Small dog looking back at camera while lifting leg to urinate

Key takeaway

A urinary tract infection in dogs can cause them to urinate more frequently, have increased accidents in the house, and experience pain while urinating. It’s often caused by bacteria in the urinary tract or bladder or underlying conditions, including diabetes, stones, stress, kidney disease, and even cancer. If you believe your dog has a UTI, it’s vital to seek help right away to prevent further health complications.

Is your dog urinating more frequently? Are they only urinating small bursts at a time? If there’s been a sudden shift in your dog’s bathroom habits, it can indicate the presence of a urinary tract infection (UTI), also known as bacterial cystitis. A UTI is an infection commonly caused by bacteria located in a dog’s urinary tract. UTIs can also develop due to underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer and bladder stones. For this reason, it’s essential to seek help from a licensed veterinarian when symptoms arise.

Luckily, this article will guide you through the UTI signs to watch out for, possible causes, how it’s diagnosed, treatment options, and preventing UTIs in dogs. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of dog UTIs or use the links below to jump to any section in this guide.

What Is A Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection affects one or more components of a dog’s urinary system, including their kidneys, ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder), bladder, and urethra.1 Typically, UTIs develop due to harmful bacteria, either from the skin or GI tract, entering the urethra2 (a tube that enables urine to leave the body). Then, the bacteria will evade many of the urinary tract’s defenses and make its way to the bladder, where it’ll continue to grow and spread until treatment is administered.

14% of dogs will experience a bacterial UTI during their lifetime

Bacterial urinary tract infections are one of the most common health issues that dogs experience. In fact, 14% of dogs will have a bacterial UTI during their lifetime3. Common pathogens that can lead to a bacterial UTI include:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Staphylococcus
  • Proteus
  • Streptococcus
  • Klebsiella
  • Pseudomonas spp

Common bacterial pathogens associated with UTIs

Symptoms

In many cases, dogs are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t demonstrate any symptoms.4 This makes it difficult for pet parents to identify a UTI in their dogs, and it may only be discovered accidentally during a routine check-up at the vet’s office.

However, if your dog is symptomatic instead, one of the most notable warning signs is a change in their urination habits. For example, they may need to alleviate themselves more than normal or start urinating inside of your home or their crate. They may also only urinate a little amount every time.

Possible signs of UTI in dogs

To help you identify a urinary tract infection and stop it in its tracks, here are a few common signs of a UTI in dogs5:

  • Bloody and/or cloudy urine
  • Small, frequent urination
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Straining or whimpering during urination
  • Accidents in the house
  • Needing to be let outside more frequently
  • Licking around the urinary open
  • Increased thirst, increased water consumption

If your dog is symptomatic and experiencing severe symptoms, including bloody urine or is unable to urinate, seek treatment right away.

Causes

While urinary tract infections mostly develop due to bacteria from the skin or GI tract, certain conditions can also be what causes UTI in dogs6, including:

  • Stones, crystals, or debris entering the urinary tract system
  • Infection
  • Prostate disease
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Toxic substances
  • Stress
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Spinal cord abnormalities
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder disease
  • Diabetes

Other significant factors can also increase your dog’s risk of getting a UTI7, such as:

  • Being female—While male dogs can also get a UTI, female dogs are more likely to develop one. This is because male dogs have a longer urethra, so bacteria takes longer to travel up to the bladder.
  • Having health problems—Dogs with certain health ailments, like kidney disease, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease, will experience UTIs at a higher rate.
  • Age: UTIs are more common in older dogs but can also occur at any age.

Diagnosis

When you take your dog to the vet for a urinary tract infection, the first tests a vet will conduct is a urinalysis, which means they’ll obtain a urine sample to examine it for the following:

  • Bacteria
  • pH
  • Ketones
  • Blood
  • Crystals
  • Protein

A veterinarian will also ask you a few questions regarding your dog’s health, symptoms, and the duration of their symptoms.

Some diseases, such as bladder cancer, produce similar symptoms to that of a UTI, so it’s essential to take your dog to the vet as soon you notice the warning signs. Doing so can ensure your dog has a swift recovery and reduce the likelihood of further complications. Getting diagnosed can also determine the root of your pet’s urinary problem and ensure they get treatment.

Treatment

If your dog has a UTI, a veterinarian will prescribe one round of antibiotics to be used for a week to ten days to get rid of the infection. Pain medication may also be given to make the recovery process more manageable. It’s vital to follow the care instructions outlined by your vet and administer all of the prescribed medication even if symptoms have subsided unless stated otherwise. Not doing so can result in the infection coming back.

Make sure to increase your dog’s water intake for the duration of their treatment to help flush out bacteria. Your vet may also request that you schedule a follow-up appointment to verify the infection is gone. If it doesn’t resolve with the help of antibiotics, further work up will be necessary, including a urine culture, x-ray, abdominal ultrasound, blood work, and so on.

Keep in mind that repetitive UTIs can indicate a more serious underlying condition, so it’s important to get them checked by a veterinarian promptly and learn how to treat a UTI in dogs.

Prevention

While there’s no foolproof way to prevent your dog from getting a urinary tract infection, there are many steps you can take to minimize their risk. Here are a few ways that you can reduce the likelihood of UTI in dogs:

  • Change their diet—Your vet may recommend changing your dog’s diet to alter the pH of their urine and make it harder for bacteria to colonize. It can also hinder the formation of stones that lead to UTIs.
  • Give prescription medication—Certain medications will target the urethral sphincter and tighten it to prevent frequent urination, allowing dogs to have more control.
  • Provide fresh water—Ensuring your dog has plenty of clean water to drink can help dilute their urine and flush out bacteria.
  • Manage and treat underlying conditions—Underlying health conditions, such as diabetes in dogs, Cushing’s disease, or stones, can lead to recurrent urinary tract infections. A veterinarian can assist you in finding the best treatment for your dog.
  • Visit the vet for routine wellness check-ups—As mentioned, some dogs won’t present symptoms of a UTI. Getting your dog checked routinely can uncover bacteria or other health ailments that cause a UTI before any issues arise.
  • Let them urinate often—Make sure that you’re providing your dog bathroom breaks often and not making them hold it in for long periods of time. When dogs don’t urinate regularly it can cause bacteria to sit in the bladder and colonize for more hours.

If you’re concerned about your dog developing a urinary tract infection, speak with your veterinarian to develop a game plan that’ll reduce their risk.

UTI In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

A UTI in dogs can be overwhelming for both pet parents and their furry companions. For that reason, we’ve answered a few frequently asked questions about this subject below.

How can I tell if my dog has a UTI?

Some common signs that indicate your dog has a UTI include:

  • Urinating small amounts frequently
  • Accidents in the house
  • Bloody and/or cloudy urine
  • Crying or straining during urination
  • Licking around the genitals
  • Increased water consumption

If your dog is symptomatic, it can be very easy to tell when your pet has a UTI. However, dogs don’t always present symptoms. Consistent checkups with your veterinarian can help your vet catch conditions like UTIs early.

Will a dog UTI resolve on its own?

Unfortunately, a UTI won’t resolve on its own or with natural, at-home remedies. The only way to get rid of a bacterial UTI is with antibiotics. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to urinary tract dysfunction, urolithiasis, prostatitis, infertility, septicemia, pyelonephritis with scarring, and kidney failure.8 The infection may also spread to the prostate glands of intact male dogs.

Are some dogs predisposed to UTIs?

Yes, some dogs are more at risk of developing a UTI, such as:

  • Dogs that are seven years or older
  • Female dogs
  • Dogs with certain health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, and bladder stones

Keep in mind that all dogs can have a UTI, regardless of age, breed, size, health, or sex.

What should you do if you think your dog has a UTI?

If you suspect your dog has a UTI, make an appointment with your vet to start treatment right away. A vet can determine whether they have a urinary tract infection or not and prescribe the appropriate treatment. They can also establish if an underlying condition caused the infection.

Final Notes

Learning the warning signs of a UTI ensures your dog gets the treatment they need quickly, allowing them to get back to their life. While it can be scary, taking the necessary steps can help your dog feel better. You can also implement lifestyle changes to minimize their risk, such as increasing their water intake and having routine checkups with their vet.

At Dutch, we believe your dog should be able to enjoy life to the fullest without treatable chronic conditions weighing them down. Use our telemedicine for pets to schedule a quick and easy virtual appointment with a licensed veterinarian for canine anxiety and allergy support today.

References

  1. Sanderson, Sherry Lynn. “The Urinary System of Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders-of-dogs/the-urinary-system-of-dogs.

  2. Dowling, Patricia M. “Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/pharmacology/systemic-pharmacotherapeutics-of-the-urinary-system/bacterial-urinary-tract-infections?query=uti.

  3. Dowling, Patricia M. “Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections.”

  4. Dowling, Patricia M. “Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections.”

  5. Burke, Anna. “Does Your Dog Have UTI Symptoms or Something Worse?” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 11 Nov. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/noticing-dog-uti-symptoms-could-be-something-more/.

  6. “Common Urological Ailments.” PennVet.com, https://www.vet.upenn.edu/veterinary-hospitals/ryan-veterinary-hospital/services/advanced-urinary-care/urinary-care-services/common-urological-ailments. 

  7. Burke, Anna. “Does Your Dog Have UTI Symptoms or Something Worse?”

  8. Dowling, Patricia M. “Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections.”