Does your dog have a Urinary Tract Infection?

When you have a dog with UTI symptoms, the first thing you’ll probably notice is a change in bladder habits. 

Chances are your vet will hear two sentences out of your mouth and prescribe antibiotics.

This article walks you through what you should consider first.

What are the symptoms of UTI in dogs?

The classic signs of a UTI in dogs are:

  • blood in dog’s urine
  • dog house training accidents
  • urgently needing to pee
  • dog straining to pee
  • dog needing to pee more often
  • smelly dog urine

This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.


How to treat UTIs in dogs

Antibiotics are the standard conventional treatment for UTIs. 

Which medicine for UTI symptoms in puppies and dogs

Sometimes vets “culture” a urine sample. This means they send it to a lab where they grow bacteria from your dog’s sample and then expose that bacteria to different antibiotics to see which ones kill it off. This is so they know which antibiotic to prescribe. Often though, vets don’t bother with this step and just go ahead and give a broad-spectrum antibiotic, hoping it will do the trick.

When UTIs are recurrent or become chronic, vets might end up putting your dog on repeated courses of antibiotics. 

The problem with this is that antibiotics frequently leave the dog with gastrointestinal problems that can be hard to repair. There is also the risk of creating antibiotic resistance as the bacteria adapt through repeated exposure to the drugs. Once they become highly resistant, the treatment options for subsequent UTIs become extremely limited.

Duration of antibiotic treatment

This is a bit controversial. Vets usually treat dogs for 10-14 days. However for UTIs in humans, shorter regimens are routinely prescribed. Sometimes doctors even use a single-dose of fluoroquinolone. 

study comparing 3 days of once-daily high dose enrofloxacin for dogs with a UTI found it was just as effective as two weeks of twice daily amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (sometimes abbreviated to amoxi-clav for dogs). My vet was unaware of this short-course, high-dose therapy. It pays to do your own research.

We did the 3 days high dose. The enrofloxacin certainly cleared the UTI. But it also gave him severe nausea while he was on it and left him with a lot of damage to his gut.

If we ever got another UTI, I would try other measures before resorting antibiotics.

Home remedy for UTI in dogs: fasting and fluids

Anecdotally, dog owners have cleared UTIs using a few days of fasting while maintaining good water intake. If you don’t want to fast your dog, feeding fruit for a few days is a good option. Fruit will cause a lot of flushing of the bladder, due to its high water content. Bananas (fed overripe) and watermelon are both suitable for dogs, as are mangoes. 

The ease with which fruit is digested compared to meat also allows frees up energy which the body can then direct to healing, while still receiving some calories.

Other options for how to treat UTI without antibiotics

Cranberry for dogs

Studies have found cranberry juice/extract has some benefit in healing and preventing the development of UTIs.

D-mannose

D-mannose is thought to be the reason cranberries work against UTIs. It is a simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables including cranberries. 

In women suffering recurrent bladder infections it’s been found to be more effective (and gentler) than antibiotics in preventing UTIs.

It works by preventing certain bacteria, particularly E coli, adhering to the wall of the urinary tract. Unattached, they can be washed away. D-mannose for dogs comes in powder form. You can find it at health food stores but you’ll need to work out the dosage for dogs as it’s different than for humans.

Probiotics

Dog probiotics are among the non-antimicrobial treatments recommended for preventing and treating UTIs.

How common are UTIs in dogs? 

UTIs are said to be the most common infectious disease of dogs. 14% of dogs will be affected at some point during their lifetime.

Dog urinary infection causes

It’s thought that UTIs result when bacteria normally present on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract ascend the urinary tract. Basically they end up where they don’t belong. Problems arise when they overcome the urinary tract’s normal defenses and grow in this part of the body. 

In both dogs and cats, Escherichia coli is thought to be the single most common bacterial cause of both acute and recurrent UTIs. Other commonly blamed bacterial causes of dog UTI include Staphylococcus, Proteus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas. 

Is it really an infection?

Owners whose dogs have been on heavy duty medication sometimes notice what seems like a UTI in their dogs after they discontinue the drugs. 

In this case natural health practitioners believe the blood in the urine is not an infection, but more an irritation or inflammation of the urinary tract. The irritation is caused by the toxins from the drugs as they pass out of the body. If that’s what’s going on, antibiotics are unnecessary and in fact counterproductive. After all, the body is already trying to move out previous drug residues. 

Bacteria as nature’s clean up crew

According to this school of thought, even if bacteria are present in the urine, they are not the cause of the problem. 

A good analogy is that when you see firemen at the scene of a fire, it’s not because they lit the blaze. Rather, they have come to put it out. 

This logic does run counter to germ theory around which the western medical model is based. However, let’s stick with it for a second. By this way of thinking, the bacteria are “nature’s clean up crew”, and are only able to grow in the urinary tract when toxins or wastes are present. They feed on those wastes. It follows that once the toxins pass out, the bacteria will themselves disappear.

Fasting, fluids and fruit will do wonders for an irritated urinary tract. 

A sidenote about yeast infection in dog ears

Incidentally, the same logic can be applied to yeast in dog’s ears or what frequently gets confused for dog ear infection symptoms.

In my dog, his ears got mucky after we discontinued 11 months of hardcore medication. This happened at the same time as we experienced a host of other symptoms frequently associated with detox including mucousy poop. The ear gunk — along with all the other problems which are explained in this article — cleared without antibiotics or treatment of any kind. All I did was wipe away the brown residue and feed a fresh, natural diet based around raw meaty bones.

Risk factors for UTIs

Your dog might be more predisposed to UTIs if:

  • he is on immunosuppressant medication like steroids
  • he has another condition like diabetes, renal failure or hyperthyroidism

How to prevent UTIs in dogs

  • proper diet, meaning fresh raw food — this has a much higher moisture content than kibble, among a host of other benefits
  • some owners notice inside dogs develop UTIs when they aren’t allowed enough opportunities to pee

Make sure your dog always has frequent toilet breaks, so that the bladder is being constantly flushed. This is commonsense but also proven science. The flow of urine rinses epithelial linings and is part of the body’s defense against invading pathogens. If you live in an apartment, pee pads for dogs might come in handy so your pup isn’t forced to hold it in if you’re late home from work. 

Particular danger for intact male dogs

In intact male dogs, vets warn an untreated UTI can progress to the prostate gland. 

If this happens, it can be difficult to clear the bacteria from the prostrate (due to the blood-prostate barrier). The infection can get stored in the prostate and re-infect the urinary tract after treatment. This can potentially result in a systemic infection that spreads to the rest of the reproductive tract or causes an abscess with the prostate. 

This freaked me out when I read it, because my dog is entire (not neutered). Thankfully we avoided this complication. We cleared the infection. I have since improved Shiva’s diet and the UTI hasn’t returned.

Concluding thoughts ..and an at home UTI test for dogs

Typically when you suspect you have a dog with urinary tract infection symptoms, it means a trip to the vet, which usually leads to antibiotics. 

A home test kit can come in handy, allowing you to test a urine sample yourself with instant results. 

The color-coded tabs allow you to measure the presence of blood as well as white blood cells. You can also see the urine pH and a number of other readings. 

It makes a super useful addition to your toolkit for treating UTI in dogs at home. It’s also handy for checking the success of treatment. If your dog is prone to UTIs, it lets you monitor and test regularly. That way you don’t need to run to the vet constantly to assure yourself all is well. 

There are also these dog urine test strips. 

More reading

Can dogs eat chicken bones?

Paw cyst? Read this before you rush to the vet