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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 eventually ignoring all housebreaking training. It's a fairly common condition in all canines and generally can be treated without any issues. Here's everything you should know about it.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection 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 (Ling, et al. 2001). However, all dogs 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 (Wong, et al. 2015).

Urinary tract infection in dogs is easily treated and pets bounce back within a week or two (Olin, et al. 2015). However, when undiagnosed in a timely manner and untreated accordingly, the lower urinary infection can spread to dog's vital organs such as the kidneys. Furthermore, symptoms of a UTI mimic symptoms of other more serious medical conditions, including but not limited to organ failure and cancer.

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

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 foreign debris gathered from rolling around outdoors travels up the urethra and then affects the bladder (Forrester, et al. 1999).

Inattention to the infection gives it time to travel up and into the dog's kidneys, causing further and more serious issues, such as excruciating kidney stones, which then may result in kidney failure.

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.

What is urinary tract infection in dogs

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 as well as always ensuring the dog has plenty of water to drink and plenty of 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, therefore becoming a breeding ground for infection.

Hygiene routine

Give your pet a much-needed bath on a schedule that works for you both. Dogs create natural oils which help protect their skin and hair. Bathing too often is a bad idea because washing the dog's hair too frequently can strip these oils, causing dry, irritated skin and could lead to infections.

Instead, give your dog a bath or take them to the groomers 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 around more 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.

Veterinary Care of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

Pyelonephritis in dogsWhen suspecting a urinary tract infection in dogs, 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. No matter the result (severe or not), the urine sample will help the staff determine exactly which kind of antibiotic to prescribe your ailing pup, as UTI in dogs can be caused from a variety of bacterium (Weese, et al. 2015).

Veterinarians generally prescribe antibiotics that will help flood urine with antimicrobials which will then act as a flushing agent, ridding the body of infection whenever the dog pees (Weese, et al. 2011). Due to this, it’s likely the medication will make your dog urinate regularly.

The treatment is likely to last about 10 to 14 days (Westropp, et al. 2014). If you have a job that requires your attention and aren’t able to stay home to routinely let your pet outside, use pet pee pads and consider hiring a dog-sitter or walker, 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 if the UTI was caused by E. coli. Any other bacteria will not respond as is desired to cranberry concentrate.

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 truly best helped through the consultation and advice of a pet care professional. Always set up an appointment for your canine companion should you suspect any illness or infection.

At-Home Care of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

HydrationAt-Home Care of Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

As your dog fights off the infection, they’ll need all the water they can get. Be sure to monitor their intake, encouraging them to drink, even to the point of using a plastic syringe to administer water to them if needed. The easiest way to ensure your dog is staying hydrated is to place extra water bowls around the house and be sure to point them out to them. Dog water fountains are also more enticing for pets than bowls.

Use of water fountains and additional placement of water bowls around the house could mean the difference between them 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.

Helpful supplements

The best supplements for urinary tract infection in dogs with a compromised immune system will include concentrated vitamin C which you can purchase in tablets for your pet. While you continue to follow the instructions of the vet and administer antibiotics, be aware that these medicines may inadvertently flush away healthy bacteria from the body.

To combat this, you can add a dollop of sugar-free, plain Greek yogurt to Fido’s nightly meal. As a probiotic, yogurt is rich in live cultures which promote healthy bacteria and have been shown to help with UTI (Borchert, et al. 2008). These can also be given as dog probiotic supplements.

Additionally, some fresh and natural healthy herbs, particularly parsley, can be added to your dog’s meals to encourage quick and smooth recovery. Parsley is a natural antiseptic, making it particularly beneficial during a urinary tract infection.

Likewise, blueberries and cranberries have been scientifically proven as natural antiseptics as well. Avoid giving your dog store-bought cranberry juice, however, as 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 (Guay, 2009).

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.

Avoid dog parks and kennels

While your pet has a UTI, they’re immune system is working extra hard to fight it off which means they aren’t at their most fit to take on any more health issues. UTIs aren’t infectious, but other diseases and illnesses are and they could be easily picked up while surrounded by other dogs. Gaining another illness while recovering from a UTI could put a serious strain on your dog’s body and is best avoided.

Avoid excessive exercise

Like with cases of many other health issues, long play times in the park or back yard should be shortened as the dog's health is restored. These only serve to further dehydrate your pup, no matter how fun they are. Straining excise 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. Sugars, whether they’re from carb-loaded doggie treats or table scraps, will only serve to grow the infection by feeding the bacteria.

Instead of artificial sugary treats, opt for nutrient rich foods, such as bone broth, dog-safe vegetables, lean and hearty proteins like shredded chicken or turkey. You can mix these together with pureed pumpkin and coconut oil to create a delicious and notorious goulash of sorts. Pumpkin is especially great for the dog's digestive health, while coconut oil is a natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory for urinary tract infection in dogs.

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