If you've ever had a urinary tract infection, you'll know just how unpleasant it can be. Dogs are as prone to UTIs as humans, and these infections are as undesirable for your pup as they are for you. Not only are they painful, but they can be dangerous, too, if left untreated.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about UTIs in dogs, what causes them, how to spot them, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.
What causes UTIs in dogs?
A urinary tract infection, as the name would suggest, refers to an infection of the urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, bladder, and urethra.
In dogs, most UTIs are bacterial in nature. This is when bacteria from the skin or gastrointestinal tract get into the urinary tract and flourish, causing a range of uncomfortable symptoms.
Other possible causes of UTIs in dogs include:
- Bladder infection or inflammation;
- Stones or grit in the bladder;
- Weak bladder;
- Prostate disease;
Female dogs and dogs with diabetes are more prone to UTIs, as are dogs with bladder stones.
How do I know if my dog has a UTI?
When nature calls, both man and beast are compelled to answer. When you notice your canine companion needing to answer the call more than usual (or having accidents in the house more often), a urinary tract infection is likely possible. They may strain to urinate or show signs of pain when urinating.
Other signs of a UTI in dogs include:
- Blood in the urine;
- Frequent licking of genitals;
- Urinary dripping;
- A strong odor to the urine;
- Increased water consumption;
- Changes in appetite;
- Weight loss.
Ignoring the signs of a UTI can lead to some serious medical problems in the future. Aside from the discomfort for your dog, an untreated UTI can lead to blockages forming in the urethra, which can lead to harmful levels of waste buildup.
Getting a UTI checked as soon as you spot the signs can help identify other severe conditions which may have similar symptoms, like cancer. It isn't always easy to spot the signs, but if you notice even the slightest symptoms of pain or discomfort, get to the vet as soon as possible.
How are UTIs diagnosed?
Your vet will do a physical exam that includes checking for areas of sensitivity in the kidney and bladder. Urinalysis is almost always required as it provides information about the urine:
- How concentrated the urine is;
- How acidic the urine is;
- Glucose levels;
- Bilirubin levels;
- Presence of blood;
- Presence of protein.
All of these things can point to a potential cause for UTI. Other tests that are carried out on the urine include spinning it in a centrifuge to extract things like white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria, and crystals.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections
Treating a UTI will vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. Your vet may recommend a combination of these treatments:
- Changes in the diet;
- Increased fluid intake;
- Medication to acidify or alkalinize the urine;
- Surgical removal of any bladder stones or tumors;
- Pain medication.
As with all antibiotic treatment, it's essential that you finish the entire course that is prescribed to prevent the infection from coming back.
How to prevent UTIs in dogs?
So, your dog had a UTI; how can you ensure that the infection doesn't recur? Some dogs are prone to UTIs, so you may need to adjust your dog's lifestyle to combat these and prevent them from occurring again and again.
Chat with your vet, as they will be able to advise. The most common changes recommended include changes to diet and certain medications or supplements that can change the pH of the urine, making it harder for bacteria to flourish.
A UTI is rarely a cause for emergency treatment, but an emergency can strike at any time.
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How do I tell if my dog has a UTI?
UTIs in dogs are not always easy to spot, but the most obvious signs of a canine UTI include a frequent need to urinate or an increase in accidents inside the house. Dripping and licking of urinary openings can almost be a sign that a UTI is present.
Other signs include fever, lethargy, increased water consumption, and changes in appetite.
How to prevent UTIs in dogs?
Suppose your dog is prone to UTIs (commonly older female dogs and those with diabetes). In that case, you can prevent future UTIs by adjusting your dog's diet and giving your dog medication or supplements that alter the urine pH to make a recurrent infection less likely to take hold.
Is there a home remedy for dog UTIs?
There are many natural remedies for UTIs in humans that you may have heard of, and you may wish to know if they can be used on your dog. It's important to know that you should never give your dog human medicine without consulting a vet first. Similarly, natural remedies that may help humans may not always be appropriate for dogs.
Many natural treatments for dog UTIs aren't really treatments as such. They won't cure a UTI, but they can assist in supporting the body's natural mechanisms. Most can support the urinary tract, like cranberry for a dog UTI. You can also give blueberries to dogs prone to UTIs to support their urinary tract.
Read more: 25 Fruits Dogs Can and Can't Eat
If you've considered apple cider vinegar for a dog's UTI, there is something to that. Adding a small amount of ACV added to your dog's water can help ward off infection and balance the pH levels in your dog's urinary tract.
Have you ever heard of using yogurt for a dog's UTI? Believe it or not, feeding your dog cooling foods like raw fruit and vegetables, and yogurt can reduce the symptoms of a UTI. That said, some foods can make symptoms worse, like raw carrots, tomatoes, and spinach.
Read more: 25 Fruits Dogs Can and Can't Eat
Before changing your dog's diet or including any supplements (natural or not), it's always best to consult your vet.
Can dogs get UTIs from holding in their pee?
A well-trained dog may dutifully hold in their wee until they can get outside to answer nature's call. While occasionally holding in their pee won't cause harm to your dog, repeatedly holding in his urine for extended periods of time can cause your dog to develop a UTI or even urinary crystals or stones.
Are UTIs contagious in dogs?
UTIs are not contagious. It's highly unlikely that a urinary tract infection can be passed between pets or even from human to pet and vice versa.
Dog UTI urine color – what to look out for?
A dog with a UTI will pass urine that is dark in color or cloudy. The urine may also have a strong odor. Red or pink urine is a sure sign that an infection is present, and blood is present, and must be seen sooner rather than later.
Can a dog’s urinary tract infection go away on its own?
It’s unlikely that your dog’s infection will clear up on its own. Left untreated, a UTI can worsen and cause some very serious issues. If you suspect your dog has a UTI, seek treatment as soon as possible.
Don’t rely on home remedies or natural treatments either as these are not as effective in remedying the root cause of the infection. Sometimes, what may seem like a UTI can actually be something a lot more serious. This is why we recommend getting to a vet as soon as you notice something is up.