Causes of Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Urinary tract infections in dogs are fairly common. They can occur when bacteria make their way into the bladder via the urethra, form a colony, and cause an infection. Here's what you should know about urinary tract infections in dogs, their symptoms and their treatment.

Causes of Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter your dog's bladder through the urethra. The interior of the bladder is sterile, meaning that no bacteria typically reside there. In addition, the natural pH balance of your dog's urine makes the bladder an inhospitable environment for the growth of bacteria. Typically, when your dog produces adequate amounts of urine and his urinary tract is working effectively, any bacteria that find their way into the bladder will be flushed back out again during the process of urination, and your dog will remain infection-free.

Sometimes bacteria do manage to take hold and colonize the inside of the bladder, resulting in urinary tract infection. Bladder infection is most common in incontinent dogs. Incontinence weakens your dog's bladder sphincter muscles, so that he's unable to hold urine in his bladder. This means that the urethra remains somewhat open and more vulnerable to penetration by bacteria.

Bladder stones can also contribute to urinary tract infection in dogs, since they can irritate the inside of the bladder. They can also interfere with urinary function, allowing bacteria to creep into the bladder. Bladder stones can impair your dog's ability to expel urine. When urine isn't expelled regularly, bacteria can creep more easily into the bladder.

For the same reason, dogs that don't drink enough water may be more likely to develop bladder infections. That's because they don't urinate as often as they should, and therefore may not always expel bacteria from the urethra before they can reach the bladder. Female dogs and intact male dogs are at the highest risk for bladder infection. They rarely affect neutered male dogs.

Symptoms of Canine Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infection symptoms in dogs occur due to inflammation of the urinary tract. Symptoms include:

  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Unacceptable urination or "accidents"
  • Leakage of urine
  • Frequent licking of the genital area
  • Unusual or foul urine odor

Diagnosing and Treating Canine UTI

Your vet can diagnose canine bladder infection via urinalysis. Treatment is straightforward and involves the use of antibiotics. Symptoms should begin to improve within days, and all but the most stubborn of infections are resolved within two weeks. Your vet may want to take an additional urine sample after your dog has finished his course of treatment, just to make sure the infection is really gone.

Preventing Bladder Infections in Dogs

You can prevent most urinary tract infections in dogs by making sure that your dog drinks plenty of water and urinates often. Urination expels bacteria from the urethra before they can make it into the bladder. If your dog has any urinary issues, such as incontinence or bladder stones, managing these conditions can help prevent bladder infection.