The symptoms and treatment of a dog’s bladder infection are remarkably similar to those for a human’s – in fact, bladder infections ranked as the No. 2 most common medical condition we share with dogs on a top 10 list compiled by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) .
According to uti-in-dogs, about 14 percent of the world’s dog population will get a bladder infection, and there is a 10 percent chance that a dog’s health issues are related to a bladder infection. Last year, bladder infections ranked sixth on VPI’s top 10 list of dog medical conditions.
While any breed can get a bladder infection, recurring infections are more common in Poodles, Labrador Retrievers and middle-aged to senior German Shepherds, reports healthierdogs.com As with humans, females are more likely to get them since their urethras are shorter than those of male dogs, making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder and other internal systems. Female dogs that have been spayed are more likely to develop bladder infections than those who haven’t, according to healthierdogs.com. (But that is no reason not to spay your pet!)
While they’re rarely life-threatening, if left untreated, bladder infections can lead to serious health issues such as kidney stones or renal failure.
What are the Symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
According to dogurinaryinfection and vetinfo, these are some of the symptoms that may indicate your dog has a bladder infection:
- She wants to go outside frequently
- She urinates in the house even though she is housebroken
- She urinates frequently in small amounts
- She may appear to strain or be in pain when she urinates
- The urine has a foul odor
- There is blood or pus in the urine
- The urine is cloudy, dark colored or contains crystals
Additional warning signs:
- She frequently licks her genitalia (probably to relieve the burning sensation)
- She lacks energy
- She frequently drinks water and seems to have an insatiable thirst
- There is tenderness in her lower stomach area
The symptoms for prostate cancer are similar to those for a bladder infection, according to vetinfo.com, which warns, “If your dog is straining to urinate, has blood in his genital area, or [is] constipated, have him examined to rule out prostate cancer.”
What Causes a Bladder Infection?
As with humans, a dog’s urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria travels up the urethra to the bladder, where it multiplies, causing pain and inflammation. According to i LoveDogfriendly, the bacteria can originate from the dog’s intestinal tract, the vulva and vagina in a female, or the prostate in a male.
Bacteria that your dog may ingest from unclean water or contaminated food are transmitted through the blood and the lymphatic system. According to uti-in-dogs.com, this causes traces of the bacteria escherichia coli (more commonly known as e-coli) inside your dog’s bladder, which can cause further infection of the urinary tract if not flushed out. Other bacteria associated with bladder infections in dogs are esterococcus, coagulase positive straphylococcus, proteus mirabilis, klebsiella and pseudomonas.
In her response to an i Love Dogs Ask a Vet question, Dr. Michelle Hoag said urinary tract infections in dogs “are usually secondary to another underlying issue, although they can occasionally just get a primary ascending urinary tract infection because of squatting to urinate in a dirty place or because of a recent bout of diarrhea (in female dogs).”
Dr. Hoag said that other possible reasons include “hormonal problems with the endocrine system, such as diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome, a urinary tract abnormality, such as a persistent hymen, ectopic ureter or a urethral sphincter disorder, or a problem within the urinary system, such as bladder or kidney stones or an infection in the kidneys.”
Bacteria that your dog may ingest from unclean water or contaminated food supply are transmitted through the blood and the lymphatic system. According to uti-in-dogs.com, “this causes traces of the bacteria escherichia coli inside your dog’s bladder. If this bacteria is not flushed out, it can cause further infection of the urinary tract.”
How is a Bladder Infection Diagnosed?
Your vet will give your dog a physical examination and then perform a complete urinalysis, as well as a urine culture, according to uti-in-dogs.“A portion of the dog’s urine is tested and cultured so that its bacteria content can be determined,” the website states. “Keep in mind that dog UTI only occurs if the invading bacteria had fully defeated the dog’s immune system.”
In addition to the urinalysis, your vet may do blood work to rule out diabetes and other diseases that cause similar symptoms. Any kidney or bladder stones will also be indicated in the blood work results.
If a bladder infection cannot be detected with the urinalysis or blood work, your vet may perform an ultrasound on your dog, or subject your dog’s urine to a fungal culture to see if the infection is caused by fungi.
How is a Bladder Infection Treated?
Once your dog is diagnosed as having a bladder infection, she will typically be treated with a course of antibiotics. The type of antibiotics your vet prescribes will be based on the bacteria identified. Dr. Hoag said, “With any urinary tract infection, it is important to treat it for a long enough period of time with the correct antibiotic that the infection can resolve. A urine culture should be performed, which tells the doctor specifically which kinds of bacteria are present as well as which antibiotics to which they are sensitive or resistant.”
She said that after the course of antibiotics is completed, another urine culture should be performed to make sure the infection has cleared. “In addition, blood testing and imaging (such as an X-ray, ultrasound or scooping) of the urinary tract may be necessary to rule out other underlying problems that could be causing the urinary troubles,” she said. “If the underlying cause is not addressed, there is nothing that will keep the infections from returning.”
Some pet owners don’t like to give their dogs antibiotics because they worry about possible side effects. According to healthierdog, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs may clear up the infection, “but antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria as well as the harmful bacteria that may have caused the bladder infection in your dog. While antibiotics may well treat the symptoms and bring those symptoms under control, they fail to address the root causes of the problem…if your dog is being treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids for any other condition, you need to be aware that these medications can actually predispose your dog to bladder infections.”
Advocates of homeopathic remedies and homemade treatments recommend giving your dog citrus juices, such as orange or cranberry juice, which increase the urine’s acid level to help ward off bacteria. Adding apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water is suggested by vetinfo.com because it helps correct your dog’s pH balance. Healthierdog recommends giving your dog herbs such as bearberry and barberry because they have “antiseptic and antibacterial properties that are excellent in the treatment of urinary tract infections.”
In her response to another Ask a Vet question regarding a puppy with a bladder infection, Dr. Hoag said cranberry supplements are safe to give your dog and should not cause any side effects. “Cranberry works by preventing bacteria from adhering to and colonizing in the urinary tract,” she said. “It does not, however, treat urinary tract infections so it is still important to see your veterinarian and get a diagnosis with proper antibiotic treatment if necessary. ”
What Can be Done to Prevent a Bladder Infection?
According to vetinfo, you can take the following steps to help stop your dog from getting a bladder infection:
- Bathe your dog at least once a week so bacteria from her urine won’t travel to the urethra and create an infection.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh, clean drinking water.
- Take your dog on frequent walks (at least twice a day if possible) to encourage urination and thus prevent the build-up of bacteria.
- Avoid treating your dog with corticosteroids, which may increase the risk of infection.
Supplementing your dog’s diet with vitamins may also help boost her immune system and improve her overall health.