A white French bulldog with brown spots wearing a small brown collar sits on the floor at a vet's office.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are relatively common in dogs, but should be recognized and treated appropriately. Let’s go over some key concepts about UTIs and how to recognize them!
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection within the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are caused by the presence of bacteria. A UTI in a puppy is similar to that of a UTI in humans. UTIs are relatively common and typically require treatment, so if you think your puppy may have a UTI, definitely reach out to your veterinarian to get your pup checked out.
How does a puppy get a urinary tract infection?
As mentioned above, UTIs are caused by the presence of bacteria in the urinary system. The causes of a UTI are not limited to but may include:
- Abnormal conformation: for instance, if your puppy has genitalia that differs from the normal such as a hooded vulva (extra skin around their vulva or skin that folds over the vulva), then that makes them more prone to bacteria entering collecting around their vulva, making it more likely that it will get into their urinary tract.
- Abnormal urinary tract: if your puppy has a congenital abnormality to the structure of their urinary tract, then that will predispose them to infection, but most puppies are born perfectly healthy!
- Weakened immune system: if your puppy’s immune system isn’t functioning normally, then that puts them at an increased risk of infection.
- Diarrhea: if your puppy has diarrhea, their feces can often end up on their genitals, especially if they are female, which means that the bacteria from the feces may get into their urinary tract.
What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection in puppies?
There are a variety of symptoms that your puppy may experience when they have a UTI, but some pups may not experience any symptoms at all. It depends on the pup! The symptoms they may experience include but are not limited to:
- Straining to urinate: this is when they posture to urinate multiple times, sometimes for an extended period of time, because the irritation of the UTI can make them feel like they need to urinate when they don’t actually need to.
- Blood in urine: this is definitely not seen in every pup with a UTI but is a symptom to look out for.
- Increased frequency: they may be asking you to go outside more often or having accidents in the house.
- Decreased volume of urine: you may notice that their pees are much shorter than usual.
- Licking their genitals: due to the irritation caused by the infection, they will often lick their genitals in hopes of getting relief from the irritation.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pup, be sure to take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. While this isn’t necessarily an emergency, it is important to consider that UTIs are very uncomfortable, and can lead to more serious infections/complications.
A young hound puppy sits on an exam table covered by a puppy pad. A vet wearing teal scrubs and white gloves uses a stethoscope to listen to the puppy.
How does a veterinarian diagnose a UTI?
In order to find out of your puppy has a urinary tract infection (UTI), you must bring them to their veterinarian for an appointment. If you can bring a sample of your pup’s pee to the appointment, that’s even better! But before collecting your pet’s urine sample, here are some considerations:
- Collect the urine just before your dog’s appointment so that it is a fresh sample.
- If you have collected a sample, but can’t get it to your veterinarian in a timely fashion, be sure to refrigerate it in the meantime.
- Use any clean dish to collect their urine.
- If your pet is low to the ground, or you don’t want to have to bend over as much to collect the sample, then use a soup ladle, it works like a charm!
Once you get to the veterinarian, they will perform a physical exam and will run a urine analysis (commonly called a urinalysis or U/A). This analysis will look for:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells
It will also assess the pH and specific gravity of the urine as well. Sometimes, your veterinarian may recommend sending the urine for further testing, which is usually referred to as a culture and sensitivity. This test allows for your veterinarian to choose the ideal antibiotic for your pet’s infection. This helps to clear the infection and helps reduce antibiotic resistance in both humans and pets!
How do you treat a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
If your puppy is diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, then they will require antibiotics for a predetermined length of time. Unfortunately, there are currently not any home remedies for clearing urinary tract infections. Similar to humans, some dogs experience great discomfort when they have a UTI, so pain medication may be prescribed to provide them with comfort during their recovery. Once your pet has completed their course of antibiotics, your veterinarian will likely recommend rechecking the urine to confirm that the infection has cleared. If the infection persists than your veterinarian may pursue further investigation to determine why it has not resolved.
It is important to note that if your veterinarian prescribes antibiotics, your pet must finish the entire course, even if you feel like their symptoms have resolved. If you stop the antibiotics too early, then the infection will “return” (although it never fully left!), causing clinical signs once again. BUT if your pet experiences any vomiting, diarrhea, or inappetence while on their antibiotics, please call your veterinarian.
A French bulldog puppy and its owner cuddle together on a white bed.
Are there any long-term effects of having an untreated urinary tract infection?
Yes! If a urinary tract infection is left untreated then your pup will be at risk of further health issues. These issues may include but are not limited to;
- Kidney infection
- Kidney stones
- Urinary bladder stones
- Blockage in the urinary tract
How can a UTI be prevented?
To try to reduce the risk of your pup contracting a urinary tract infection, be sure to have fresh water available to them at all times, and bathe them regularly! A healthy diet is always important, but does not necessarily prevent urinary tract infections; your vet may recommend a urinary diet if your pet has a history of developing bladder stones- as diets can help with certain types of stones.
Jennifer Sawyer, Fourth Year Veterinary Student at Ontario Veterinary College. Jenny, or @vetstudentjenny on Instagram, has been passionate about the veterinary industry for over a decade.
For more information about keeping your puppy healthy, check out these articles: