My friend called me the other day. Her sweet, 100% housebroken young dog, Annie, had urinated in the house four times that morning. She also mentioned that Annie was peeing frequently outside (“six times in five minutes!” ), and that she was spending a lot of time – “um, cleaning herself – if you know what I mean.” I did know what she meant, because she was describing a classic case of a bladder infection in a dog. Even the dog herself, young and female, was very typical.
A bladder infection occurs when there is bacterial growth in the urinary bladder. This condition causes a lot of inflammation, and with that comes pain, and an irritable bladder that demands to be emptied even when it already is. Symptoms are frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood or even pus in the urine, and often excessive licking after urination.
There are many causes of bladder infections. Since the female dog has a short and wide urethra (the tube that leads from the bladder to the outside), she is more prone to an infection caused by bacteria simply migrating their way up the urethra into the bladder. And, if she has any skin issues around her vulva (where the urethra empties through), or if her vulva is recessed under a heavy flap of skin, there may be more bacteria in that area to cause an infection. Bladder infections may also be caused by bladder stones, anatomical abnormalities, and even secondary to bladder tumors. Male dogs can also get infections, but are offered some protection by the length and narrowness of their urethra.
If you suspect your dog has a bladder infection, you should see your veterinarian right away. Bladder infections are uncomfortable, and if left untreated can eventually turn into a more serious kidney infection. If you are suspicious, don’t forget a fresh urine sample when you go to your appointment. This makes it easier to get a definitive diagnosis right away. Collect a fresh sample by holding a very clean container under your dog when he or she has to pee…and do be prepared for some strange looks from your neighbors! I know it is a hassle, but it makes my day when there is a urine sample ready for me to look at before I even see the pet in the office – because then I can be sure of my diagnosis!
For first time infections we generally treat dogs with a course of antibiotics, but if an infection is recurring, then your veterinarian may run additional tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds and cultures to make sure there isn’t an identifiable underlying cause.
Hopefully you and your pet won’t ever have to deal with a bladder infection, but if you do, now you know what to do… just don’t forget your sample!!