One of the most common reasons that female dogs present to the emergency veterinary hospital where I work is for abnormal changes associated with urination. Unfortunately, female dogs are more predisposed to urinary tract infections than male dogs due to the differences in their urogenital anatomy. Clinical signs of urinary infections are alarming to pet owners, especially when blood is noticed in the urine or their well-behaved dog starts having accidents in the home. Let’s discuss urinary tract infections affecting female dogs in more detail.
Overview of bladder and urinary tract infections in female dogs
Bladder, kidney, and urinary tract infections are common health issues that can affect female dogs. Let’s review the different terminology:
- Bladder Infections or Cystitis: This type of infection affects the bladder and is characterized by inflammation secondary to bacterial infection. Bacteria ascend the urethra from the outside world and reach the bladder, leading to signs of infection.
- Kidney Infections or Pyelonephritis: Pyelonephritis is a more severe infection that affects the kidneys. It can occur as a result of bacteria traveling up the urinary tract from the bladder or a bloodborne spread of infection. This is a life-threatening condition that can lead to serious kidney injury and even death if left untreated.
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): This is an overarching term for an infection within the urinary system. UTIs can affect different parts of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Bacteria are the most common cause of UTIs, although other conditions like uroliths (urinary stones) or cancer can predispose dogs to infections.
Signs and symptoms of these infections in female dogs
The most common clinical signs of urinary infections in female dogs are:
- Increased frequency of urination – called pollakiuria
- Difficulty urinating or straining to urinate – called stanguria
- Blood in the urine – called hematuria
- Urinary accidents in the home
- Frequent licking of the genital area, especially after urination
- Pain or discomfort during urination
- Foul-smelling urine
- Lethargy or decreased activity level
- Fever or increased body temperature – most common with infections of the kidneys
Risk factors of UTIs in female dogs
Female dogs have a much shorter urethra than male dogs, causing them to be more prone to urinary tract infections. This is because it takes less time for bacteria to travel into the bladder from outside the urinary tract. Here is a list of common conditions that can predispose a female dog to urinary infections:
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Urinary stones
- Tumors within the urinary tract or cancers leading to immunosuppression
- Neurologic disease inhibiting proper voiding of urine
- Endocrine or hormonal diseases – i.e. Cushing’s Disease or Diabetes Mellitus
- Use of chronic immunosuppressive agents or corticosteroids
- Urethral catheterization
- Hooded vulvas
- Urinary incontinence
- Congenital urinary abnormalities like ectopic ureters
- Bacterial skin infections around the vulva
- Previous history of urinary tract infection
Diagnosis at the vet
To diagnose urinary infections in female dogs, veterinarians typically request a variety of diagnostic procedures after collecting a detailed medical history and performing a thorough physical examination.
Urinalysis: One of the primary diagnostic tests for UTIs in female dogs is a urinalysis. A urine sample is collected from your dog, ideally via cystocentesis. This is a procedure where a sterile needle is introduced into the bladder to collect urine. The urine is then analyzed to detect the presence of bacteria, white blood cells, red blood cells, crystals, and other abnormalities. This test provides valuable information about the health of the urinary tract and can indicate the presence of infection.
Urine culture: A urine culture is also performed, which involves growing the bacteria from the urine sample in a laboratory to identify the specific type of bacteria causing the infection. A sensitivity test is performed alongside the culture to determine the most effective antibiotics for the treatment of urinary infections.
In some cases, X-rays or ultrasound may be recommended to evaluate the urinary system for abnormalities like bladder stones, tumors, or structural defects. These imaging techniques provide a more detailed view of the urinary tract which can provide information as to why the urinary infection developed in the first place.
Finally, a veterinarian may request to perform bloodwork. Bloodwork is utilized to generate an overall review of your dog’s systemic health, assess for organ or kidney dysfunction, signs of systemic illness, and to screen for hormonal diseases.
Prevention measures for these infections in female dogs
Many urinary tract infections cannot be prevented, but there are some options owners can trial at home to decrease the likelihood of urinary tract infections developing or worsening.
- Encourage Regular Bathroom Breaks: Make sure to take your female dog for frequent bathroom breaks to promote regular emptying of the bladder. This helps prevent stagnant urine that can contribute to bacterial growth and increases the risk of UTIs.
- Avoid Prolonged Urine Retention: Encourage your dog to relieve herself regularly and discourage the habit of holding urine for extended periods. Prolonged urine retention can create a favorable environment for bacterial growth and heighten the chances of developing UTIs.
- Manage Pain: If your dog experiences spinal or orthopedic pain that hinders normal posture for emptying the bladder, consult your veterinarian. They may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate discomfort and improve urine voiding.
- Follow Antibiotic Recommendations: When prescribed antibiotics for the treatment of a UTI, ensure you administer the full course of medication as recommended. Failure to complete the prescribed antibiotics can lead to the development of multi-drug-resistant infections.
- Regular Screening: Dogs with cancer, neurologic disease, or those undergoing immunosuppressive treatment should receive regular evaluations from their veterinarian. While treatment of asymptomatic UTIs is generally not recommended, routine urinalysis may be considered to monitor urinary health in these cases.
Wrapping it all up: home remedies for female dog UTIs & bladder inflections
Best products to help at home
There are also a variety of supplements or home remedies for UTIs that owners can trial at home to support urinary health and potentially decrease the risk of UTI. These supplements are not intended to treat infections but may help reduce the risk of UTI.
Cranberry Supplements: Cranberry is often recommended for its potential to help prevent UTIs by inhibiting the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract walls. Cranberry supplements or extracts formulated specifically for pets can be considered.
- Urinary Tract Support for Dogs: Scientifically formulated cranberry extract supplement for dogs
Nutramax is a well-trusted brand developed by a veterinary pharmaceutical company. The products are safety tested and well tolerated by most pets.
D-Mannose: D-Mannose is a type of sugar that is believed to help prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract lining.
Cranberry D-Mannose Urinary Tract Support:
- Natural solution for urinary tract care
This product is veterinary formulated, made in the USA, and is supported by the National Animal Supplement Council.
Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help maintain a healthy balance of gut flora, which indirectly supports urinary health. By promoting a healthy immune system and preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, probiotics may help reduce the risk of UTIs.
Nutramax Proviable Digestive Health Supplement Multi-Strain Probiotics and Prebiotics for Cats and Dogs:
- Digestive Health Support for Dogs and Cats: Proviable, a multi-strain probiotic supplement for dogs and cats, contains 5 billion colony forming units (CFUs) of beneficial bacteria to help support a healthy intestinal balance
Another Nutramax product that is also one of my favorite probiotic supplements. Supporting a healthy microflora can lead to overall improved systemic health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may help support urinary tract health by reducing inflammation and promoting a healthy immune response.
Vetoquinol Triglyceride Omega 3 Supplement:
- Maintain Your Pet's Skin and Coat - Dogs and cats do not produce omega-3 essential fatty acids on their own our Omega-3 fish oil supplements for dogs can help maintain your pet's healthy skin and coat
Vetoquinol is another supplement company backed by veterinarians who is also a proud member of the National Animal Supplement Council.
When to seek veterinary care?
If you suspect that your dog is experiencing urinary tract issues, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly. Persistent or worsening symptoms, pain or discomfort during urination, changes in urine color or odor, straining or inability to urinate, and changes in behavior or appetite are all signs that should prompt a visit to the veterinarian. Urinary tract problems can range from simple infections to more serious conditions like kidney infections, and early detection and treatment are vital.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How common are UTIs and bladder infections in female dogs?
Urinary tract infections are unfortunately quite common in female dogs due to their short urethras and close proximity of the anus to the vulva.
Can I treat my female dog’s UTI at home?
Unfortunately, no. A UTI is a bacterial infection that requires veterinary evaluation and prescription antibiotics. You should never give your dog medications at home without first consulting a veterinarian.
Are there any natural remedies for UTIs and bladder infections in female dogs?
While UTIs cannot be cured with home remedies, multiple supplements like cranberry, D-mannose, probiotics, and Omega 3 fatty acids may decrease the likelihood of bacterial urinary tract infections.
Are there any long-term effects if a UTI is left untreated in female dogs?
Untreated UTIs can have serious consequences leading to severe bladder inflammation, bladder stone formation, and life-threatening kidney infections.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.