A UTI, or urinary tract infection, can occur in any dog but some may be more likely to develop them than others. Symptoms of a UTI can vary in severity from dog to dog but most experience similar signs. Ignoring signs of a UTI can lead to bigger, more serious issues like a kidney infection, not to mention discomfort or pain for your dog.
Causes of UTI Symptoms in Dogs
Commonly seen UTI symptoms are: urinating frequently, urinating in the house, licking at the urinary opening, a foul urine smell, blood in the urine, and others can be caused by a few different things.
If your dog spends time in a dirty environment, such as a soiled kennel, the bacteria from that environment can find its way into your dog's urinary opening. This can also happen if your dog has a lot of fecal matter on its hind end. Long-haired dogs are more prone to having this happen, especially if they experience diarrhea and it gets stuck in their fur.
Being hit by a car or even having abdominal surgery can cause trauma to your dog's bladder. This trauma can introduce bacteria into the bladder and result in an infection.
If your female dog needs to have a vaginoscopy or vaginal cytology performed, this may introduce bacteria into the urinary tract. While the instruments that are used are usually sterile, there is still a chance that an infection may occur.
Some female dogs are born with a slight physical abnormality called a recessed vulva. The vulva is the external part of a female dog's reproductive tract and if it is tucked too far into a dog's body, your dog won't drip dry after she urinates. Excess moisture along with your dog's body heat can cause vaginitis and will also help bacteria grow. This can result in a UTI.
If your male dog develops bacterial prostatitis, a UTI may also occur. The prostate is a gland inside your dog's body. Since it is located near the neck of the bladder, if it becomes infected it is highly possible that the bladder could, too.
Urinary catheters may need to be placed in your dog's urinary opening to help drain the bladder or collect urine samples. During this procedure, bacteria can enter the urethra and bladder and result in a UTI.
Diagnosing UTIs in Dogs
If your dog is showing signs of a UTI, a visit to your veterinarian is warranted. A urine sample will be collected after a physical examination is performed or your vet may ask that you bring a sample with you from home. The urine will be looked at microscopically and tested for signs of an infection and other abnormalities. If your veterinarian suspects other abnormalities that may be contributing to an infection, X-rays or an ultrasound may also be recommended. If a bladder infection is recurrent, a urine culture may be needed in order to see what kind of bacteria is present.
Treatment of UTIs in Dogs
UTIs are treated with antibiotics, but depending on the type of bacterial infection that is present, different antibiotics may be prescribed for different lengths of time. If there is an underlying reason for the infection, such as a recessed vulva or a secondary issue, such as bladder stones, surgery, grooming, or dietary changes may also be needed. Finally, pain medications may be prescribed to help your dog feel more comfortable.
How to Prevent UTIs in Dogs
The best thing you can do to help prevent your dog from developing a urinary tract infection is to keep its urinary opening clean. Don't allow your dog to lie down on soiled surfaces, keep the fur clean and trimmed on its hind end, and if your dog seems to stay wet after urinating, wipe its urinary opening with a baby wipe.
Risk Factors for UTIs in Dogs
Urinary tract infections are more common in female dogs. Because the urethra is shorter in females, bacteria have easier access to the bladder. Some dogs are simply born with a recessed vulva that will predispose them to developing a UTI or they have long fur that aids in collecting moisture around the urinary opening. These dogs are at a higher risk of getting a urinary tract infection unless you take preventative measures. Additionally, some research shows that steroids can affect the body’s ability to ward off a UTI and hat urinary tract infections that develop after recent antibiotic administration are at risk of having more resistant bacteria, so you'll want to keep a close eye on your dog if it's on these medications.