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Bladder Infections in Dogs: Top Causes & How to Treat

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3d rendered illustration of a dogs bladder

Key points 

  • Bladder infections are the most common type of urinary tract infection in dogs, and are typically caused by bacteria entering the lower urinary tract and making their way to the bladder.
  • All ages and breeds of dogs can develop bladder infections, however, they are most common in females. 
  • Common clinical signs of bladder infections include frequently urinating small amounts, urinary accidents in the house, and licking the genitals. 
  • Bladder infections are painful and require prompt veterinary attention to rule out other causes and treat the infection. Luckily, simple bladder infections generally resolve promptly with antibiotics. 
  • There are several underlying disease processes that can predispose dogs to develop bladder infections.
  • More complex cases will require additional testing and treatments to address the underlying cause. 

What are bladder infections? 

A bladder infection is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It is normally caused when bacteria enters the urethra and makes its way to the bladder, where it grows and reproduces. Any breed and age of dog may experience a bladder infection, however, they are more common in female dogs. Simple bladder infections generally resolve with appropriate antibiotic therapy. However, if a dog continues to develop chronic or recurrent bladder infections, there may be an underlying medical issue at play, such as bladder stones or diabetes. 

Signs of bladder infection in dogs

Symptoms of bladder infection in dogs include: 

  • Frequently urinating small amounts
  • Urinary accidents in a previously housetrained dog
  • Licking at genitals
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Pain while urinating 
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Bladder infections may also be asymptomatic 

Other conditions, such as bladder stones, cystitis, and cancer, can cause similar signs, which is why it is so important to see your vet for testing and appropriate treatment. 

How serious are bladder infections in dogs?

Just like in people, bladder infections are painful, so it is important to see your vet as soon as possible. They will perform testing to confirm a bladder infection (and rule out other possible issues), and likely prescribe antibiotics. If left untreated, bacteria in the bladder can continue to spread up the urinary tract to the kidneys, leading to a potentially life-threatening infection (pyelonephritis) and kidney failure. It’s also important to note that other more serious conditions, such as bladder stones and bladder cancer, can cause similar symptoms. However, if treated appropriately with antibiotics, most simple bladder infections will resolve promptly. 

Why did my dog get a bladder infection? Top causes

1. Bacterial UTI

Most UTIs occur as the result of bacteria (from the external genitalia or environment) entering the lower urinary tract and making their way to the bladder, where they can grow and reproduce. The most common bacteria is E Coli, however, many other types of bacteria can also be involved. 

2. Bladder stones

Bladder stones and UTIs in dogs can be closely related – a UTI can cause bladder stones, and bladder stones can cause a UTI. Certain types of bacteria, such as Staphylococcal and Proteus, produce an enzyme called urease which is involved in a chemical reaction leading to the production of struvite stones. Depending on the type of bladder stones present, they may be treated with a prescription diet and/or surgical removal. 

3. Endocrine diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s Disease

One of the symptoms of diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s Disease in dogs is increased water intake and urination (known as polyurina/polydipsia). These conditions also predispose dogs to develop secondary urinary tract infections. Dilute urine promotes UTIs because the urine is less toxic to bacteria. Diabetic animals also often have glucose (sugar) in their urine, which further attracts bacteria. 

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4. Incontinence 

Urinary incontinence can occur for a variety of reasons, often in older female dogs, and leads to leaking of urine. It can predispose a dog to develop bladder infections, and bladder infections can also make the symptoms of incontinence more pronounced. 

5. Recessed or hooded vulva

Abnormal anatomy of the vulva can predispose dogs to bladder infections. Urine, debris, and bacteria can become easily trapped around the skin folds around the vulva, leading to skin infections and urinary tract infections. In dogs who are severerly affected, a surgical procedure may be recommended. 

6. Secondary to certain medications

Dogs taking steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs, such as prednisone or chemotherapy, are more likely to develop UTIs and other types of infections. 

7. Kidney disease 

Kidney disease can be caused by a variety of factors, and can also be closely connected with UTIs in dogs. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment and management will vary greatly. 

8. Prostate disease 

The prostate is located at the neck of the bladder in male dogs. Due to close proximity, bacteria may spread between them, leading to prostatitis. 

9. Cancer 

Bladder tumors can cause similar signs as bladder infections, however, they will not respond to antibiotic therapy. Some dogs may also have UTI in conjunction with bladder cancer. 

How to care at home for a dog with a bladder infection

Bladder infections require veterinary treatment with antibiotics to resolve. While you are waiting for veterinary care, be sure to let your dog out frequently to urinate, clean up any accidents with an enzymatic cleanser, and be sure they have access to fresh drinking water. 

How do vets diagnose bladder infections?

Bladder infections are generally diagnosed on a urinalysis and/or urine culture. Imaging is helpful in more complex cases to look for bladder stones. Bloodwork may also be recommended in some cases to look for underlying disease or complicating factors. 

1. Urinalysis

A urinalysis provides basic information about the urine, including the concentration, pH, presence of protein, glucose, blood, and bilirubin, etc.. It also includes a visual inspection of the urine under the microscope to look for bacteria, red and white blood cells, or other abnormalities. If possible, your veterinarian will try to collect a urine sample directly from your dog’s bladder, a quick procedure known as a cystocentesis. If a free-catch urine sample is used, it may be contaminated with bacteria from the environment or external genitalia. The following findings may indicate the presence of a UTI or the need for additional testing: 

  • White blood cells in the urine
  • Red blood cells in the urine
  • Bacteria in the urine
  • Protein in the urine
  • Low specific gravity (dilute urine) 

2. Urine culture 

If a UTI is suspected on routine urinalysis, a urine culture will often be recommended. This aims to grow the type of bacteria present and determine which antibiotics it is susceptible to. 

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

3. Imaging

X-rays are often recommended to look for bladder stones. There are several different types of bladder stones, and not all of them show up on radiographs. An ultrasound of the bladder may also be recommended in some cases to look for abnormalities such as thickened bladder wall, cystitis, masses within the bladder, or any other abnormalities that could be contributing to urinary issues. 

4. Bloodwork

Bloodwork is an excellent way to evaluate a dog’s overall systemic health and major organ function. In conjunction with a urinalysis, it will provide information about how well the kidneys are functioning, as well as the presence of other conditions such as diabetes. If your vet is suspicious of another underlying condition, such as Cushing’s Disease, they may recommend specific blood tests. 

How do vets treat bladder infections? 

Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for bladder infections. In many cases, a simple UTI will fully resolve after antibiotic therapy. However, some cases may be more complicated and require additional testing and treatments. If there is an underlying issue present, such as bladder stones or diabetes, this must be addressed in order to prevent recurrent and chronic UTIs. 


Your vet will consider many factors when deciding which antibiotic to prescribe your dog. In simple cases or for dogs who have not had multiple urinary tract infections in the past, your vet may choose something like Clavamox, which is generally effective against UTIs. Ideally, antibiotics will be chosen based on culture and sensitivity. Antibiotics are often given for 10-14 days, however, will be determined by your veterinarian. They may recommend rechecking a urinalysis and/or urine culture after treatment to make sure that the infection has fully resolved. 

You should notice improvement in clinical signs within the first few days of treatment, however, it is important to continue giving the antibiotics as prescribed by your vet to help prevent antibiotic resistance. 

Pain medications

As we know, urinary tract infections can be painful, so your vet may prescribe pain medications or anti-inflammatories to help your pooch feel more comfortable during treatment. 

Diet and supplements

Depending on the underlying cause and your dog’s medical history, your vet may recommend a prescription urinary diet and/or other supplements. Diet therapy can be used to dissolve and prevent certain types of bladder stones, as well as alter the pH and concentration of the urine to help prevent recurrence of urinary issues. 

Treatment underlying conditions 

Additional treatment recommendations will depend on the underlying cause. For example, bladder stones or recessed vulva may require surgical management, while diabetes can generally be managed with insulin. 

How to prevent bladder infections from recurring

For first-time bladder infections, often no additional care is needed. Depending on the cause of your dog’s bladder infection and if your dog is prone to recurrent UTIs, your vet may recommend at-home care such as feeding a urinary diet and/or supplements. 

Related post: Bladder Stone Surgery In Dogs.


  • Dr. Liza Cahn, Veterinarian

    Dr. Liza Cahn is a veterinarian who graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Dr. Cahn has five years of experience working as a veterinarian in small animal practice in Washington and California. She loved working with dogs and cats and educating owners on all aspects of veterinary medicine, especially animal behavior and dermatology. She has since transitioned to remote work to be able to spend more time at home with her husband, two young kids, and two cats, and is thrilled to be able to combine her love for veterinary medicine and passion for writing. Dr. Cahn has an active veterinary license in Washington State.

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