If you’ve lived your life with dogs, chances are you’ve cared for one with a bladder infection. The normal urinary bladder is sterile, meaning devoid of bacteria. Infection occurs when bacteria find their way into the blad-der and set up housekeeping. Bacterial cystitis (medical-speak for a bladder infection) is a super common diagnosis in the canine world. The term urinary tract infection (UTI) is often used synonymously with bacterial cystitis. Technically speaking, a UTI can mean infection anywhere within the urinary tract, and is not specific to the bladder.
Bacterial cystitis occurs most commonly in female dogs. This is attributed to the fact that compared to males, female dogs have a shorter urethra, the conduit through which urine flows from the bladder to the outside world. With only a short distance to travel in female dogs, bacteria have an easier time migrating from the skin surface up into the urinary bladder. There is no breed predisposition for bladder infections. However, small breed dogs are more susceptible to some of the underlying causes of infection described below.
Symptoms of infection
If ever you’ve experienced a bladder infection you know just how miserable the symptoms can be. Dogs vary a great deal in terms of how dramatically they show evidence of a bladder infection. Some exhibit every symp-tom in the book while others demonstrate none whatsoever. Additionally, symptoms can arise abruptly or gradually. Every dog reads the textbook a little bit differently!
Symptoms most commonly observed in association with canine bladder infections include:
- Straining to urinate
- Urination in inappropriate places
- Increased frequency of urination
- Blood within the urine
- An unusual odor to the urine
- Urine leakage
- Increased thirst
- Excessive licking at the penis or vulva
It is unusual for plain and simple bladder infections to cause lethargy, loss of appetite, or fever. Such “systemic” symptoms, in conjunction with documentation of bacteria within the urinary bladder, create suspicion for infection elsewhere within the urinary or reproductive tracts (kidneys, prostate gland, uterus).
It’s important to remember that dogs are creatures of habit, and any change in habit is a big red flag beckoning you to take notice. Filling the water bowl more than usual? Is your girl squatting more frequently than normal on her morning walks? Is she waking you up in the middle of the night to to go outside to urinate? Has your well house-trained dog begun urinating in the house? All such symptoms are worthy of medical attention. For your dog’s sake, please don’t blame urinary issues on negative behavior before first ruling out an underlying medical issue.