Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs
What causes it?
As the name suggests, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is mainly caused by bacterial infection which enters from the urethral opening and moves upwards from the urethra to the bladder, ureters, and kidneys. It is a general term and can result in bladder disease, bladder inflammation and infection, kidney disease, and prostate disease. Another less common cause is kidney or bladder stones that are left untreated.
Who are at risk?
- Dogs with extra skin folds, especially female dogs with inverted vulvas that lead to bacterial buildup have higher chance of getting UTI.
- Dogs with weaker immune systems, usually geriatric/old dogs.
- Dogs with dental disease. The bacteria will spread from the mouth to the urethral opening when the dog licks its genital area.
- Bichon Frise, Yorkshire terriers, and Shih tzu are reported to be more prone to UTIs than other dog breeds.
- It is less common in male dogs because the tract is long and the anatomy makes it difficult for the bacteria to move upwards. However, in intact male dogs, untreated UTI can extend to prostate gland, where it is more difficult to treat.
What are the symptoms?
- Frequent urination, including an increased urge to go outside more frequently.
- Increased water consumption.
- Straining or difficulty in urinating, sometimes crying out or whimpering because of the pain.
- Dribbling urine.
- Sudden urge to urinate and loss of bladder control, which results in breaking housetraining.
- Excessively licking the genital area.
- Cloudy or bloody urine.
Diagnosis and treatment
Similar to other diseases, your vet has to make a diagnosis and find out the cause of UTI before making a treatment plan. Even though they have the same symptoms, UTI caused by kidney stones and by urethral infections will have very different treatments, and that’s why diagnosis is very important.
To assist in diagnosis, you may have to collect urine samples for your dog. The best sample is the one obtained during the first urination in the morning. From the sample, your vet will run urinalysis to analyze the presence of white blood cells (sign of infection), red blood cells, crystals (sign of kidney stones), and bacteria by culturing the urine if necessary.
Treatment for UTIs may include administering antibiotics depending on the type of bacteria causing the infection, putting a urinary catheter, or surgery to remove kidney/bladder stones in extreme cases. In case of kidney stone formation, diet change is usually necessary to prevent the same crystal from re-forming again. The type of diet needed will depend on the type of crystals your dog has.
How can I prevent it?
Providing plenty of fresh, clean water at all times will lessen the chance of infection. Giving probiotics to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria and enhancing your dog’s immune system is another simple method you can do at home. Make sure the area around urethral opening is clean to prevent unwanted bacterial buildup.