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Bacterial urinary tract infection in dogs is often asymptomatic and is likely to be noticed by pet owners only when the animal asks to go outside more often than usual, and/or the dog eventually starts ignoring all housebreaking training. It's a fairly common condition in all dogs and generally can be easily treated. Here's everything you should know about it.

Symptoms of UTI in Dogs

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is more common in female dogs and canines that suffer from diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or chronic kidney issues (1). In one study, incidence of UTIs was observed in 26.6% of female dogs and only 6.2% of male dogs (2).

However, all dogs of any age, gender or breed are susceptible to this bacterial infection. In fact, UTIs are one of the most common infections in canines, with veterinarians seeing them in 14% of dog population (3).

Urinary tract infection in dogs is easily treated and most pets bounce back to their normal self within 1-2 weeks (4). However, when it's not diagnosed in a timely manner and untreated accordingly, the lower urinary infection can spread to dog's vital organs such as kidneys, causing renal disease and complicating the situation (5).

Furthermore, symptoms of UTI in dogs mimic symptoms of several other more serious medical conditions, including but not limited to organ failure and cancer (6).

It’s important to not take any of the following symptoms lightly:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Uncontrollable bladder
  • Bloody urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Cloudy and/or dark urine
  • Excessive licking or genitals
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sluggishness
  • Fever (99.5 – 102.5)
  • Apathy and disinterest in usual hobbies
  • Painful or strained urination

What is urinary tract infection in dogs

Urine color graphic for urinary tract infection in dogs

Causes of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

Even a healthy, frequently-cleaned dog can develop a UTI. The infection is most often the result of bacteria surrounding the dog's genitals or when foreign debris gathered from rolling around outdoors travels up the dog's urethra and then affects their bladder (7).

Certain treatments of other illnesses, such as corticosteroids, were also found to increase the risk of UTI development in dogs (8).

Pet owner's inattention to the infection gives it time to travel up and into the dog's kidneys, causing further and more serious health issues, such as excruciating kidney stones, which then may result in kidney failure (9)

A weakened immune system, whether due to battling another illness simultaneously or being a young puppy that’s not fully developed or vulnerable geriatric dog, can make it more difficult for the dog's body to fight off the urinary infection (10).

Prevention of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

The best preventative method for urinary tract infection in dogs is a healthy routine and regular vet check-ups. This also means routine grooming and bathing of the dog, as well as ensuring the animal has plenty of water to drink and enough opportunities to relieve themselves.

Hydration and frequent potty breaks

Dogs who cannot go outside at least every 8 hours are forced to put a strain on their bladder while holding it in, which results in bacteria accumulating in the dog's urinary system without being released, thus becoming a breeding ground for infection.

Hygiene routine

Give your pet a much-needed bath on a set schedule. Dogs create natural oils which help protect their skin and hair. On the other hand, bathing too often is also a bad idea because washing the dog's hair too frequently can strip these oils, causing dry, irritated skin, which then weakens what would've been a barrier for infection (11, 12).

Give your dog a bath or take them to a groomer only as needed (after a romp in the mud and rain or just when they begin to become particularly smelly). Animal-approved soaps and dog shampoos that are safe for your pet are perfect for rinsing intimate areas which, no matter their protests, should definitely be attended to.

As far as the rest of dog grooming goes, breeds with shaggier, wilder manes should be trimmed around the genital and anal areas. This will help mitigate any infections from occurring as a result of matted, soiled fur coming into contact with the urethra.

Pyelonephritis in dogs

Veterinary Care of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

If you suspect a urinary tract infection in your dog, a veterinarian should be your first point of contact. A professional will be able to determine if it’s really a UTI that’s occurring or not, and thus be able to take the appropriate steps to treating and healing the issue.

During the initial appointment, your vet will request a sample of the dog's urine which is sent out for lab results which are usually available within a day or two. During testing, staff are looking for culture levels to indicate how severe the urinary infection is.

High concentrations may indicate pyelonephritis, otherwise known as a kidney infection in dogs. No matter the result (severe or not), the urine sample will help the veterinary staff determine exactly which kind of antibiotic to prescribe your ailing pup, as UTI in dogs can be caused from a variety of bacterium (13, 14).

Fluoroquinolones are most commonly used to treat UTIs in people and dogs (15, 16). Enrofloxacin is a type of fluoroquinolone medicine that was made for dogs with UTI, and its general approved dosage is from 5 to 20 mg/kg PO q24h (17, 18).

Veterinarians generally prescribe antibiotics that will help flood urine with antimicrobials which will then act as a flushing agent, ridding the dog's body of infection whenever the dog pees (19). Due to this, it’s likely the medication will make your dog urinate regularly.

The treatment is likely to last from 7 to 14 days (20, 21).

If you have a job that requires your attention and aren’t able to stay home to routinely let your dog outside for bathroom breaks, it's recommended to use pee pads and/or hiring a dog sitter or walker, and/or enlist the help of a trusted friend or neighbor.

Some pet owners may be familiar with the signs of urinary tract infection in dogs and think they can treat it themselves, skipping a bill from the vet. However, in addition to the fact that UTI in dogs symptoms mimic serious health conditions, UTIs (as discussed) are created and affected by different forms of bacteria, which are treated differently.

For example, a dog owner may know to give their dog sugar-free cranberry concentrate to treat a UTI, but this will only be effective if they administer the correct dosage based on their dog’s age and weight, and only if the dog's UTI was caused specifically by E. coli bacterium (22, 23). Any other bacteria will not respond to cranberry concentrate.

At-Home Care of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

If possible, always consult a veterinarian first before attempting any at-home care and home remedies for urinary tract infection in dogs. Pets and their owners are best helped through the consultation and advice of a veterinary professional.

Hydration

As your dog fights off the infection, they’ll need all the water they can get. Be sure to monitor your dog's water intake, encouraging them to drink, even to the point of using a plastic syringe to administer water to them if needed.

There are several ways you can encourage your dog to drink more water:

  • Place extra water bowls around the house so your pet constantly runs into them
  • Use dog water fountains because constantly running water entices them to drink
  • You can also make bone broth and its smell is likely to make your dog drink

Use of water fountains, additional placement of water bowls around the house and bone broth could mean the difference between your dog choosing to lap up some much-needed water or deciding that the distance they’d have to waddle to their water bowl in the kitchen is simply not worth leaving their comfortable napping spot.

Supplements

The best supplements for urinary tract infection in dogs, especially pets with compromised immune systems, should include concentrated Vitamin C which you can buy in tablet form. While you continue to follow the instructions of the vet and administer antibiotics, be aware that this medicine may inadvertently flush away healthy bacteria from the body.

To counteract that, you can add a dollop of sugar-free, plain Greek yogurt to your dog's nightly meal. As a probiotic, yogurt is rich in live cultures which promote healthy bacteria in a dog's gut and have been shown to help with UTI (24). For even more live cultures and potentially better results, these can also be given as probiotic supplements.

Some of the best supplements for dogs with UTI are those below:

Natural foods

Additionally, some fresh and natural healthy herbs, particularly parsley, can be added to your dog’s meals to encourage quicker and smoother recovery (25). Parsley is a natural antiseptic, making it particularly beneficial for dog urinary tract infections.

Likewise, blueberries and cranberries have been scientifically proven as natural antiseptics (26, 27). Avoid giving your dog store-bought cranberry juice because it’s typically surging with sugars. Instead, look for cranberry concentrate. Although extremely bitter and tart to the taste, this concentrate is what health care professionals intended for the public to drink, rather than sugary fruit juices, when suffering from UTIs (28).

Top off your dog's water bowl with some cranberry concentrate but be sure to keep their usual water bowl untouched as you want to ensure they’re drinking water and not avoiding it altogether.

Low protein foods and treats

Because UTI in dogs may be straining your dog's kidneys, a low protein diet can be recommended by a vet to prevent proteinuria.

Studies have shown this type of diet to improve bladder and kidney related conditions in dogs, making animals feel less lethargic and even extend lifespan in terminally ill dogs (2930). You can switch to low protein foods and treats but only if approved by your veterinarian.

Some of the best low protein treats and foods are mentioned below:

Avoid dog parks and kennels

While your pet has a UTI, the dog's immune system is weakened and is working extra hard to fight off the disease, which means they aren’t at their most fit to take on any more health issues (31).

UTIs aren’t infectious, but other diseases and illnesses are and they could be easily picked up while surrounded by other dogs, such as in dog boarding facilities or dog parks. A dog gaining another illness while recovering from a UTI could put a serious strain on their body, decreasing the change of fast recovery.

Avoid excessive exercise

Like with cases of many other health issues, long play times in the park or backyard should be shortened until the dog's health is restored. Strenuous exercise only serve to further dehydrate your pup, no matter how fun they are. It also weakens the dog's immune system and your pet needs it to be in top shape, so take some time off.

Avoid sugars

While you should do this for your pet’s health already, it’s particularly important to pay attention to how much sugar your dog consumes while they recover from UTI. Sugars, whether they’re from carb-loaded dog treats or table scraps, will only serve to grow the infection by feeding the bacteria (32).

Instead of artificial sugary treats, opt for single-ingredient healthy treats or nutrient rich foods like chicken broth for hydration, dog-safe vegetables, lean and hearty proteins like shredded chicken or turkey. Mix these with pureed pumpkin and coconut oil to create a healthy goulash. Pumpkin is especially great for the dog's digestive health, while coconut oil is a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory for urinary tract infection in dogs.

READ NEXT: 15 Best Low Protein Dog Food Brands for Kidney Health

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Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs - A Science Based Guide

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