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8 Dog UTI Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

French Bulldog urinating outside
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Your dog usually has a pretty good track record when it comes to potty habits: she trots into the backyard every few hours, does her business, and heads straight back into the house to resume destroying her chew toy. But lately, something is off: She’s having accidents in the house, asking to go out more often, and straining to pee – all common symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

It’s estimated that 14 percent of dogs will be diagnosed with a UTI during their lifetime, and urinary tract infections are among the most common reasons dogs visit the vet. Some dogs may only get a single urinary tract infection, while others have chronic or recurrent UTIs, developing three or more infections in a year.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about dog UTI symptoms – and when it’s time to call the veterinarian.

Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs: An Overview

E. coli and other bacteria cause UTI in dogs. Bacteria enters the urethra and travel toward the bladder. Dogs have defenses – like sterile urine – that fight off infection-causing bacteria, but the system isn’t always effective.

Once bacteria reach the bladder, kidney, or prostate (in unneutered male dogs), it can grow and reproduce, causing symptoms of UTI in dogs. Treatment not only alleviates the symptoms, it also prevents the infection from spreading and causing additional damage.

“If a urinary tract infection is left untreated, a dog may develop complications like lower urinary tract dysfunction (or urinary incontinence), kidney infection, [chronic inflammation in the bladder], bladder stones, or an infected prostate gland,” explains Dr. Georgina Ushi.

Although male dog UTI symptoms and female dog UTI symptoms are the same, Dr. Ushi notes that females are more susceptible to infections, along with older dogs and dogs with underlying health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, bladder tumors, or weakened immune systems.

UTIs are also more common in breeds such as English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs that have excess skin folds around their vulvas that provide the warm, dark, moist environments where bacteria thrive.

8 Dog UTI Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Chihuahua peeing on carpet

Any of these eight symptoms could be a sign of a dog UTI and warrant a trip to the vet.

Straining to pee. Dogs with UTIs may whine, whimper, or arch their backs during their potty breaks because the infection causes pain during urination.

Bloody or cloudy urine. Any change in the color of your dog’s urine is cause for concern. “Cloudy urine can mean there is pus in the urine, which can indicate inflammation or infection of the bladder,” Dr. Ushi says. “[Blood in the urine] could also indicate infection or inflammation of the urinary tract, and possibly that there are stones in the bladder.” 

Frequent urination. A UTI can make your dog feel like she has to urinate even when her bladder isn’t full. This means that a dog that can normally go several hours between bathroom breaks starts asking to go out much more often.

Potty accidents. When a pup with an A+ track record for doing her business outside starts having accidents in the house, it can be a hallmark sign of UTI in dogs.

Peeing multiple times in a row. Urinary tract infections aren’t just painful; the infection makes it difficult for dogs to control the flow of urine, which means your potty-trained dog can’t hold it until she gets outside. A common symptom of UTIs in dogs is peeing again right after they go to the bathroom.

Increased genital licking. Most dogs are willing to get into some pretty tricky positions to lick their nether regions, and the occasional lick-a-thon is totally normal. However, pay attention to any increased licking of the genitals – it might be one of the first signs your dog has a UTI. “It is believed that dogs experience some pain and discomfort in the genital area from infection and inflammation [of a UTI],” Dr. Ushi says. “Increased licking is their way of trying to soothe the area.”

Low volume of urine. If words like “dribble” and “trickle” best describe your dog’s urine flow, pay attention. Dr. Ushi notes that, “not producing any urine or small drops is a symptom not to be ignored.” The reason: It could be a sign that something is blocking the passage of urine from the bladder.

“If you notice straining with little to no production of urine, an emergency trip to the vet is warranted,” she says. Your vet will want to rule out possible causes for reduced urine flow, including bladder stones, scar tissue that narrows the urethra, or tumors in the urinary tract.

Fever. A normal temperature for dogs is 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While fever is not a common sign of UTI in dogs, an elevated temperature in a dog diagnosed with a UTI could be a sign that the infection has spread. “There may be an underlying cause of the fever, such as a kidney infection…prostate infection in unneutered males or infection in another part of the body,” Dr. Ushi says.

Next Steps if You Suspect a Dog UTI

If you notice your dog has common symptoms of a urinary tract infection, call your veterinarian. “A urinary tract infection should be treated as soon as possible,” says Dr. Ushi.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam, collect a urine sample, and run a urinalysis to detect the presence of white blood cells and bacteria that will help them diagnose a urinary tract infection.

In order to get the best results, they may want a sterile sample, which is collected by passing a urinary catheter into the bladder or using a needle to collect a sample through the skin and bladder wall. This method minimizes possible contamination from the urethra and genitals, according to Ushi.

Dogs that test positive for UTIs may be prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the symptoms and clear the infection. In the case of a recurrent or chronic UTI, your veterinarian will want to determine the bacteria causing the infection to recommend a targeted medication for treatment.

Not only is a UTI painful for your dog, it could cause additional health issues if left untreated, making it even more important not to ignore the warning signs and make an appointment to get immediate medical attention.