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How To Prevent & Detect Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on August 6, 2023

Unfortunately, most dog owners don’t think about their dog’s urinary tract health until their dog has a urinary tract infection (UTI) and is at the vet’s office. This is unfortunate because it is actually quite easy to maintain urinary tract health and prevent infections.

Urinary Tract Illnesses

UTIs are a common illness treated by vets. It is just what it sounds like: an infection inside your dog’s urinary tract. Aside from an infection, poor urinary tract health can lead to kidney or bladder stones, which are very painful.

Dr. Diane Levitan, VMD, Peace Love Pets Veterinary Care, PLLC, cautions:  BLOCKAGE CAN BE DEADLY, SO MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR PET EVALUATED RIGHT AWAY IF THERE ARE SYMPTOMS.

Signs of infection and stones are similar:

  • Urinating blood
  • Discomfort urinating
  • Blocked and unable to urinate

Causes of Illness

UTIs can be caused by a variety of factors. According to Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, three main factors are “not enough acid in the urine, weakened immune system, and arthritic joints making it hard to hunch and bend over to fully empty your bladder.”

In addition, Dr. Levitan explains that UTIs can be caused by poor hygiene (excessive build up hair around the urethral opening), excessive licking, or if your pet leaks urine (poor sphincter function possibly) it allows infection to creep in.

“Infection is the number one reason for stones to form. In the bladder, they cause pain and straining to urinate. In the kidneys they often go unnoticed, causing slow progressive infection and damage,” explains Dr. Levitan. “Some stones are caused by excessive excretion of certain electrolytes like calcium, which can be genetically predisposed or from a disorder causing elevated calcium.”

Who’s At Risk

Of course, any dog can get a UTI or stone, but a few dogs are more prone than others. Dr. Alinovi notes that female dogs and older dogs tend to be more likely to get bladder infections. In fact, she says many older dogs walk around with bladder infections all the time, and nobody knows.

Interestingly, she notes that female dogs spayed young can be predisposed to bladder infections because “they have infantile female parts that hide in a cave, and so it’s harder to keep it clean and dry.” So, while there are many arguments for spaying early, here may be a reason to wait.

Ways to Prevent

While UTIs and stones can be dangerous, even fatal, luckily, they are also fairly easy to prevent.

Dr. Alinovi has three main ways to keep your dog’s urinary tract healthy:

  • Keep the urine acid up. The best way to do that is with food based on meat, as many as a great source of acid.
  • Keep the immune system up. Great food also helps build a strong immune system so that the body can recognize problems in the bladder sooner. If the body knows there’s a problem, it will tell the dog to pee lots of little bits so that the family knows something has changed.
  • Keep the arthritis at bay. Older dogs tend to have a lot of arthritis, just as humans do. Therefore, things that make the hips and joints strong are a great way to help your dog bend over and fully empty his bladder. A couple of personal favorites include elk velvet antler and veterinary spinal manipulation therapy, a.k.a. animal chiropractic.

In addition to the above suggestions, Dr. Levitan has a few more ways you can ensure urinary tract health:

  • Keep your dog hydrated. I cannot stress how much giving water alone can help keep the urinary tract healthy.  Water hydrates and also dilutes out bad things like bacteria or the buildup of minerals that can create problems.
  • Keep your dog on schedule. You also need to allow your dog to urinate regularly, as holding urine in for long periods of time can allow bacteria to colonize, and infection will be more likely. Holding the bladder for long times, such as when at a boarding facility or in a place where they are not used to going, for instance, can cause the bladder to stretch, damaging the bladder long term and preventing it from emptying properly.
  • Keep track. If your pet has a history of urinary tract infections, your vet should help you narrow down and treat any underlying causes. Special diets are available to help keep urinary tracts healthy- ask your vet about these. Cranberry extract (highly concentrated, not just from cranberry juice) can act as an antiseptic for the bladder wall and prevent infections.
  • Keep your dog clean. It is also important to keep the area around the external urethra clean and free of hair and debris.
  • Keep good bacteria. Probiotics are also helpful in improving the body’s immune system and also create a healthy bunch of intestinal bacteria that are less angry if they come to cause urinary tract infections.
  • Cranberry Supplements. Cranberry supplements for dogs can help promote urinary tract health by preventing bacterial infections. Additionally, they may aid in reducing the risk of kidney stones by supporting optimal bladder function.

iHeartDogs Extra Strength Urinary, Bladder, & Kidney Support for Dogs promotes optimal urinary tract health, reducing the risk of infections and supporting kidney function, ensuring your furry friend stays healthy and happy. With carefully selected ingredients, it provides comprehensive support for your dog’s urinary system, giving you peace of mind and your pet a better quality of life.

A final note: Dr. Levitan reminds us that the most important thing we can do for our dog’s urinary tract health is to keep on top of it. See your vet regularly and ensure a urine sample is part of your annual examination.

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