Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Posted on December 17th, 2020 to Dogs
Conditions affecting the urinary tract can be a short-term or lifelong problem for your loving pet. A urinary tract infection generally refers to bacterial infections affecting one or all parts of the urinary tract, but most commonly refers to the urinary bladder.
UTIs are common in dogs, mostly female dogs, but aren’t common to cats under ten years old. Cats over ten years old often have an underlying health condition, like chronic kidney disease, that results in the risk of recurring UTIs.
In order for a urinary tract infection to be present, the bacteria must win over the body either by a temporary or permanent break in your pet’s immune system or the bacteria must make the trek to the urinary tract then have enough momentum left to multiply once they arrive at their destination.
How Does A UTI Happen?
Most of the time, urine is considered to be completely sterile. When bacteria are present, that’s when the problems happen. The bacteria from the infection are located on the outside of the genitalia of your dog or cat. They start there. The bacteria find a way into the urinary tract via the urethra. Then, they hitch a ride through the urinary tract resulting in a UTI (1).
Just like us, female cats and dogs are more prone to developing a UTI than a male. That’s due to the shorter distance to the urethra. Although females are more prone to the UTI, males are more prone to bladder stones due to possessing a longer and narrower urethra.
Symptoms of UTI in Pets
Every cat and every dog is different and symptoms of infection vary widely from pet to pet, but the following are general symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection:
- Bloody and/or cloudy urine
- Straining or whimpering during urination
- Accidents in the house
- Wanting to be let outside more frequently
- Dribbling urine
- Licking around urinary opening
How is a UTI Diagnosed by a Veterinarian?
Urinary Tract Infections are brought into part when a pet shows any sign of urinary distress or has urine that appears to be dark/full of odor. You may notice a little speckle of blood in your dog’s urine if it’s progressed. The physical examination by your veterinarian will lead to a request for a urinalysis, urine culture, blood sample, and imaging. We’ll explain each in a bit more detail below (1):
- Urinalysis: The purpose of a urinalysis is exactly as it sounds: to analyze your pet’s urine. Factors like pH, concentration, whether or not crystals are present, and the search for the responsible bacteria is on. It’s important to mention here that you may not receive an official diagnosis immediately if your samples have to be sent out to an outside laboratory.
- The Culture: This doesn’t only apply to a UTI. This technique is used with many conditions in the medical world. Why? Bacteria aren’t always visible in the urine sample. The culture will allow the bacteria to grow and a diagnosis to be discovered.
- Blood Samples: If there is any concern regarding kidney function, your veterinarian will order a blood test.
- Imaging: Imaging is a bit far out for a UTI as you can imagine and is only conducted when stones are a threat. Ultrasounds are generally the image of choice in this circumstance.
Treating the UTI in your Pet
Once diagnosed with a UTI, it’s easy to go straight to Western medicine. The pharmaceutical antibiotic provided works well the majority of the time, but that doesn’t prevent recurring infections from occurring.
Recurring infections may occur if your pet has some type of underlying illness like kidney failure or diabetes. Or, it could simply be due to your pet’s genetics (1).
How Western Medicine and Holistic Medicine come Together
A UTI that’s present must always first be treated with antibiotics. There aren’t many veterinarians who are willing to accept the enormous risk that comes with not treating the urinary tract infection immediately with conventional medicine.
That’s because a UTI can turn into a life-threatening kidney infection relatively quickly so they want to pump in those bacteria-fighting agents to get it out of there as fast as possible. Plus, there’s not much risk in short-term antibiotic use (1).
Holistic Medicine for Preventing more Urinary Tract Infections
According to Dr. Gary Richter, an Integrative Care Veterinarian, “I’ve always declined when pet owners have asked me to treat their pet’s UTI exclusively through natural methods. Not only is the risk of a life-threatening kidney infection too high, but there is very little risk in a short term course of antibiotics (The worst-case scenario is likely to be GI upset). When the goal is integrative health care, you have to know which tools to use. Herbs and supplements can be used in conjunction with antibiotics and can also help prevent future UTIs from occurring.”
Dr. Gary Richter, in his Ultimate Pet Health Guide, recommends the following list of supplements for preventing UTI’s in pets (1, 2, 3):
- Prebiotics and Probiotics: These help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset (stomach ache, intestinal upset, etc) related to the use of antibiotics.
- Uva ursi: This is a type of herb that contains antimicrobial and diuretic properties. This is meant for short-term only as long-term use can result in urinary tract irritation.
- Marshmallow: Marshmallow is known for its antimicrobial effects.
- Yarrow: Yarrow has microbial properties to reduce urinary tract infection.
- Plantain: Plantain is known to protect the mucous membranes in the urinary bladder wall.
- Slippery Elm: Used for anti-inflammatory
- Couch Grass: Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic
- Echinacea: Antimicrobial
- Oregon Grape: Antimicrobial
- Cranberry Extract: Prevents bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder
Using an Integrative Treatment Plan
By utilizing both conventional western medicine and holistic medicine, you can find a well-rounded treatment plan for your cat or dog. Remember, it’s critical for your pet to obtain veterinary care to get rid of the infection to begin with in an effort to prevent the infection from reaching the kidney. Once that happens, you’re able to then integrate holistic medicine into your treatment plan to prevent urinary tract infections from happening in the future. Nothing is a guarantee, but the information has been researched and documented, and it’s worth a try to prevent more discomfort and pharmaceuticals from entering your pet’s body (1).
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.
- Richter, Gary. (2017). The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Through Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats.
- Tilford, G.L. and Wulff-Tilford. (2009). M. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Irvine, California. Bowtie Press.