How Do I Know if My Puppy Has a UTI?

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Puppy Has A UtiOne of the most common infections that occur in dogs is bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs), where an average of 14% of all dogs will experience a UTI at some point in their lives. While it will often affect older dogs ages 7 or more, young pups can also get them. Here, we share the answer to the question, “How do I know if my puppy has a UTI?”

What is UTI in Dogs?

A dog’s bladder is supposed to be a sterile part of the genital area that normally doesn’t contain any type of bacteria. However, there are times when bacteria can make their way inside the bladder up the urethra, which can then start multiplying and colonizing the urinary tract, leading to a urine infection. While all breeds are susceptible, female dogs are more likely to get UTI than males since they have a shorter urethra, so bacteria can travel upwards faster.

Signs of a UTI   

Unlike humans who will clearly show a sign of UTI, you may not always notice a dog’s bladder infection symptoms because dogs will often be asymptomatic. However, when they do show themselves, these may manifest as the following: 

  • Urinary incontinence or being unable to hold urine for a long time
  • Excessive drinking
  • Cloudy or bloody urine 
  • Licking around the genitals
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Distress while urinating
  • Lethargy

Moreover, dogs with underlying health conditions such as Cushing’s Disease or diabetes mellitus; dogs that receive immunosuppressive drugs or chemotherapy; and dogs that have been on cortisone-type medications for a long time have a higher risk of developing a UTI. In such cases, your vet may suggest diagnostic tests to look for signs of a urinary tract infection.   

Possible Causes of UTIs in Dogs

Urinary tract issues in dogs will usually be caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract, which may lead to your pup’s bladder infection. Among the most common bacteria that can cause a UTI in dogs include Staphylococcus and e. coli — these bacteria can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. However, there are various factors that may increase your dog’s risk of developing bladder issues such as a UTI. 

Unsanitary Environment

Dogs that spend a lot of time in dirty environments such as soiled kennels can pick up bacteria from this area and make their way into the dog’s urinary system. This may also happen if fecal matter is accumulated around the dog’s behind. This is usually a problem for dogs with long hair, especially if they have diarrhea that gets stuck on their fur.  

Chronic Disease

Dogs with particular chronic diseases will be more prone to UTIs and will be commonly diagnosed in pups with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease. Moreover, pups with bladder stones are more likely to get a bacterial infection.   

Prostate Disease 

A male dog that gets bacterial prostatitis is also likely to develop a UTI. A dog’s prostate is a gland inside the bladder; the urethra passes through the prostate and penis before it reaches the urinary bladder. Any bacteria that can travel up through the urethra may infect the prostate and may also infect the bladder. 

Urinary Catheterization

A urinary catheter will usually be placed inside the dog’s urinary opening to help them collect a urine sample or drain the bladder. In this procedure, bacteria may enter the bladder and urethra, which may result in UTIs. 


There are studies that indicate how chronic steroid treatment can affect the ability of a dog’s body to ward off UTIs. Moreover, UTIs that appear after giving your pup antibiotics recently may come with more resistant bacteria. As such, it’s best to keep an eye on your canine companion if they’re taking pain medication or anti-inflammatory medications.   

Diagnosing UTIs in Dogs

To get an accurate diagnosis of your pet, a urine sample will need to be collected and tested. If your vet sees dog UTI symptoms, a urinalysis can be performed at the same time as a urinalysis. Common results that can be gathered from a dog with UTI may include the following: 

  • An excess in white blood cells
  • The presence of bacteria when checked under a microscope
  • Too much protein in their urine

When your dog’s water intake is too high, its urine may become diluted and may make it difficult to detect white blood cells or bacteria. A urine culture is a test that can confirm if a UTI is present, where a sample is taken, placed in a container, and then incubated for bacterial growth. This will then help the veterinarian determine the right antibiotics for the infection — results will typically be available after 3 to 5 days. 

A urinary tract infection can be classified as either complicated or uncomplicated, which is explained below. 

  • Uncomplicated: This refers to the first time a dog gets a UTI and is otherwise healthy. These cases can be easily treated using antibiotics. 
  • Complicated: This is a bacterial infection that occurs in dogs as a result of functional or anatomic UTI that leads to recurrent infections, persistent infections, or treatment failure. To treat this kind of UTI, the underlying medical condition must first be corrected. 

Recurrent UTIs can develop 3 or more times over the course of a year and can sometimes be called a reinfection or relapse but there are a few differences between the two which are discussed below.

  • Reinfection: This kind of UTI may return as quickly as 6 months after completing treatment. In this case, the urinary tract will have been infected with a different bacteria.
  • Relapse: This can occur when the same bacteria as the last infection breaks out again and occurs within 6 months after completing treatment. 

Treatments for Dog UTIs 

Because not all UTIs are the same, the treatment from one dog to another can vary. When it comes to an uncomplicated UTI, a 7 to 14-day course of appropriate antimicrobial agents is used. In more severe cases, your vet might recommend re-culturing your pup’s urine before and after the completion of a course of antibiotics to help confirm the resolution of the infection.   

Complicated UTIs will also be treated using antimicrobial agents, but the length of treatment will be much longer compared to an uncomplicated UTI. These can take around 3 to 6 weeks to resolve, but there is evidence that a treatment course of 10 to 14 days can be effective as long as the right antimicrobial agent is used. During this time, be sure to give your dog access to clean water to help flush out bacteria from its body. 

Some dog owners with experience and knowledge of the symptoms of a UTI may try to treat it by using natural remedies. While this might help, there’s no evidence to suggest that they’re a cure for UTI — some at-home remedies for people may not be safe or work for dogs. Untreated UTIs can lead to more serious issues, so be sure to always speak to your vet if you think your pup might have a UTI. 

How Do I Know if My Puppy Has a UTI? 

Medical conditions such as UTIs are common in dogs, they may not always show symptoms; if they do show, look for signs like frequent urination, excessive thirst, and passing little urine. Because it can be uncomfortable and painful, it’s important that you treat a UTI in your pup as quickly as possible since it can lead to more serious health issues such as impaired kidney function or failure. Keeping an eye on your pet’s health and taking them to the vet for regular check-ups can keep UTIs away.