The alarm goes off—it’s the typical morning routine—you stretch, roll out of bed, and by the time you’re in the living room, your furry friend is already scratching at the door to do his or her “morning routine.” You let them out to do their business, and after a while, you notice they’re taking longer than usual. So, you watch. Every time they start to urinate, they suddenly stop. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. A second alarm goes off, but this one is in your head; your dog might have a urinary issue.
A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a common bladder infection in dogs. In fact, according to the Merck Manual, about 1 in 7 dogs will experience one throughout their lifetime. While you may not have heard of many dogs being treated for a UTI, this could be a result of its asymptomatic nature, meaning UTIs can be present without symptoms or with very subtle signs.
This is tough, especially when leaving a UTI untreated can often lead to serious ailments, like lower urinary tract dysfunction or even kidney failure. To give you and your furry friend the best chance at avoiding these, you can familiarize yourself with dog UTI symptoms, should they present themselves and prepare yourself with treatment or preventative options such as bladder supplements for dogs.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
First things first—A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection of the (you guessed it) urinary tract. The bacterial infection can occur in one of two ways. The bacteria can be ingested and make their way to the bladder. Or, bacteria from feces or other random debris enter the urethra and bypass the tract’s natural defenses, colonizing and causing irritation and infection.
Most UTIs start and end in the lower urinary tract—the urethra and the bladder—however, some infections continue to spread up the ureters to the kidneys or pass the blood-prostate barrier and infect the prostate gland. This is where the more severe ailments can occur.
Knowing the Symptoms of Urinary Problems in Dogs
Because the signs of a bladder issue can be subtle, it can often lead dog owners to misunderstand what’s happening with their dog. Here are the most common symptoms associated with urinary problems in dogs:
- Difficulty urinating – If you notice your dog start and stop frequently while trying to urinate, this could indicate a urinary problem. If the pain is what’s causing the difficulty, then your dog might whimper when urinating or refuse to go pee altogether.
- Licking the urinary opening – While it’s common for dogs (and cats) to give themselves a deep clean, licking of the urinary opening more than usual could mean your dog has a bladder problem. Dogs are intuitive creatures and address their wounds with their tongue. While in this case, licking won’t help them; it could help you determine the issue.
- Urinating in the house – Urinary issues, especially when pain is one of the symptoms, can cause your dog stress. If your dog suddenly starts having accidents, despite being lawn-trained, it might be due to a bladder problem.
- Dribbling urine – If you notice small drops of urine in your dog’s walking path, this could have been because they had trouble getting all of it out when they were outside.
- More frequent urination – Another reason for urinating in the house is that they have to go more often than usual. Frequent urination could be because of the difficulty urinating or that they’re drinking more water.
Fever – Some urinary issues may come with a fever. If your dog is hot to the touch but shivering like they’re cold, this is a good sign of a fever.
If your dog strays from their normal behavior in any of these ways, be sure to watch them closely while they go to the bathroom. As a final, but acute, symptom:
- Bloody or cloudy urine – If you notice blood in the urine or that the urine appears cloudy, it’s time to take your dog to the vet immediately.
Misbehaving Dog or Urinary Issue: Understanding the Subtlety
This section is slightly heartbreaking but valuable to know.
So far, you might be thinking, “Great, these symptoms are easy to spot.” But many dog owners are late to identify their dog’s behavior as a bladder problem. Think about it, your dog can’t explain that it hurts to pee and that’s why they’re constantly asking to go back outside or peeing a little in the house. Instead, you might think that your dog is acting out.
People have detailed horror stories online of going through housebreaking all over again, even bringing in a trainer when the dog wouldn’t comply. Another tried taking away the dog’s water bowl at night to stop the frequent urination. All this while their poor pooches were suffering every day, just wishing to be understood.
The symptoms listed above can all be chalked up to “My dog is acting weird,” or even more disheartening, “My dog has been misbehaving lately.” Thus, the purpose of this article: a warning sign, a cautionary flag, a push for patience when it comes to strange bathroom behavior of a previously well-trained dog.
If these words resonate with your situation, then the next step is to confirm your suspicions. Time to consult your veterinarian.
Preventing Urinary Issues in Dogs
If your dog has suffered from a urinary issue, you are aware of how awful of an experience it can be. To avoid repeated problems, try instilling these preventative techniques:
- Keep your dog hydrated – The more clean water your dog drinks, the more they will urinate. This keeps the urinary tract flush from the build-up of bacteria. Because dogs won’t drink unless they’re thirsty, you can try including food with high water content in their diet to keep them extra hydrated. Canned pumpkin, for example, has around 90% water content.
Regular vet checkups – Much like regularly going to the dentist for your teeth, a vet checkup should be an annual or twice-annual visit.
- Positive gut health – A healthy gut is helpful for the promotion of good bacteria in the digestive tract, and it deters the emergence of harmful bacteria that can lead to infection.
- Install a doggy door – Allowing your dog to urinate as they need will help them keep a regular flow through their urinary tract.