Does my dog have a UTI? In this Vet Minute, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer talks about dog urinary tract infection and bladder infection in dogs, as well as prevention and treatment of dog UTI. If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
Differences Between a Dog UTI and a Canine Bladder Infection
A bladder infection just involves the bladder. A UTI, and it doesn’t matter what species dog, cat, human, involves the entire urinary tract, which would be the kidneys, the ureters, which are the tubes between the kidney and the bladder. The bladder and the urethra all the way down. So it’s kind of an extension of the same thing. But most of the time all we see is bladder infections. We rarely see problems of the other parts of the urinary tract in dogs.
Dog UTI Symptoms and Bladder Infection Symptoms
Signs of UTI in dogs include a dog that was previously housebroken that is now starting to have accidents on the floor. You may find blood in the urine, or you may notice it in the snow. You may see it on the floor when you clean it up. You may see the dog straining. You may see frequency in wanting to go out frequently, straining, and spending too much time trying to urinate. And we do have to differentiate between the males and females. The females can be pretty uncomfortable, but they rarely can get into real medical trouble with a bladder infection. Male dogs, on the other hand, when they develop bladder stones, they are much more likely than a female to end up with a urinary obstruction. And a urinary obstruction is a true emergency.
Are there dog UTI natural treatments or a dog UTI treatment at home? Do they treat a dog bladder infection?
Really, they are so close to the same thing. So, yes, there are products on the market. We have Doc Roy’s Potassium Citrate Plus Cranberry. We have Doc Roy’s Cranberry Extra . So there are a couple of good products that help to change the pH of the urine and resolve some of the symptoms, some of the discomfort with the urinary tract infection.
When is it time to go to the vet for a UTI? How do vets check for UTI in dogs?
You need to make sure you go in promptly if your pet is unable to urinate. Probably the easiest thing to do is take a Kleenex or a paper towel out into the yard when the dog is out to urinate. If they’re straining to urinate and no fluid is coming out, no urine is coming out, that’s an emergency. If your pet is sick enough that they’re not eating, drinking and/or they’re vomiting, that again, can be an emergency. Because even though we rarely see female dogs obstructed with bladder stones, it can occur. And male dogs again, as I said before, are more commonly obstructed if they do develop bladder stones. So those are true medical emergencies.
How do we veterinarians check for a urinary tract infection? Well, we like to collect a urine sample. Most frequently those are collected directly from the bladder, either with a urinary catheter or with a process called a cystocentesis. That’s where we use an ultrasound guidance or sometimes just feeling where the bladder is and slip a needle directly into the bladder and steadily collect the sample. Dogs don’t do a good job of wiping front to back. They often don’t bring in samples that are very clean. So if a client catches a urine sample, it’s gone through the hair and through the other tissues. So it’s not as sterile as we need it to be. What we truly need to know is, are the bacteria, are the white blood cells coming from the bladder? Does the dog have something else going on?
With ultrasound guidance and looking at the bladder for stones for tumors, for overdistension, all of those things are really key in making a diagnosis. So ultrasound is essential for many of these dogs with urinary tract problems.
Are prescription meds available for a dog with a UTI?
If we suspect a bacterial infection, which most of the time is what we see in dogs, yes, antibiotics are appropriate. That’s why the sterile sample might be useful, to determine, based on culture, what bacteria are there and what antibiotic is going to be most effective. And then we also have prescription dog food diets that we can put them on.
Again, these are all prescription things. So your veterinarian is going to need to have enough familiarity with your dog’s medical history to make a decision. Is an antibiotic appropriate? If so, which one and which prescription diet? We see low pHs causing struvite stones. We see high pHs causing calcium oxalate stones. We can see other kinds of stones like urics. So it isn’t just one size fits all. It really depends on your dog’s specific condition, whether it’s related to bladder stones, bladder infection or a possible bladder tumor.
What is best to prevent UTI in dogs? Can dog bladder support or dog UTI supplements help?
If your dog’s never had a UTI, I typically don’t get too alarmed about needing to put them on a supplement. But if it’s a female that was spayed young and she has a small vulva and has a frequency of bladder infections because of the bacterial infections, if she has skin folds around the vulva and frequently gets them, if it’s a male dog that has a prostate problem that may influence his bladder, those are all times that we can put the dog on bladder support like Doc Roy’s Potassium Citrate Plus Cranberry, which will help adjust the pH and reduce the chances of crystal formation into stones.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.