There are a number of ways that humans and dogs are similar. Unfortunately, one of them is that urinary tract infections (UTIs) can give us both a lot of pain and discomfort. Just as they can be unpleasant for us, when these infections occur in dogs they can cause a lot of irritation or even be a dangerous threat to their overall health and well-being. UTIs in dogs usually resolve with proper treatment, but in some cases, they might be a sign that there is another serious health issue.
Table of contents:
- What is a UTI?
- What are the symptoms of a UTI?
- Why is it important to treat my dog’s UTI?
- UTIs in puppies
- How to treat your dog’s UTI
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract including the bladder, the urethra, and, less commonly but more dangerously, the kidneys. The urinary tract is responsible for making, storing, and eliminating urine as a way to remove waste. While urine does not contain any bacteria, bacteria and other debris can enter from outside the body and cause an infection. The most common bacteria causing UTIs is E. coli, found in feces. UTIs are among the most frequently treated infections in dogs. It is estimated that around 14% of dogs will contract a UTI in their lifetime.
As with humans, female dogs are more likely to contract urinary tract infections, though older, uncastrated males and dogs with other diseases are also at a higher risk for infection. It is believed that the female’s shorter, wider urethra makes it easier for bacteria to enter the body.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
The primary guideline we hear when diagnosing these infections in humans holds true for dogs as well: frequent, painful urination. The first thing you might notice if your dog has a urinary tract infection is that they need to urinate frequently and want to be let out many times a day. When they go out, however, the inflammation from the infection causes them to strain to urinate and only pass a small amount, and you might hear them whimper if it is painful. Being unable to fully empty their bladder can be a dangerous situation that could lead to a ruptured bladder, which can be fatal.
Because of this increased need to urinate, your well-trained dog might start having accidents in the house.
They might excessively lick themselves around their genitals. This could be an attempt to clean themselves, but it also can soothe the burning that comes with the infection.
Your dog’s urine could be bloody or cloudy. This is an especially concerning symptom as blood in the urine might also indicate a more severe health problem for your dog, such as cancer, poisoning, kidney disease, bladder or kidney stones, or that they have suffered an internal injury.
Any of these symptoms are important signals that your dog is dealing with an infection or other health issue and should be seen by your veterinarian right away.
Why is it important to treat my dog’s UTI?
Because some dogs don’t display symptoms when they have a UTI and others have symptoms that mimic more normal behaviors, there is often a ‘wait and see’ attitude about seeking treatment. However, this can lead to some negative consequences. Dogs with untreated UTIs might be allowing the bacteria in their system to become more resistant to antibiotic treatments.
The untreated UTI can also progress through the urinary system and become a kidney infection, which is more dangerous to your dog’s health.
Allowing a UTI to go untreated is also a leading cause for the development of a urinary stone called a struvite. These are small mineral crystals that form stones in the bladder or kidneys, and they can irritate the organs, leading them to bleed and cause pain. The resulting inflammation and swelling from this irritation make it difficult for your dog to urinate, which could lead to an emergency situation for your pet. While all dogs can get bladder stones, smaller breeds such as Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apsos, mini poodles, and Dachshunds are generally more prone to developing them.
There has even been some research showing that people can get UTIs from their dogs who have persistent, chronic UTIs. It seems that humans and dogs can share the same strain of E. coli that leads to a urinary infection, so be sure to wash your hands after petting your dog.
UTIs in puppies
Puppies might be more susceptible to UTIs than older dogs, and the infections can be more difficult to recognize because many of the symptoms are normal behaviors for puppies. They have to urinate frequently, often have accidents in the house as they are learning to be house trained, and their small bladders mean they only pass small amounts of urine.
Because they are lower to the ground, and might touch the ground when they pee, it is easier for dirt and other bacteria to enter the urethra. Their immune systems aren’t as developed, so it is more difficult for them to fight off infection.
Paying close attention to behavior changes is the best way to tell if something is ‘off’ with your pup and if they need a vet examination. If you notice cloudy or foul-smelling urine, if they are in pain when they urinate, excessively lick their genitals, or just seem unwell, a vet evaluation should be the next step to determine the cause of their discomfort.
How to treat your dog’s UTI
Your veterinarian will do a urinalysis of your pet’s urine sample to determine the bacteria that is causing the infection. They will then most likely treat the UTI with antibiotics. It is important to give the prescribed amount for the full course to prevent the development of drug-resistant bacteria that are much more difficult to treat. They might also include pain medication in the treatment plan if your dog is suffering from painful urination.
Any of the above concerning symptoms should be checked out by a veterinarian, but if your dog is in the very first stages of the infection, does not seem to be in pain, and has not had a previous UTI, there are a few home remedies you could try if you want to take a more natural approach.
Ensure that your pup is drinking plenty of water. This will help flush the bacteria from their system. They will naturally be thirstier as their body tries to rid the infection, so make sure they have easy access to plenty of clean water. Note that this will also lead to an even greater need to eliminate, so stand by for a lot of trips outside. Drinking lots of water is a great preventative measure as well to help keep your dog’s urinary system healthy.
Apple cider vinegar is a natural antiseptic and has antibacterial properties. One to two tablespoons added to their food or water may help fight the infection.
Do not use any human medications to treat the UTI as they can be harmful to your pup.
While relatively common, a UTI can be a painful, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous infection for our fur friends. The good news is that once identified, these infections are easy to treat and usually resolve quickly without any lasting issues. Some dogs seem to be prone to getting repeat infections while others deal with it once and are done. As always, when it comes to your best friend’s health, quick communication with your trusted veterinarian is key to keeping them healthy and ready for whatever fun lies ahead.