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How Do Dogs Get UTIs?

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Dog UTI signs, treatment and prevention.
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A mini goldendoodle peeing on sidewalk.

If your housetrained dog is suddenly having accidents or needs to go outside more often than usual, the sudden change can be a little concerning for dog owners. And if you've ruled out behavioral causes, it can be a red flag that something is going on in their bladder. One common reason all that housetraining goes out the window is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can make it difficult and painful for your dog to urinate.

Dog UTI Symptoms

Older female dogs are most at risk for getting UTIs, though any dog can develop one. Many dog owners will first notice their pet needing to go outside frequently or straining, crying or whining when trying to urinate. Other common dog UTI symptoms include:

  • Bloody urine
  • Frequent licking of genitals
  • Urine dripping from genitals
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Accidents around the house
  • Only urinating a small amount or an inability to "hold it"
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue

Dog urinary tract infections can be very uncomfortable and painful for your dog, so it's important to take them to the vet right away if they are showing any of the symptoms above.

How Does a Dog Get a UTI?

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enters a dog's urethral opening and travels up and into the bladder. (While the diagnosis technically applies to a bacterial infection in any part of the urinary tract, it usually refers specifically to the bladder.) From there, the bacteria multiply and cause an infection and/or kidney stones.

Female dogs have a shorter urethra, which is why their chances of getting a UTI are higher. While age and sex are the biggest risk factors for dogs, there are a few other reasons why your dog might get a urinary tract infection:

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Recessed vulva
  • Not fully emptying the bladder when they urinate
  • Weakened immune system

Dog UTI Treatment

If you suspect your dog might have a UTI, take them to the veterinarian. Your vet will complete a thorough exam and collect a urine sample.

If your dog is diagnosed with a UTI, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics for one to two weeks. If there's something else going on in addition to the urinary tract infection (such as chronic kidney disease, Cushing's disease or diabetes), your dog may be on a longer course of antibiotics for up to six weeks.

Dog UTI Prevention

If your dog gets UTIs often, it's important to treat the underlying issue(s). But there are several things you can do to help prevent or manage urinary tract infections in dogs:

  • Implement a diet change and/or probiotics.
  • Take your dog outside on a regular basis.
  • Talk to your vet about medications that can change the pH of your dog's urine, making it more difficult for the bacteria to grow.
  • Make sure your dog has access to plenty of clean, fresh water.
  • Keep your dog well-groomed.

UTIs are fairly common in dogs, and knowing the signs and symptoms can help dog owners know when it's time to take their pet to the vet.

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