Urinary tract infections are not pleasant, whether you have two legs or four. When the urinary tract (the bladder, kidneys, or ureters between the two) are host to bacteria, no one is happy. Keep reading to learn about UTIs in dogs and what we can do.

Signs of Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Sometimes, despite our body’s best efforts, bacteria can make its way up the urethra into the bladder. Most urinary tract infections in dogs never move beyond the bladder, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t bad news. While UTIs rarely result in systemic infection and remain local, they can cause irritation and discomfort.

Common signs of a urinary tract infection in dogs include:

  • Increased water intake
  • Frequent urination
  • Urinating small amounts
  • Blood in the urine
  • Incontinence or loss of housetraining
  • Urgency to urinate

If you think that your pet might have a urinary tract infection, your veterinarian will check a urine sample for signs of trouble. Many times, he or she will recommend culturing the urine. What that means is that the veterinarian collects a sterile urine sample in which to grow any bacteria that are present. This culture allows us to identify the type of bacterial infection and to determine which antibiotics will be most effective.

Treating Doggy UTIs

Once a urinary tract infection is detected, it is important that it be treated properly. Typically, pets will be treated for about 14 days with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. This usually results in the patient feeling better within the first few days. It is extremely important, though, to finish the antibiotic course to prevent the problem from recurring.

If a patient is not responding to treatment as expected, or if he or she has had many infections in a short period of time, further testing may be recommended. This is in order to identify any complicating causes such as endocrine problems, bladder stones, tumors, or congenital problems.

A Word about Pyelonephritis

Most urinary tract infections in dogs are easily treated and do not cause any serious problems. A very aggressive or long-standing infection, however, can result in pyelonephritis. This occurs when a bladder infection rises through the ureters up into the kidneys. Infection in the kidneys results in serious problems that can include fever, weight loss, depression, and loss of appetite. Untreated, pyelonephritis can lead to kidney failure.

If your veterinarian suspects kidney infection, it may trigger a referral to Oakland Veterinary Referral Services for an ultrasound (to confirm the diagnosis) or treatment, or you may need to come to our emergency room if the infection is more advanced. A distinctly unpleasant smell to your pet’s urine could signal the presence of pyelonephritis.

Urinary tract infections are no fun for anyone. If your dog is displaying symptoms suggestive of a UTI, please make arrangements to have him or her seen right away. Delaying treatment not only leads to unnecessary discomfort and accidents in your home, but can also lead to pyelonephritis–a great risk to your pet’s health and a more complicated, costly problem to treat.