Urinary Tract Infections (UTI's) in dogs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are fairly common in dogs. Dogs with UTIs generally attempt to urinate very frequently whenever they go outside. They also may strain to urinate, or cry out or whine when urinating if it is painful. Sometimes you might even see blood in their urine. Dripping urine, or frequent licking of the genitals, may also signal that a UTI is present, although not a definitive sign.
A break in house training is a red flag that something is wrong in the bladder. If this should happen to your previous well-mannered dog, a UTI may be to blame as can other diseases.
Generally, a UTI occurs when bacteria travels up the urethra and into the bladder. Urine in the bladder is supposed to be sterile, but once bacteria find their way there, they can grow and reproduce, causing a UTI. Additionally, some dogs will develop bladder stones in conjunction with their UTI as some these bacteria produce enzymes which can change the pH of the urine and cause certain salts to crystallize.
We usually perform an urinalysis to start. The urinalysis can reveal so much important information about the urine when a UTI is suspected.
We measure specific gravity, glucose, pH and protein levels in urine. The urine specimen is also placed into a centrifuge and spun down for microscopy. What is seen under the microscope’s magnification can lead to the next steps of assessing the dog’s urinary tract disease. For example, if there are crystals in the urine, we may recommend radiographs (X-rays) or an ultrasound of the abdomen in order to look for bladder stones.
All urinary tract infections are NOT created equal! Even though the most common organism to cause UTIs in dogs is Escherichia coli (the bacteria found in feces), there are several other organisms that may be involved. The only way to identify which specific bacteria is to blame, is to grow it in a laboratory. At the same time, the lab can also test which antibiotic is best suited to treat the infection.
Often, a veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic that is among the most commonly used for treating UTIs in order to try to provide immediate relief to the dog. Pain medication may also be prescribed (UTIs can be uncomfortable), and a diet change may be recommended.
Older female dogs, and dogs with diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes), more commonly develop UTIs than the general population. Dogs who have bladder stones are also more prone to recurrent UTIs. This highlights the importance of getting a complete diagnosis whenever there is evidence of disease in the urinary tract. Bladder stones must be removed or dissolved in order to restore bladder health.
You will also be given tips on how to prevent further infection. Often, a diet change may be recommended. Sometimes medications or supplements may be prescribed that can help to change the pH of the urine, making it harder for an infection to take hold. Probiotics can also be helpful.