This article was updated on June 27th, 2023
Signs of urinary tract disease are one of the most common reasons a dog may present to an emergency hospital. Owners are alerted to the characteristic changes, including blood in the urine, straining to urinate, or accidents in the house. This article is intended to educate pet owners about the various lower urinary tract diseases male dogs can face and how they can be diagnosed by a veterinary professional.
Overview of bladder, prostate, and urinary tract infections in male dogs
Bladder, prostate, and urinary tract infections are common health issues that can affect male dogs. Let’s review the different terminology:
- Bladder Infections or Cystitis: Bladder infections occur when bacteria enter and multiply in the bladder, leading to inflammation.
- Prostate Infections or Prostatitis: The prostate gland, located near the bladder, can become infected in male dogs. Prostatitis is often caused by bacteria spreading from the urinary tract or through the bloodstream. Intact male dogs are more predisposed to this type of infection through conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
- 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.
Risk factors of these infections in male dogs
UTIs are more prevalent in female dogs: male dogs have a longer urethra than females, which can make them less prone to urinary tract infections as it takes longer for bacteria to travel upwards into the bladder. That being said, male dogs still commonly experience urinary tract infections. Here is a list of common conditions that can predispose a male 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
- Intact status – intact males are prone to infections secondary to BPH or prostatic abscesses
- Previous history of urinary tract infection
Signs and symptoms of these infections in male dogs
These are the most common clinical signs of urinary infections in male dogs:
- Increased urination
- Difficulty urinating
- Hematuria – Blood in the urine
- Urinating in unusual places or inappropriate areas
- Frequent licking of the genital area
- Straining or pain during urination
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Lethargy or decreased activity level
- Fever or increased body temperature – most common with prostatitis or infections of the kidneys
Diagnosis of bladder, prostate, and urinary tract infections infections in male dogs
To diagnose urinary infections in male dogs, veterinarians typically follow these diagnostic procedures after performing a thorough physical examination:
- Urinalysis: A urinalysis is a critical diagnostic tool for urinary infections. It involves analyzing a urine sample to check for the presence of bacteria, red and white blood cells, crystals, and other abnormalities. The veterinarian may collect a urine sample by cystocentesis (using a needle to obtain a sample directly from the bladder) or by performing urethral catheterization.
- Urine Culture and Sensitivity: This test involves growing the bacteria from the urine sample in a laboratory to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection and determine which antibiotics would be most effective in treating it.
- Imaging: In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasound to evaluate the urinary tract, including the bladder and prostate gland. This helps identify any structural abnormalities, stones, or tumors that may contribute to the infection.
- Bloodwork: Blood tests may be conducted to assess the overall health of the dog and check for any underlying conditions that may predispose them to urinary infections. Lower urinary infections can predispose a dog to infections of the kidneys, known as pyelonephritis which can lead to azotemia. So it is important to evaluate for proper kidney function in sick 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.
- Regular Bathroom Breaks: Take your male dog for frequent bathroom breaks to encourage regular and complete emptying of the bladder. This reduces the likelihood of stagnant urine that can contribute to bacterial growth.
- Avoid Holding Urine for Extended Periods: Encourage your dog to relieve himself regularly and avoid excessively holding urine for extended periods. Holding urine for prolonged periods can contribute to bacterial growth and increase the risk of UTIs.
- Alleviate pain: Dogs with spinal or orthopedic pain may not want to posture to empty their bladders. Drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can increase comfort leading to improved urine voiding, especially for older dogs.
- Follow Antibiotic Recommendations: All courses of antibiotics should be administered and completed as recommended. Incorrectly administering antibiotics can lead to the development of multi-drug-resistant infections.
- Neuter Your Dog: Neutering your male dog can decrease the risk of certain prostate issues, which are associated with urinary infections.
- Regular screening: Any dog with cancer, neurologic disease, or those being treated with immunosuppressive agents should be frequently evaluated by their veterinarian. While treatment of aclinical urinary tract infections is not recommended, routine urinalysis may be considered.
There are also a variety of supplements 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.
- D-Mannose: D-Mannose is a type of sugar that is believed to help prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract lining.
- 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.
- 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.
When to see your vet about urinary tract issues
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
- Are there treatment options available for male dog UTIs, prostate, and bladder infections?
- The mainstay of treatment for urinary infections is geared toward eliminating the cause of infection (i.e. bladder stones) and then utilizing antibiotics to clear the infection.
- Are certain dog breeds more prone to developing these infections?
- Breeds that may be predisposed to urinary stone formation like Dalmations may be prone to UTIs. Bulldogs experience a combination of factors that predispose them to urinary infections including skin disease, spinal abnormalities, urinary stone formation, and urinary tract changes.
- Can neutering or castration prevent these infections in male dogs?
- Neutering significantly reduces the risk of prostate infections (prostatitis) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement) in male dogs.
- How long does it typically take for a male dog to recover from these infections?
- Once an appropriate antibiotic is chosen, most dogs will feel relief within 48 hours. More serious infections like prostatitis can take weeks to months to resolve.