Urinary tract infections in dogs

Yorkshire Terrier dog with a urinary tract infection
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms in both female and male dogs, but how can you treat them, are there any natural or homemade remedies you can use or should see your vet for advice, antibiotics or other treatments?

What causes urinary tract infections in dogs?

Urinary tract infections can be uncomfortable, painful or even dangerous to affected dogs. Most dogs get a UTI when bacteria, or sometimes fungi or viruses, work their way up the urethra (the tube that takes urine out of the body). Dogs may be more likely to get a urinary tract infection if they have:
  • a weakened immune system
  • changes to the shape or anatomy of their urinary tract
  • other illnesses, such as diabetes or bladder stones

Are some dogs more likely to develop a urinary tract infection?

Any dog can develop a urinary tract infection, but some dogs may be more at risk than others. Female dogs tend to get UTIs more often than males, while older dogs seem to be more at risk than younger ones. Dogs with underlying health issues, such as those with bladder stones, diabetes, kidney problems or Cushing's disease, also seem to have an increased risk. Some toy breeds and small terriers have a higher risk of developing bladder stones, which means they may also be more likely to develop urinary tract infections.

Can male dogs get urinary tract infections?

Yes, even though male dogs are less likely to develop a UTI, it’s still possible. Males have a longer urethra than females do, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to travel up it and establish themselves. However, males with certain underlying health issues, such as diabetes, kidney problems or Cushing’s disease, may be more at risk than others.

How can you tell if your dog has a urinary tract infection?

Not all affected dogs have symptoms, but signs of a urinary tract infection can include:
  • going to the toilet more often
  • finding it difficult to wee
  • dripping urine or having accidents in the house
  • seeming to be in pain when they go to the toilet
  • cloudy or bloody wee
  • having strong smelling wee
  • frequently licking around their genitals
  • drinking more often
  • having a temperature
  • seeming tired
  • being sick
It’s important that you contact your vet if you think your dog may have a urinary tract infection. If caught early, these infections can be treated easily, so it’s important that you don’t put off speaking to your vet.
Did you know that dogs don’t have ‘symptoms’?
Technically, the definition of a symptom is a clinical effect that’s been described by the patient. Since dogs can’t describe how they're feeling they actually have ‘clinical effects’ rather than ‘symptoms’. In some of our articles we use ‘symptoms’ because it’s a well understood term and is commonly used by dog owners. It may not be the correct use of the word, but we aim to produce information that’s accessible to all and can be easily found by owners.

Why is my dog suddenly peeing in the house?

If your dog is suddenly having accidents in the house then it could be a sign of stress, behavioural problems or a health issue. Possible health conditions might include urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney problems or Cushing's disease. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, or their behaviour, then you should speak to your vet.

When should I speak to my vet for advice?

If you think your dog has a urinary tract infection then it’s important that you call your local veterinary practice to find out how urgently they need to be seen. Urinary tract infections can be painful and, if left untreated, can get worse quickly, or can develop into something more serious, such as kidney disease.

Dogs protected with Kennel Club Pet Insurance have cover for treatment for urinary tract infections within their policy.*

Why does my dog keep getting a UTI?

Chronic urinary tract infections can happen if your dog’s infection is not fully cleared, or if they are infected with different bacteria. It’s important that you work with your vet to see which type of infection this is and decide the best treatment for your dog. Some dogs may be more prone to getting repeat cases of UTIs, particularly dogs with:
  • kidney problems
  • diabetes
  • bladder stones
  • changes to their urinary tract
  • neurologic disease
  • urinary incontinence

How can I prevent a UTI from happening again?

It’s useful to have a discussion with your vet about how to prevent a UTI from coming back, particularly if your dog suffers from reoccurring UTIs. Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to prevent a UTI, but there are a number of things you can do to help:
  • Make sure your dog is drinking enough. Dehydration may increase the risk of UTIs, so give your dog access to clean water (in a clean bowl).
    • On hot days, try adding ice cubes to a dog’s water to encourage them to drink
    • Make sure you have water and something for them to drink out of when you’re out for long walks, or on walks on warm days
  • Some medications or supplements can help reduce a dog’s risk of developing urinary tract infections. Speak to your vet to see what they recommend
  • Change your dog’s diet. If your dog suffers from reoccurring UTIs, then a prescription diet that is specially formulated to encourage a healthy urinary tract may be of use. Talk to your vet about what diet they’d recommend
  • Keep your dog’s rear end well-groomed to help keep it clean and prevent a build-up of bacteria near their urethra
  • Keep your dog clean, particularly if they’ve been out on muddy walks

What can you give a dog for a urinary tract infection?

If you think your dog has a urinary tract infection then the most important way to help them is to get advice from your vet. Your vet will be able to tell you if your dog needs to be seen, what treatment they need and if there’s anything you can do to help. Signs of a urinary tract infection can be similar to other health issues, such as urinary stones, kidney disease or an inflammation of the bladder, so it’s important your dog is seen by a vet to rule these out.

Can I treat my dog’s UTI at home with natural or home-made remedies?

You may have heard of some people using natural remedies to treat their dog’s urinary tract infection, such as using herbal remedies, cranberry juice, blueberries, apple cider vinegar or just giving them rest. Some of these may work, while others may not, so it’s important that you speak to your vet to find out how your dog’s UTI should be treated. Urinary tract infections can be treated easily, but it’s important that they’re treated quickly and correctly to stop the infection from getting any worse. Treating your dog yourself, without speaking to your vet first, might mean that you delay them getting the veterinary treatment they need.

Can dogs drink cranberry juice for urinary tract infections?

Some people drink cranberry juice to help prevent or treat their own urinary tract infections, but can your dog drink it? A chemical that’s found naturally in cranberries is believed to prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder. The scientific research that’s looked at how effective cranberry juice is at treating human UTIs seems to show mixed results. We may drink cranberry juice for our UTIs, but if you think your dog has a urinary tract infection then it’s important that you speak to your vet to get a correct diagnosis and to find out the best way to treat them.

Are urinary tract infections contagious?

No, urinary tract infections are not contagious and it is extremely unlikely that they will be passed from one dog to another, or to humans or other pets.

Article author

Content provided by Agria Pet Insurance.

* With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you have up to £15,000 of cover available every year towards the cost of vet fees, including for UTI's, taking the worry away from getting your dog back to the best health.

Think your dog may be affected?

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We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information

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