The life of a dog owner is filled with ups and downs, joy and frustration, laughter and heartache. In a way, your dog becomes like your child—just one that can’t speak the common tongue. As a result, when they’re hurting or dealing with an issue, it’s difficult to decipher what the root problem is and thus make a determination as to the proper course of action. To that end, one common problem that almost every dog will face in its lifetime—and that you need to be ready for—is the development of a urinary issue.
Now, if you’ve ever had a urinary issue or bladder issue, you know the uncomfortable feeling—the aching and urgent need to urinate. Fortunately for you, when such a problem arises, you can just call your doctor and get on an antibiotic. But, as mentioned, dogs have difficulty communicating when they’re in discomfort; therefore, it’s up to you as the owner to be vigilant and on the lookout for the signs of a urinary issue. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent UTIs in the first place such as utilizing bladder supplements for dogs. To that end, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of urinary issue and then explain the best ways you can go about treating a dog that develops one.
Read on to find out more!
What are Urinary Issues?
Urinary issues are incredibly common in dogs. In fact, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual:
Bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs)urinary issues typically result from normal skin and GI tract flora ascending the urinary tract and overcoming the normal urinary tract defenses that prevent colonization. Bacterial urinary issues affect 14% of all dogs during their lifetime.
At its essence, a generic urinary issue is the result of a bacterial infection of the bladder and urinary tract, which in the vast majority of singular cases, are healthy in both anatomy and function. For diagnostic and remedial purposes, it can be split into one of two categories:
- Uncomplicated Urinary Issue– One-time infections, most commonly caused by a local bacterial infection.
- Complicated Urinary Issues– Persistent or recurrent infections, most frequently caused by poor health. These are not nearly as commonplace and are often asymptomatic, only discovered while investigating a different issue.
Typically, if there are 3 or more urinary issues per year your dog will be diagnosed with a complicated urinary issue.
The normal cause for an uncomplicated urinary issue development results from bacteria–generally feces or other debris–entering upwards through the urethral opening. In such cases, E. Coli is the most common culprit. If allowed to worsen and further progress, it can cause a host of debilitating symptoms, some of which could lead to the development of tertiary issues or diseases. Other causes of both uncomplicated and complicated urinary issues include:
- Bladder infection
- Bladder inflammation
- Congenital abnormalities
- Incontinence from excessive drinking
- Incontinence from a weak bladder, typically due to age
- Prostate disease
- Spinal cord abnormalities
- Stones, crystals, or other debris building up in the urethra or bladder.
Urinary Issues in Older Dogs
There is an age component to the prevalence of the issue, largely due to natural degeneration that comes with aging. Older females are particularly prone to urinary issues.
Symptoms of Urinary Issues in Dogs
As mentioned, complicated urinary issues can be asymptomatic. However, you will have an easier time diagnosing the more benign form of a lower bladder infection. Common signs of an uncomplicated urinary issue include:
- Frequent Urination – Your average dog will relieve themselves anywhere from 3 to 5 times a day. As their owner, you should already have a good idea as to their normal habits. If they are going more often but producing less urine, that’s a good indicator that there’s something wrong with their lower bladder.
- Peeing accidents – If your dog has been house trained and suddenly begins to pee in the house semi-frequently, then they’re likely dealing with a UTI. Such infections make it hard for your pup to know when it has to use the restroom, which leads to accidents.
- Urination discomfort – If there is an issue, it can be incredibly uncomfortable for your dog to urinate. As a result, they may exhibit symptoms of pain or distress such as:
- Unquenchable thirst – Dogs always seem thirsty, particularly when the weather is hot; however, it’s important you keep an eye on how they drink and how much. If your dog is gulping down more water than normal and then barely pees when he does go, there’s likely an underlying issue that needs medical attention.
- Licking their genitals – Although it's fairly common for dogs to lick their genitals, a dog with a urinary issue will do so more frequently. Likely, this is an attempt to soothe the discomfort, and their way of letting you know that not everything is going right down there.
- Bloody or cloudy urine – Although you won’t be having your pup pee into a cup, it’s a good idea to watch as they pee to see whether the liquid looks normal. Blood in the urine is never a good sign, so if you see it, seek help immediately.
Additional dog symptoms of urinary issues that are more generalized include:
- Back discomfort
- Dribbling urine
- Loss of appetite
- Strong odor to the urine
- Weight loss
Diagnosing Urinary Issues
If you witness the signs of a urinary issue in your dog, it would be wise to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Nipping the problem in the bud is wise since it allows you to:
- Treat the problem should it be an uncomplicated urinary issue, thus alleviating your dog’s discomfort.
- Identify if there are more serious underlying issues at hand which require immediate attention.
At the vet’s office, the vet will perform a routine review of your dog’s previous health history and ask you about the exhibited urinary issue symptoms. Upon the completion of this medical review, the vet will likely request a urinalysis. You or the vet will then need to get a urine sample from the dog. Once that has been received, the urine sample will be tested for:
That said, urinalysis only tells a partial story to your dog's urinary tract health, particularly in cases of diagnosing complicated urinary issues. A study on the matter had this to say:
Sediment analysis alone is inadequate for diagnosis of urinary issues because of problems regarding the variable quality of interpretation, stain contamination, and false-positive results from bacteriuria in the absence of clinical infection. Hematuria and proteinuria are often present with a urinary issue, but they are nonspecific and may be caused by noninfectious conditions…. Complete urinalysis, including urine-specific gravity, urine glucose level determination, and examination of the sediment for crystalluria is considered a minimum database for evaluation of suspected urinary issues and may be helpful to investigate underlying causes of infection, if present.
Preventing Urinary Issues
Although it’s impossible to altogether prevent your dog from developing a urinary issue, there are, in fact, steps you can take to make it a less likely or frequent occurrence. Such actions include:
- Leave fresh water – It’s essential that you change out your dog’s water frequently. Doing so will help prevent the buildup and ingestion of bacteria. By giving them plenty of clean water, you help them clean out their systems by frequently urinating.
- Let them urinate regularly – Although sometimes unavoidable, it’s wise to let your dog out to urinate as regularly as possible. Forcing them to hold in their urine can cause urinary problems to develop, especially if it becomes a pattern.
- Give them probiotics – Good and healthy bacteria provided by probiotics will help boost their immune system and fight off nasty bacteria. You can easily provide this in your dog’s diet with probiotic supplements for dogs.
Give them cranberry supplements- In the same way that cranberries help prevent UTIs for humans, including a cranberry supplement for dogs in your dog’s diet can minimize the likelihood of a urinary issue by keeping PH levels normal and ensuring optimal bladder function.Use antibacterial wipes – Antibacterial wipes can be used to clear and clean your dog’s urinary opening of any debris or lingering bacteria. Although unpleasant, such preventative action can help immensely.
Dealing with Your Dog’s Urinary Issues
You should expect that your dog will have to deal with a urinary issue during their lifetime. If they manifest the symptoms discussed above, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Doing so will allow the doctor to perform tests and provide a proper course of action.
Fortunately, the vast majority of urinary issues can be remedied quickly. So, keep in mind these symptoms of urinary issues in dogs and you’ll forever be ready to act and treat it should your dog develop one. By being proactive and arming yourself with this knowledge, you will have the tools you need to ensure that your dog's health is at its best!