Urinary tract infections in dogs can be painful and lead to bladder infection or kidney issues. Know the signs and symptoms of a dog UTI so you can treat it quickly.

If you've ever had a bladder or urinary tract infection, you know how painful it is. A dog urinary tract infection (UTI) is unbearable for your pup too. Unfortunately, these nasty bacterial infections are common in humans, cats, and dogs—about one in three dogs will develop a UTI. Here's everything you need to know about a dog UTI and the quick-fix treatment to get your pup feeling better fast.

What Causes Urinary Tract Issues in Dogs?

Almost all dog urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, which are normally present on the skin or in a dog's poop. Typically, problems start when the bacteria move up through the genitals and spread into the bladder, kidneys, and prostate.

Bacteria irritate the urinary tract causing inflammation (swelling). Some types of bacteria can also cause stones to develop in the bladder.

Any dog can have a UTI, but Sharon Marx, DVM, medical director of VCA Animal Healing Center in Yardley, Penn., says some dogs are more likely to get them. Older female dogs and those who hold their urine for a long time are more susceptible. Your dog may also be at higher risk if he or she has: 

Warning Signs of Urinary Tract Infections

You can tell if a dog has UTI symptoms if you know what to look for. Signs of a UTI in dogs include: 

  • Frequent need to pee but little urine comes out
  • Straining to pee
  • Crying out or whining during urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Peeing in the house
  • Leaking urine
  • Licking genitals

If the kidneys are infected, your dog may also have: 

If you have a male dog that hasn't been neutered, the bacteria that cause a UTI can infect the prostate as well. Signs your dog's prostate is affected include:

  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty defecating (straining to poop)
  • Stiff or funny walk
  • Disinterest in normal activities
dog on leash next to woman; could your dog have a UTI?
Credit: Daily Paws / Jason Donnelly

Treating Urinary Tract Problems 

Just like UTIs in humans, UTIs in our canine companions are painful—and waiting too long to take your pup to the vet for treatment can make symptoms worse. The infection can spread to kidneys and the prostate. While you might want to run out and pick up over-the-counter treatment to help your pup now, Marx says to avoid medications meant for people, since they're toxic to pets.

If you suspect that your dog has a UTI, contact your veterinarian for advice. You may need to schedule an appointment for an exam and testing. Your vet may ask you to bring a urine sample, but be sure to ask first. Some situations warrant sterile collection of urine in the clinic, which means you'll want to prevent your dog from peeing right before the vet appointment.

Your vet may start with a urinalysis, a test to look for bacteria, abnormal blood cells, and crystals, the latter of which may signal that your dog has bladder stones. Your vet may also recommend a urine culture, which requires a sterile sample of urine to test for bacterial growth. A urine culture and sensitivity can help determine which, if any, bacteria are growing in your dog's urine and how that bacteria responds to various antibiotics.

Antibiotics are typically used to treat UTIs in dogs, but the exact type of antibiotic prescribed will depend on the signs and severity of your dog's condition as well as current veterinary medicine guidelines.

Marx says you can collect a urine sample at home or have your vet do it at the clinic. Just make sure to first ask your vet if you should even bring a sample (your vet may prefer to do this in the clinic). Here's how to get a urine sample at home:

Taking a Urine Sample at Home

Marx recommends trying to get urine from your dog's first-morning pee if possible—it'll be the most concentrated sample. Catch it in a clean container that can be sealed. 

You can also scoot a soup ladle underneath your dog to catch the urine while she pees and then transfer it to a clean container. But note that a home urine sample has to get to your vet's office within two hours. 

Collecting a Urine Sample at the Veterinary Clinic

If you can't get a sample at home, your vet can take a sterile sample with a needle. "It's a quick procedure that most dogs tolerate extremely well," Marx says. In fact, a sterile sample is necessary if your vet wants to run a urine culture. That's why it's best to ask your vet first before trying to get a urine sample at home.

Your dog may also need X-rays to check for bladder stones if your vet finds crystals in the urine sample. Bladder stones can cause recurring bladder infections and need to be treated as well. 

In most cases, Marx says treatment for a UTI in dogs is a simple course of antibiotics, usually prescribed for seven to 14 days. You should also encourage your dog to drink water to flush bacteria from the bladder.

"Dogs should feel better by 48 hours after starting antibiotics," Marx says. "Sometimes, it can be as early as 24 hours. But continue the medication for as long as prescribed by your vet to completely clear up the UTI." Your vet can recheck the urine at a follow-up exam to make sure the bacteria is gone.

How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections from Occurring

Some pet parents try giving their dog yogurt for a UTI, which is thought to balance a dog's microbiome in general. But this method has varying results and doesn't necessarily work for every dog. It's best to ask your vet for a recommendation instead of trying a home remedy to prevent or treat UTIs.

Marx says the best thing you can do to prevent another UTI is to make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water. Also, take frequent walks or provide a lot of potty breaks for your dog throughout the day.

If your dog has recurring UTIs, your vet may recommend taking supplements. "Cranberry and vitamin C can help dogs that have chronic UTIs by lowering urine pH," Marx says. "But discuss it with your vet before using any treatment. These supplements can make some types of infections worse, especially if certain crystal types (calcium oxalates) are part of the cause."

An underlying medical condition could also be what's behind your dog's multiple UTIs or difficulty getting one to go away. Your vet may suggest additional testing to determine the root cause of chronic UTIs.