Mayo Clinic Minute: Treating Urinary Tract Infections
How to Treat Urinary Tract Problems in Dogs
The urinary tract in dogs consists of several structures: kidneys, ureters (skinny tubes connecting kidneys to bladder), bladder, and urethra (tube carrying urine out of the body).If any of these structures stop functioning normally, your dog may experience urinary tract problems, including infections, stones, and kidney disease. Urinary tract problems require veterinary treatment, so take your dog to your vet as soon as you notice changes in his urination.
Recognizing Urinary Tract Problems in Your Dog
Observe your dog’s urination behavior.Urination problems often accompany urinary tract problems. Prolonged straining is a common urination problem: your dog will stay in a urinating position for a long time, yet produce only a little bit of urine.Straining would be painful, so you may hear whining or whimpering as he tries to urinate.
- If your dog is unable to fully empty his bladder, he would feel the urge to urinate frequently.
- Frequent urination can also occur with kidney disease, which causes a dog to drink more water.
- Weak bladder muscles can cause frequent urination, particularly in large breed female dogs. The sphincter muscle that keeps urine from entering the urethra can weaken, allowing urine to leak out.
- If your dog is urinating more frequently, he may start urinating in new places, increasing the likelihood of urinary accidents.
Look at your dog’s urine.When your dog urinates, try to take a look at it. Several types of urinary tract problems, including lower urinary tract infections (UTI) and bladder cancer, cause blood to be present in the urine. The urine will look red or pink.
- Bloody urine can also be found with bladder stones.The stones rub against and damage the bladder wall, causing bleeding.
- Cloudy urine indicates a bacterial infection.
Monitor your dog’s water intake.Increased water intake is a common symptom of kidney disease in dogs. If you are filling up your dog’s water bowl more than usual, he may have kidney disease.Other health conditions, such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease, can also cause a dog to drink more water. Your vet would be able to determine the cause of increased water intake.
- Cushing's disease occurs when the adrenal glands produce abnormally high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.
Observe general changes in behavior.A urinary tract problem can make your dog feel very uncomfortable. Over time, you may notice his behavior changing. For example, with kidney disease, your dog may become less playful and want to sleep more. He also may become very tired.
- With a lower UTI, some dogs won’t show any signs of sickness or changes in behavior.Most dogs, however, will show obvious signs of urinary tract problems.
Take your dog to your vet.When you notice the signs of a urinary tract problem in your dog, take him to your vet as soon as you can. Delaying treatment of a urinary tract problem can have serious consequences. For example, a bladder infection can travel up to the kidneys and spread to other organs, causing serious illness.In addition, bladder stones in male dogs can block the urethra, which can damage the kidneys and even be fatal.
- Your vet will first perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your dog’s history, including when the urinary problems started. Based on the physical exam and history, your vet will decide which other diagnostic tests to perform.
- If your dog has large bladder stones, your vet might be able to feel them when touching your dog’s bladder. An x-ray or ultrasound would also help diagnose stones.
- Examples of diagnostic tests include blood work, urine tests, and x-rays. Urine cultures, which are used to identify bacteria, are very important for diagnosing UTIs.
- A surgical biopsy is the most definitive way to diagnose bladder cancer. However, less invasive diagnostic methods, like ultrasound or x-rays, are also effective.
Treating Your Dog’s Urinary Tract Problems
Discuss treatment options with your vet.Because a number of conditions can cause urinary tract problems, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment. Based on the results of the physical exam and diagnostic tests, your vet will recommend a treatment plan for your dog. Treatment may involve permanent lifestyle changes, so make sure you understand all aspects of your dog’s treatment plan.
Administer all medications as prescribed.This is especially important for lower UTIs. Even if your dog shows early improvement, complete the full treatment course to ensure all bacteria are killed.Stopping the treatment course early could cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to populate your dog’s lower urinary tract.
- Antibiotic treatment is also important if your dog has struvite bladder stones, one of the common types of bladder stones in dogs. Struvite stones usually form when there is a bacterial bladder infection, so antibiotic treatment is important to prevent more struvite stone formation.
- If your dog has chronic UTIs, and the underlying cause is unknown or can’t be corrected, your vet may put your dog on low-dose, long-term antibiotic therapy.
- Chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure. If your dog’s kidney disease is advanced, your vet will probably prescribe a medication to decrease and control your dog’s blood pressure.
- If your dog has a weak bladder sphincter muscle, your vet will prescribe a medication to strengthen that muscle.
Monitor your dog for drug reactions.Your dog may not respond well to the medications. For example, some dogs can develop allergic reactions to antibiotics.ACE inhibitors, which lower blood pressure, can cause digestive upset and weakness.Piroxicam, an anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat bladder tumors, can cause digestive problems and high blood pressure.
- If your dog has any negative reactions to his treatment, take him to your vet as soon as possible. Your vet may need to reduce the dosage or prescribe a different medication.
Consider advanced methods of bladder stone removal.Stones can form anywhere in the urinary tract system, but form in the bladder nearly 90% of the time. If the stones are too large to pass through your dog’s urethra, or there are a lot of them, your vet will need to remove them surgically. During the surgery, your vet will take a urine sample for further analysis. Following surgery, they will have also the stones analyzed.
- Your vet will devise another treatment plan based on the results of the urinalysis and stone analysis.
- Calcium oxalate stones, the other common type of canine bladder stones, must be removed surgically.
- Be mindful that surgical removal of bladder stones isnotnecessarily curative. Further treatment would be needed to keep the stones from reforming.
- Urohydropropulsion, during which a catheter is inserted into the bladder to flush out the stones, is useful when the stones are small and can pass through the urethra. This process requires either heavy sedation or general anesthesia.
Feed your dog a specialized diet.Dietary management plays an important role in treating and managing certain urinary tract problems. For example, specialized diets are available to dissolve bladder stones; other diets can prevent their formation. Usually, a dog will stay on the ‘dissolve stone’ diet for a few months, then switch to a maintenance diet that he will eat for the rest of his life.
- If your dog has kidney disease, he will need a special diet. Kidney diets are dogs are low in sodium, protein and phosphorus, and high in potassium and fatty acids.The diet is specially formulated to protect your dog’s kidneys.
- Increasing your dog’s water intake important if he has a lower UTI.Drinking more water is also helpful for bladder stone treatment.
- Your vet can recommend which diet to feed your dog, and for how long. Do not change your dog’s diet unless your vet tells you to do so.
Allow your vet to administer cancer treatment.Bladder tumors in dogs are usually very difficult to remove surgically. Therefore, non-surgical treatment with chemotherapy and piroxicam is frequently the best choice for bladder tumors. Your vet would administer the chemotherapy and you would give the anti-inflammatory medication at home. If the medicine is not working, your vet may want to perform radiation therapy.
Schedule follow-up visits with your vet.Your vet will want to assess your dog’s improvement and overall health. During follow-up appointments, they will run different tests, depending on the type of urinary tract problem. For example, for a lower UTI, your vet will perform a urine culture to see if any bacteria are remaining in the urine after treatment.With kidney disease, testing your dog’s blood and taking his blood pressure would be important.
- If the urine culture shows bacteria, your vet will perform an antimicrobial susceptibility test.This test measures how well bacteria grows when exposed to different antibiotics.Results will help your vet choose the antibiotic most likely to kill the bacteria in your dog’s urine.
- Imaging studies (ultrasound, x-rays) would help determine if bladder stones are forming again.
- Your vet will recommend a schedule for follow-up appointments.
- With the right antibiotic treatment, dogs with lower UTIs recover very well.If the infection travels up through the urinary system and spreads through the body, though, treatment would become more difficult.
- About 15% of all dogs develop a lower UTI at some point in their lives. These infections are usually caused by normal bacteria on the skin or in the gastrointestinal tract entering the urinary tract and overwhelming its normal defenses.
- Underlying health conditions, like diabetes and Cushing’s disease, can cause urinary tract problems.Treating these conditions should be part of the overall treatment plan.
- Kidney disease is not curable, but is manageable. The goal of management is to keep your dog as healthy as possible, despite the progression of disease.
- Bladder stones can grow up to 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
- Bladder tumors make up only about 2% of all canine cancers.
- Bladder tumors, though rare, are very aggressive. They can spread to other parts of a dog’s body.
- In male dogs, UTIs can spread to the prostate, making it very difficult to fully treat the infection.
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