Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Dog sitting inside in front of a puddle of urine.
Accidnets in the house are a common sign of a UTI in dogs.

Getty Images/Capuski

A 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.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection in dogs is a bacterial infection that affects any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are common in dogs and can cause discomfort, pain, and in severe cases, can lead to serious health problems.

UTIs are more commonly seen in female dogs than males, but they can affect dogs of any gender or age. Dogs with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, or bladder stones may be more prone to UTIs.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

The signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in dogs can vary, and some dogs show no signs at all. Common signs include urinating frequently, urinating in the house, licking at the urinary opening, a foul urine smell, and blood in the urine.


  • Frequent urination
  • Straining or difficulty urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating in inappropriate places
  • Licking the genital area
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Dogs with UTIs often need to urinate more frequently than usual. Some dogs will have trouble urinating or take a long time to pass urine. Because UTIs often involve inflammation and discomfort, some dogs will squat and posture to urinate even though their bladders are near empty. They will dribble small amounts of urine, which can look like they are having difficulty passing urine. Many dogs will start urinating in places they wouldn't normally, such as inside the house. You may notice that the urine has a red or brown tinge, and possibly a strong, unpleasant odor. Dogs with UTIs may lick their genital area more frequently than usual. And because UTIs are uncomfortable, dogs may lose their appetites or become lethargic.

It's important to note that some dogs with a UTI may not display any obvious signs or symptoms, especially if they tend to urinate in an unsupervised yard. Older dogs or dogs with other chronic diseases may not show any noticeable symptoms, so your veterinarian may recommend urine testing to screen for UTIs as part of routine care. If you notice any signs, it's crucial to take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Urinary tract infections in dogs are usually caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract and multiply, leading to infection. The most common bacteria that cause UTIs in dogs are Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus. These bacteria are usually present in the gastrointestinal tract and can enter the urinary tract through the urethra.

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 UTIs. Others 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.

Several other factors can increase a dog's risk of developing a UTI.

Unsanitary Environment

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.

Chronic Disease

Dogs with certain chronic diseases are more prone to urinary tract infections. UTIs are commonly diagnosed in dogs with diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and chronic kidney disease. Dogs with bladder stones are also more likely to have a bladder infection.

Vaginal Procedures

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.

Recessed Vulva

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, he likely also has a UTI. The prostate is a gland inside your male dog's body. The urethra passes through the penis and prostate before reaching the urinary bladder. Bacteria that travel upstream through the urethra and infect the prostate can infect the urinary bladder as well. 

Urinary Catheterization

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.


Some research shows that chronic steroid treatment can affect the body’s ability to ward off a UTI. Also, urinary tract infections that develop after recent antibiotic administration may have more resistant bacteria, so you'll want to keep a close eye on your dog if they're on these medications.

How Do Vets Diagnose UTIs in Dogs

If your dog is showing signs of a UTI, a visit to your veterinarian is warranted. Your vet will perform a physical examination and collect a urine sample for urinalysis. Or, your vet may ask that you bring a urine sample with you from home. The urine will be looked at microscopically and tested for the presence of bacteria, crystals, or abnormal cells. If your veterinarian suspects bladder stones, tumors, or other abnormalities that may be contributing to an infection, X-rays or an ultrasound may also be recommended. Blood work may also be recommended to evaluate kidney function. If a bladder infection is recurrent, a urine culture and sensitivity may be needed in order to see what kind of bacteria is present and which antibiotics may be most effective against it.

How to Treat Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. The type of antibiotic prescribed as well as the length of treatment depends on the type of bacteria and results of diagnostic tests. If there is an underlying reason for the infection, such as a recessed vulva, or a secondary issue, such as bladder stones, then surgery, grooming, or dietary changes may also be needed. In addition to antibiotics, other treatments such as pain relief medication, anti-inflammatory medication, and fluids may be necessary.

Prognosis for UTIs in Dogs

The prognosis for urinary tract infections in dogs is generally good, especially if the infection is diagnosed and treated promptly. With appropriate treatment, most dogs will recover from a UTI within a few days to a few weeks.

It's important to note that if left untreated, UTIs can lead to more serious complications, such as kidney infections or bladder stones. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential for a good prognosis.

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 provide a clean environment and plenty of fresh water. 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.

In addition to appropriate grooming and drinking, part of UTI prevention includes regular walks to encourage urination and prevent holding in urine for too long. If you suspect that your dog has a UTI, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

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