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Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs (Bladder infection/Cystitis)

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What is a Urinary Tract infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are uncomfortable, sometimes painful infections caused by bacteria, fungi or parasites in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureter, bladder and/or urethra).

What are the symptoms of a Urinary tract infection?

There are a number of symptoms that would indicate your pet has a urinary tract infection:-

  • Increased need to urinate
  • Apparent difficultly urinating (may strain to urinate)
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Urinate in inappropriate places
  • Increased thirst
  • Smelly urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Lethargy
  • High temperature

What are the causes of a Urinary tract infection?

A UTI is most commonly caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract from the outside environment or from the dog’s feaces through cross-infection from the anus. The bacteria will travel up the urethra to the bladder and eventually the kidneys. There are many bacteria that can cause such infections, but the most common are Staphylococcus proteus, Streptococcus, E.Coli, and Chlamydia.

Bladder infections can occur as a secondary complication to other illnesses such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, tumours of the bladder and prostate disease. Bladder stones can also lead to a UTI as the sharp edges of the stones can irritate the walls of the bladder making it easier for an infection to take hold.

Some fungi, algae and parasitic worms can cause UTI’s but these are a lot less common.

What are the risks of a dog getting a urinary tract infection?

Where a dog is rundown or suffering with another underlying illness, their weakened immune system is likely to make them more susceptible to developing a urinary tract infection.   Dogs of all ages and breeds can be affected, however, female dogs are more prone to developing UTI’s due to them having shorter and wider urethras. In most cases, a healthy dog will have an immune system robust enough to defend itself against these bacteria before any infection can take hold.

Diagnosis

Your vet will give your dog a physical examination as well as run a urinalysis. If you suspect a urine infection, prior to the consultation, try to take a fresh urine sample with you.  If you are unable to do so the vet will take a sample via a cystocentesis.  This involves the vet using a needle and syringe to extract the urine through the abdominal wall and bladder.  The presences of a UTI may be obvious to the vet following an initial visual examination of the urine specimen, however, the sample will still be sent for urinalysis where the presence of any bacteria and type of bacteria can be detected. The results will aid the vet in prescribing the correct antibiotics to treat the infection. A blood test is also likely to be taken to test for any predisposing condition or disease such as Cushing’s disease, renal disease, cancer or diabetes.

What treatment is there for a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection will usually be treated with antibiotics.  The results of the urinalysis will direct the vet towards the appropriate antibiotics, or combination of antibiotics, to prescribe depending on the type of bacteria involved.

How to prevent a urinary tract infection?

If you suspect your dog has a UTI it is important to get her checked out by your vet as soon as possible, as an untreated UTI can go on to cause serious health complications and even death.  Early symptoms are often difficult to spot so quite often a UTI is diagnosed when a pet has been taken to their vet for another health issue. It is, therefore, a good idea to take your pet for regular check ups, which include a simple urine test.

High levels of hygine and regularly washing your dog will also reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection.  (Please ensure you use specially formulated dog shampoo to avoid stripping his coat of essential natural oils.)

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