Lower Urinary Tract Problems and Infections in Dogs

Dogs can be affected by many lower urinary tract problems, like diseases or infections of the bladder, urethra, and prostate. Urinary tract symptoms can also point to other problems, such as cancers or bladder stones. 

These conditions may make your dog unable to hold their urine or make them lethargic. Your dog may whimper or cry out when they are trying to relieve themselves. 

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Urinary Tract Problems?

It can be difficult to know if your dog is in pain, and your dog may not show any signs of pain at all. However, some signs may help you determine if your dog is having trouble with their urinary tract: 

  • Bloody and/or cloudy urine
  • Straining or whimpering during urination
  • Accidents in the house
  • Needing to be let outside more frequently
  • Licking around the urinary opening

Other problems in your dog’s urinary tract may include: 

  • Strong odor to the urine
  • Increased amount or frequency of urination
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Increased water consumption
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Severe back pain

What Causes Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Dogs?

There are many causes of lower urinary tract problems, like: 

  • Bladder inflammation or infection
  • Stress
  • Stones, crystals, or debris in the bladder or urethra
  • Inability to hold their urine from excessive water drinking or weak bladder
  • Trauma
  • Prostate disease
  • Congenital abnormality
  • Spinal cord abnormalities
  • Cancer

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in older female dogs and dogs with diabetes. Dogs with bladder stones are more prone to getting frequent UTIs. In addition, lower urinary tract disease and UTIs are common in senior dogs, age seven and older, of all breeds and genders. 

How Are Lower Urinary Tract Problems Diagnosed?

Diagnosing lower urinary tract problems requires a visit to the veterinarian. Your vet will do a physical examination that includes checking the kidneys and bladder. They will also likely perform a urinalysis. They may also need to do a urine culture, blood work, ultrasound, or radiographs depending on their findings. 

These evaluations can help your vet determine if your dog’s urinary tract problems are caused by a UTI, or if they have another underlying condition like those listed above, including, stones, cancers, or tumors.

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How Are Lower Urinary Tract Problems Treated?

The vet will determine your dog’s treatment plan after they diagnose the underlying cause of the problem. The best treatment will depend on what’s causing the symptoms. 

After your dog’s diagnosis, your veterinarian may recommend some of the following: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Dietary changes
  • Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy
  • Increase in water intake
  • Urinary acidifiers or alkalinizers
  • Surgery to remove bladder stones or tumor
  • Surgery to correct congenital abnormality

If the vet determines your dog’s urinary tract problems are being caused by an underlying condition, they’ll seek to treat the underlying cause first.

Antibiotics are the typical treatment for UTIs in dogs, and the vet may also prescribe pain medication, because UTIs can be very uncomfortable for dogs. If your vet prescribes antibiotics, make sure you give your dog all of the medication, even if they appear to be doing better, to be sure the infection is resolved and to help prevent reinfection. 

After the antibiotics, it’s important for your vet to recheck the urinalysis to confirm the infection is gone. If not, they’ll need to look for other issues that might be causing continued or repeat infections.

What Can Happen if a Dog’s Lower Urinary Tract Problems Go Untreated?

Untreated lower urinary tract problems can cause serious medical problems for dogs. Along with discomfort, untreated infections can result in partial or complete blockage of the urethra, disrupting urine output and leading to toxic levels of waste buildup. 

If your dog’s urinary symptoms are caused by a disease or a cancer, the condition can progress if it’s left untreated, and your dog’s symptoms may worsen or increase to include other symptoms. Many serious conditions, like cancers, can be fatal if left untreated. Some can be treated to help your dog live a longer and healthier life, though they are difficult to cure. 

Getting the right diagnosis will help you know how to resolve your dog’s urinary tract problems and be sure there’s nothing else that also needs treatment.

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What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Lower Urinary Tract Problems?

Pay attention to your dog’s behavior, because it’s not easy to spot all your dog’s symptoms.

If you notice symptoms of pain and discomfort, especially difficulty urinating, call your dog’s vet to figure out what’s causing the problems and the best way to treat them.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on February 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club: “Does Your Dog Have UTI Symptoms or Something Worse?,” Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Dogs.”

Banfield Pet Hospital: “Lower Urinary Tract Disease (LUTD).”

Canine Health Foundation: “Canine Lymphoma.”

Merck Manual Veterinary Manual: “Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections.”

MSPCA-Angell: "Lower Urinary Tract Diseases of the Senior Dog."

Peoria Area Veterinary Group: “Urinary Tract Problems in Dogs.”

Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira: “Analysis of lower urinary tract disease of dogs.”

VCA Hospitals: “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Dogs.”

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