Unfortunately, urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are relatively common in our canine companions. These infections are usually bacterial, and they happen when some of your dog’s natural bacteria – the stuff that normally lives on their skin and in their GI tract – somehow gets into the urinary tract and starts growing.
This causes some very uncomfortable symptoms for your pet and, if left unaddressed, can become a much more serious health issue. Here’s what you need to know about the common symptoms of a UTI, what causes dog UTIs, and how to address these symptoms at home after you’ve contacted your veterinarian.
The Common Signs of a Dog UTI
The most common symptoms of dog UTIs include:
- Discolored urine
- Pain while peeing
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Excess licking around genitals
Urine Color Is a Good Indicator of a Dog UTI
Urine discoloration is a common indication that a dog has a UTI. Often, the infection will cause urine to become cloudy or even pinkish from traces of blood. Blood in your dog’s urine can also be a sign of much more severe problems, like poisoning, internal trauma, and kidney issues, so contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice changes in the color and opacity of your pet’s urine.
UTIs Make Urination Very Uncomfortable
You might also be able to tell that your dog has a UTI by watching their behavior when they pee. UTIs can cause difficulty urinating, so your dog might whimper, whine, or struggle while they try to go to the bathroom. This means your dog is in serious discomfort that should be addressed immediately.
If your dog has difficulty urinating or stops urinating altogether, it’s very dangerous. Your dog’s bladder could rupture if they aren’t using the bathroom regularly. Difficulty urinating is not only a sign of a dog UTI but could also indicate other issues like prostate disease or an obstruction in the urinary tract. If you notice your dog struggling to pee, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Accidents or More Frequent Urination May Mean a UTI
Another one of the common UTI symptoms is a sudden change in bathroom habits. If you have a potty-trained dog who starts having regular accidents in the house, it might be because they are having trouble controlling their bladder, which can be a sign of a UTI.
A dog with a UTI might beg to go outside to urinate more often. If you notice your dog peeing more regularly and seeming more urgent about their bathroom breaks, they might have an infection.
Fever Can Also Be a Symptom of an Infection
Like most infections, your dog might also get a fever if they have a UTI. Dogs with fevers will pant and shiver and sometimes have red or glassy eyes. Their ears and nose might even be warm to the touch.
If you don’t have a pet thermometer, you can use a human thermometer to measure your pet’s temperature rectally. Remember that dogs run a little hotter than humans, so a normal reading is between 101 and 102 degrees. If it’s higher than that, and they have other UTI symptoms, your pet might be experiencing a fever as their body tries to fight off the infection.
A Dog with a UTI May Lick Their Genitals More Often
Dogs will try to treat their ailments, and when they are uncomfortable during urination, they might try to address the issue with licking. If you notice your pet licking their urinary opening more often, it could be because they’re experiencing the discomfort of a UTI.
What Causes Dog UTIs and How They’re Diagnosed
The causes of dog UTIs are often simple, but some factors can increase the rate of infection. Veterinarians diagnose dog UTIs with a urine culture.
Dog UTIs Are Caused by Bacteria
The cause of a dog UTI is almost always bacteria, usually E.coli, but there are a few conditions that might make your dog more susceptible to contracting a UTI. For example, if your dog has dermatitis around their urethra, this increases the likelihood that the bacteria will get into their urinary tract. This is especially common in female dogs, who have more folds and places for bacteria to hide in their genitals.
Additionally, having a UTI once can make it more likely your dog will relapse or have another infection. If your dog gets a UTI within a month of being treated for one, it might be a relapse, meaning it was the same bacteria that infected your pet both times.
If your dog doesn’t empty his bladder when he pees, he becomes more likely to have a UTI. This is called urinary retention, and it may be caused by an injury or even simple muscle weakness. But it’s important your dog gets rid of all his urine when he goes to the bathroom in order to prevent UTIs. If you think your pet isn’t doing so, talk to your veterinarian.
Dogs with blood sugar issues like diabetes or bladder stones are also more prone to UTIs.
How Your Dog’s Veterinarian Will Diagnose a UTI
If you suspect your dog has a UTI, contact your veterinarian immediately. They will likely suggest that you bring your dog into the clinic so they can do a urinalysis and confirm that your dog has an infection.
Rather than having your dog urinate, your veterinarian will probably want a sterile sample. This requires them to insert a needle into the bladder wall to collect the urine directly from the source – a process called cystocentesis. It sounds much more uncomfortable for your pet than it is, and the sterile sample is important enough to warrant any minor discomfort from the collection process.
Your veterinarian will analyze what’s in your dog’s urine – such as pH, ketones, glucose, and protein – in order to rule out any other issues. Under a microscope, your veterinarian will look for other indicators, such as crystals, which may mean your dog has bladder stones. This might cause your pet’s doctor to suggest an ultrasound.
If your veterinarian decides your dog has a UTI, they will likely prescribe an antibiotic to address a UTI caused by E.coli (because this is the most common kind). While these antibiotics will likely work, your veterinarian will also send the urine sample to a lab to confirm the UTI wasn’t caused by a different bacteria. It’s possible your dog will need to switch antibiotics if a less common bacteria is discovered by the lab.
How to Address Your Dog’s UTI Symptoms at Home
While your dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian for an infection, there are some natural remedies that can help soothe your dog’s UTI discomfort:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Water and vitamin C
Cranberries May Improve the pH Levels of Your Dog’s Urine
Just as humans use cranberries to prevent and reduce the sensations associated with a UTI, there’s some evidence this might be effective for dogs, too. By reducing the pH levels in your dog’s urine, cranberries may alleviate some of the UTI discomfort.
Cranberries are a safe fruit for dogs to eat, but it’s important you don’t give your dog anything cranberry-flavored that is packed with sugar. It’s best to give them fresh cranberries or cranberries baked into a homemade dog treat.
Apple Cider Vinegar Is Another At-Home Helper
Just like cranberries, apple cider vinegar may increase the acidity of your dog’s urine and therefore make it harder for the bacteria associated with a UTI to grow. You can add a little of the vinegar to your dog’s bowl if they aren’t averse to the taste. Small dogs can handle about a teaspoon in their bowl of water and larger dogs can take up to two tablespoons.
Don’t add too much, or it will discourage them from drinking – a very bad thing when it comes to a dog with a UTI. Always provide your dog with fresh, non-vinegared water as well.
Support Your Dog’s Health with Extra Water and Vitamin C
Vitamin C supplements made for dogs can be a general wellness tool, so there is no harm in crushing up a vitamin C pill and sprinkling it over your dog’s food if they have UTI symptoms. You also want your dog to drink as much as possible – encourage hydration by providing extra water bowls throughout the house and replacing them regularly. This combination of water and vitamin C might help encourage your dog’s recovery from the UTI.
Don’t Start with Home Remedies – Call Your Veterinarian
While these home remedies can be effective in reducing your dog’s discomfort, it’s very important to have your veterinarian diagnose and treat a dog UTI. You can use some of these healthy practices to prevent a urinary tract infection for your pooch and keep them comfortable when they start showing symptoms; but if you think they’re sick, call the professionals.