UTI in Dogs: How Serious Is It And How Can You Prevent It?

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08 July 2021
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About 27 per cent of dogs can get a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is common in small dogs and particularly older dogs aged seven and above. Dog breeds such as the Bichon Frise, Yorkshire Terrier, and Shih Tzu are predisposed to urinary tract stones, a similar condition.

These conditions are painful and uncomfortable. Your dog may cry out or whimper when they are trying to relieve themselves. Thus, this condition needs to be treated once symptoms are observed for a faster recovery.

What Is UTI and How Can It Affect Your Dog?

Just like humans, a UTI in canines means an infection of the urinary tract, with a large percentage of these being caused by bacterial infections. In fact, bacterial urinary tract infections are the most commonly occurring infectious disease in dogs, developing in up to 14 per cent of them. That means there's a high chance that your dog could experience a UTI at some point in his life.

Most canines develop UTIs when a bacteria, which is normally present on the skin or a dog’s faeces, move up and get past the defences of their urinary tract. These bacteria then colonise the dog's urinary tract, leading to an infection. The most common bacterial cause of UTIs is E. coli, but some fungi can also cause an infection.

UTIs also have an increased rate of occurrence in dogs with other health issues, such as Cushing's disease and chronic kidney disease. Causes of UTI in dogs could be related to stress and diet but may also include protozoan or fungal infections. Other causes could be injuries, tumours, or bladder stones.

Symptoms of UTI in Dogs

Some common UTI symptoms in dogs include:

  • Fever
  • Whimpering or straining during urination 
  • Cloudy and/or bloody urine
  • Needing to be let outside more often
  • Accidents in the house
  • Licking around the urinary opening

A break in house training is also a red flag that something is wrong with your dog’s bladder. If this should occur to your former well-mannered pet, an infection in the urinary tract may be to blame. 

In this case, supervision is vital. Observe your dog for any signs of UTI. 

Sometimes you will notice your dog gnawing on a particular plant as a way to make himself feel better when he’s sick. However, you should also practise caution as some plants are toxic to dogs. You could click here for more helpful hints.  

Urine with a very strong scent that might make you ask yourself, “why does my dog smell like fish?” can also be a sign that your dog has a UTI.

Sometimes, however, dogs do not exhibit any symptoms of urinary tract infections at all. In these scenarios, your vet might detect the infection while testing for other things.

Treatment Options Available for Your Dog

If you suspect your dog has a UTI, it is crucial to see your vet so that the cause of your pet's symptoms can be diagnosed. The advised treatment to clear up your dog’s infection will be detected by the underlying cause of your pup's symptoms.

Pain Management

  • To help relieve the pain caused by a UTI, your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories for dogs; in severe cases, stronger painkillers may be given through injection.

Dietary Modifications

  • For some canines, a diet specially formulated to prevent stone formation and alter urine acidity can help to diminish the inflammation that can lead to UTIs in dogs. Supplements may also help to encourage your pup to drink more water to dilute the urine. 

Antibiotics

  • Your vet may prescribe a series of antibiotics for your pet if their UTI is being caused by a bacterial infection. If your vet prescribes antibiotics for your pup’s UTI you can expect to see an improvement within a couple of days. However, it's essential to continue antibiotic treatment until the full prescription has been used up. Ending treatment early can lead to reinfection that may be difficult to fight.

Treatment for Underlying Conditions

  • Underlying conditions such as Cushing's disease or diabetes can lead to recurrent UTIs in dogs. If your pup has an underlying medical condition, treatment may concentrate primarily on the underlying issue as a means of stopping the infections from occurring.

Surgery

  • Large urinary stones which persist regardless of dietary modifications may require surgical removal. Typically, pups handle this surgery well and see an improvement in one to two weeks. In some instances, stones may be analysed to figure out the most appropriate ongoing treatment for your dog.

Urethral Sphincter Medication

  • Your vet may prescribe medication to help 'tighten' your pup's urethra and help control the release of your dog’s urine.  This treatment is often used in pets experiencing incontinence with no detectable underlying cause.

Bladder Support Supplements & Medications

  • Your pup may benefit from ongoing treatment with probiotic, antioxidant, and prebiotic supplements that aim to support the gut’s 'good bacteria' and improve the overall condition of your dog's gut lining. 

100% Pure Cranberry Juice

  • Cranberry juice is typically used to fight UTIs in people and can sometimes be helpful in battling urinary tract infections in dogs. It is believed that pure cranberry juice can help to avert the bad bacteria from adhering to the wall of your pup's bladder, meaning that it can be flushed out of their system faster.

How Can You Prevent a UTI From Occurring In The Future?

Poor-quality dry dog foods are a major culprit in creating alkaline urine (more acidic urine has been discovered to inhibit the growth of bacteria), so changing your pet's food should be one of the first steps you can take to prevent and treat urinary issues.

It’s a good idea to discuss UTI prevention with your vet to put into place strategies that have been found to be effective.

The Bottom Line

It is imperative to seek veterinary care if your pup is displaying symptoms of a UTI. Urinary tract infections can be a symptom of a critical underlying condition and left untreated a UTI could go on to cause more severe conditions such as kidney disease.