A friend called me the other day about her housebroken young dog, Belle, who had urinated in the house four times that morning (four times!). As she told me more about Belle’s behavior, I realized she wasn’t describing a lapse in good behavior, but rather a classic canine bladder infection.
Bladder infections occur when there is bacterial growth in the bladder, which causes painful inflammation 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.
Bladder infections are most typical in young, female dogs. But even so, there are many causes. 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 up 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 or may even be a sign of something more serious, such as bladder tumors. Male dogs can also get infections, but the length and narrowness of their urethra offers some protection.
test the waters
First-time infections are generally treated with antibiotics, but if it’s a recurring problem, then your vet may run additional tests to make sure there isn’t an identifiable underlying cause.
If you suspect your dog has a bladder infection, you should see your veterinarian right away. They are uncomfortable, and if untreated, can turn into a more serious kidney infection. Don’t forget a fresh urine sample to bring along — I know it’s a hassle, but it truly helps your vet get the right diagnosis.