persistent, unresolved or real re-infection. Only after antibiotic treatment has ended, it is possible to test the urine for a UTI.
Recurrent UTIs in female dogs are often caused by problems with the vulva or external genitalia. Normal healthy vulvae are V-shaped with edges that are flush with the skin.
Numerous female dogs have recessed or juvenile vulva. This is where the vulva is hidden behind skin folds. This arrangement creates a perfect environment for bacteria, right next to the opening of the urinary tract.
Females may have a hooded va – a large skin fold that forms a roof over their vulva. Obese women are more likely to develop deep skin folds around the vulva even though they were born with normal vulvar anatomy. A vulvoplasty is a surgical procedure that corrects a deviation in vulvar conformation, which can lead to recurrent UTIs.
Recurrent UTIs in dogs can also be caused by:
Bladder stonesBladder polyps or tumorsUrinary crystalsAntibiotic resistant infectionStopping antibiotic treatment too soonUnresolved, persistent, original infectionImmune-compromised patientConcurrent metabolic disease predisposing to UTI (e.g., diabetes, Cushing’s Syndrome)Urinary incontinence (urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence)Prostatic disease in older, unneutered male dogs
Recurrent UTIs in dogs are a sign that your dog is suffering from an infection. Additional testing may be necessary, including but not limited too:
Full bloodworkRepeat urine cultureAbdominal xrayAbdominal ultrasoundCyscopy (endoscopic visualization to the bladder)Bladder biopsy
Recurrent UTIs should be stopped if the underlying cause of the problem is addressed.
The Only Dog UTI Treatment
It is simple. UTIs need to be treated with antibiotics. It is crucial to choose the right antibiotic and to treat the infection properly in order to return the dog to a healthy state.
Your veterinarian will decide how long is enough. It is still being determined how long antibiotic treatment is necessary. There is continuous research. Most veterinarians recommend that 14 days be prescribed for antibiotic treatment. There should also be a follow up urinalysis or culture.
Dog UTI Treatment at Home
It’s a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics to treat. You may not be able to clear an active infection by yourself. You can help your dog with an active infection, but there are many things you can do at your home. There are also preventive steps you can take to reduce the possibility of a UTI. These are my suggestions.
Always ensure that fresh water is available. You can add water or canned food to dry dog food. Fluid intake helps to keep the urine moving, flushing out bacteria and maintaining a healthy environment. If urine remains in the bladder for a long time (“urine stagnation”), bacteria has more chance to get hold of it. A midday potty break would be helpful! If your female dog is overweight, lose weight! Do this to prevent a recessed or enlarged vulva from leaking bacteria into the bladder. Use wet baby wipes. You can use wet baby wipes to reach the vulvae. Pro-tatic disease is the most likely cause. If your female dog has spay incontinence or an older, unneutered male, get him neutered. Dogs who are incontinent have weak sphincters which can lead to bacterial invasion. Some UTIs can be prevented by probiotics. It does not acidify the urine like most people believe, but it inhibits certain bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. This is why Crananidin (made in Nutramax) has become a very popular veterinary product.
The Whole Dog Journal: All About UTIs in Dogs