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Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs: Recognise the Signs

Humans know all too well the pain and discomfort of a urinary tract infection (UTI), but it’s not so easy for our pets to let us know when they are experiencing pain. Bacterial infections are quite common in animals, and some dogs are more prone to UTIs than others. With urinary tract health being critical to your dog’s overall health and wellbeing, it is important pet owners monitor their dog’s urination habits closely to ensure any change in behaviour is recognised and addressed as quickly as possible.

Here are five things you need to know about managing urinary tract health in dogs.

1. Some dogs are more prone to UTIs than others

Although all dogs can have challenges with their urinary health at any age, there are a number of factors that make certain dogs more susceptible to UTIs. Dogs with increased risk factors include:
  • Female dogs (because they have a short urethra, it’s easier for bacteria to enter through the urethral opening)
  • Immuno-suppressed dogs
  • Dogs with spinal cord disease
  • Dogs with morbid obesity
  • Diabetic dogs
  • Senior dogs, especially females
  • Dogs who have bladder stones are more prone to recurrent UTIs

2. What causes UTIs in dogs?

The function of a dog's urinary system – which includes the kidneys and bladder – is to process and remove waste products from the body. Any impediment to the healthy functioning of this system can impact the overall health and wellbeing of your dog.

Many UTIs in dogs are caused by bacteria entering the urethral opening, travelling up to the bladder then onto the kidneys via the ureters. The urinary tract is inflamed by these bacteria which can lead to irritation and infection and, in some dogs, bladder stones. Whilst a UTI is unpleasant enough in itself, the symptoms can also be a sign of something more serious including kidney disease, cancer or poisoning.

Golden Retriever on beach standing in water

3. How can I tell if my dog has developed a UTI or bladder health challenge?

If only animals could talk! It is not always easy to know if your dog is experiencing pain, especially for a UTI. If you monitor your dog’s urination patterns closely, any change in habits might be more apparent, but there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for:

  • Bloody and/or cloudy urine
  • Straining or whimpering during urination
  • Urine with strong odour
  • Accidents in the house when your dog has previously demonstrated good behaviour
  • Frequently urinating small amounts, with your dog wanting to be let outside more often
  • Licking around the urinary opening
  • Excessive thirst
  • Appetite change including weight loss
  • Lethargy, fever or vomiting

4. What should I do if I suspect my dog has a UTI?

UTIs can be just as painful for animals as they are for humans, so it’s important you visit your vet as soon as possible for your dog’s assessment and treatment. In addition to worsening symptoms, any delay in treatment can lead to a spread of infection to the kidneys, or perhaps the early detection of a more serious underlying health condition.

Treatment for UTIs can include antibiotics and pain management. Dietary modification may also be recommended to help prevent formation of stones and reduce inflammation that can lead to recurring UTIs. Surgery may also be required in circumstances where large urinary stones persist despite exhausting other treatment options.

Golden Retriever running into water at beach

5. What can I do to proactively support my dog’s urinary tract health?

Vets and many pet owners recognise the benefit of focussing on the maintenance of urinary tract health to help avoid the incidence of UTIs, thereby limiting use of antibiotics and helping avoid development of antibiotic resistance. Probiotics can be beneficial in supporting digestive and immune system function, helping to improve the microbial intestinal balance in dogs. Cranberry also provides a rich, natural source of Vitamin C which protects against free radical damage and helps prevent the attachment of bacteria to the urinary tract wall. ZamiPet Urinary Support is a great tasting, breakable chew, specially formulated with a powdered form of the whole Cranberry fruit. It also contains Hyaluronic Acid to help enhance the GAG (glycosaminoglycan) layer, which plays a role in protecting the urinary tract wall. Hyaluronic Acid also helps reduce the attachment of bacteria along the urinary tract.

Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.