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Urine infections in dogs: the symptoms and the causes

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Urinary tract infections can be uncomfortable, painful, and even dangerous to your dog's long-term health

By Ashley Murphy

Around 14% of dogs will suffer from a UTI at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common types of infections. So it's really important you can recognise the signs of urinary tract infections in dogs.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common condition that affects your dog's bladder and upper urethra. These are responsible for storing and releasing urine from your dog's body. If your dog is unlucky enough to contract a UTI, you’ll see a noticeable change in their toilet habits.

Symptoms of urinary infections in dogs

The first thing you might notice is that your dog needs to urinate more. This leads to dehydration and increased thirst. In other cases, your dog may appear to be straining, passing small amounts of urine, and maybe even blood. The blood can be tricky to spot, but if you think your dog has a UTI, try to examine their urine stains; blood can show up as either a pink or brown spot.

Dogs with UTIs can sometimes have trouble controlling their bladders, meaning that you might notice a few “accidents” around the house.

Any of the above symptoms will need to be checked by a vet.

What causes urinary tract infections in dogs?

UTI’s are caused by bacteria in the bladder. It usually enters through the urethra. Female dogs have much shorter urethra which makes them more susceptible to UTIs.

Dogs with weakened immune systems tend to pick up UTI's, while other less common causes include bladder disease, kidney stones, diabetes, and prostate disease. Although they're quite common, UTIs are not contagious.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will most likely start by taking a urine sample. This will be sent off to the lab to discover what kind of bacteria is responsible for the infection. Once that has been established, a two-week course of antibiotics will usually kill off the infection.

Your dog may also need an ultrasound or x-ray. These check for any kidney stones, which can also cause a UTI. Some medications can help with treating kidney stones, but, in more serious cases, your dog may require some kind of surgical procedure. Diet and lifestyle can play a big part in the development of bladder stones. Speak to your vet for some dietary advice.

Home remedies for Urinary Tract Infections

There’s no substitute for medically approved treatment, but some of these homemade remedies can certainly supplement any veterinary advice.

  • Apple cider vinegar: Put a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into your dog's water bowl. Repeat twice a day for up to seven days. Apple cider has antibacterial properties that can help flush the infection out of your dog's system.
  • Water and more water: Encouraging your dog to drink more water can help fight the infection. If your dog stays hydrated, then their urine is more diluted; this stops bacteria building up.
  • Vitamin C: Crush up one 500mg vitamin C tablet and mix it into your dog's food. Do this once a day for up to a week. Vitamin C is really important for a strong immune system and a little extra boost will speed up your dog's recovery. You can also add some blueberries and cranberries into your dog's diet - both are packed with vitamin C.
  • Citrus juice is another option - just make sure you go for the natural stuff. Concentrated juice with lots of added sugar can actually aggravate a UTI.

How can I prevent my dog from getting a UTI?

UTI’s are an unfortunate part of a dog's life, especially if they're female. Still, there are a few things you can do to help them fight off an infection. Remember to keep them hydrated. A lot of experts recommend using a water fountain rather than bowls of still water. Most dogs prefer fresh running water so it's a really good way of encouraging them to drink more. Keeping your dog well groomed, especially around the genital area, can also help prevent a UTI. More hair means more places for bacteria to cling onto. And encourage regular toilet breaks - the longer the urine sits in the bladder, the more bacteria will grow.

Without the right treatment, UTI’s can have serious consequences. However, catch them early and a quick course of antibiotics will flush them out of your dog's system. Until that happens, focus on managing your dog's environment. Water intake, regular toilet breaks, and hygiene and grooming can all reduce your dogs chance of catching a UTI.