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Dog Bladder Infection 101

A dog bladder infection can be painful and distressing for your dog.

Dog bladder infection can make your dog feel very unwell.

Untreated, a UTI can lead to serious health problems including kidney infection and/or damage, and the formation of urinary stones or crystals.

A urinary tract infection like this can even completely prevent your poor dog from urinating by blocking the urethra.

This is a medical emergency and potentially life threatening!

A simple bladder infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria can usually be cleared up pretty quickly with a round of the correct antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

But there are sometimes other factors or complications which occur and it's vital to have your vet make an accurate diagnosis so that treatment is effective.

Dog urinary problems such as UTI's are more common in female dogs than in males.

Puppies are also at a slightly higher risk.

This is because female dogs, and puppies, have short urethras which allow bacteria to travel through them to the bladder fairly easily. 

Occasionally a physical problem with the vulva (obviously only in females), bladder or urethra can cause repeated UTI's in dogs.

Injury, hormone imbalances, cancer, diabetes, kidney problems or prostate issues can cause bladder problems in both male and female dogs.

Certain medications can also play a role in causing crystals or stones to form. These include cortico-steroids and certain canine heart medications. 

In male dogs, bladder problems are less likely to be caused by bacteria than in females.

Some breeds are predisposed to develop bladder stones or crystals (there are two common types of stones) which can cause, or be the result of, a dog bladder infection.

These include English Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Russian Terriers, Newfoundlands, Scottish Deerhounds, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus, Dachshunds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. 

There are two main types of bladder stones. These can either cause a bladder infection or be a result of one.

Because any dog can develop a canine bladder infection, at any age, it's important for dog owners to be able to recognize when there's a problem in this area.

This page will help you recognize the signs of bladder infection in your dog and give you the tips and advice you need to get her well again, and to prevent recurring bladder problems. 

Dog Bladder Infection Symptoms

Your dog can't tell you that it hurts or burns when she/he pees, or that she feels achy or shivery.

Fifi can't even tell you if she's in so much pain that it feels as though her bladder will burst.

Fortunately there are some symptoms of canine urinary tract infection which are pretty easy to spot:

Frequent Urination

A dog with a bladder infection is going to feel the urge to pee much more often than normal.

Sometimes she may only pass a few drops each time.

Straining, whimpering or repeated squatting to pee, with little to show for it, are common.

Fifi's urine may look cloudy, have an unusual smell (may smell 'strong'), or be tinged with blood (see below).

Housebreaking Accidents

A urinary infection causes such an intense urge to pee that your dog is likely to be unable to control her bladder.

Dog having housebreaking accident due to urinary tract infection

Sudden 'potty training accidents' in a previously house-trained dog are often a sign of a bladder infection, or other physical bladder problem.

Poor Fifi may also dribble or leak urine when sleeping, or even when awake.

Bloody Urine

If your dog has a urinary tract infection it is likely to cause a LOT of irritation and inflammation in the urethra and bladder.

This leads to bleeding which can often (but not always) be seen in her urine. 

It may be just a trace of blood, or in more severe cases her urine may be pink or even red.

Licking at their 'Privates'

In an attempt to relieve the itching and burning she feels, your dog may lick at her privates quite obsessively.

Intense licking at the genital area, sometimes accompanied by whining, is often a sign of a bladder infection in dogs.

Generally Feeling Unwell

If Fifi has a bladder infection she is going to be feeling pretty unwell.

She's in pain, needs to pee ALL the time and may well have a fever, which is all miserable for her.

This can lead to loss of appetite, lethargy or disinterest in the things she usually enjoys.

In severe cases, or if the infection has been ongoing for some time, you might notice that she's losing weight, has an excessive desire to drink water or vomits.

Dog bladder symptoms infographic


These general symptoms can all be signs of illnesses other than a bladder infection.

So if y our dog seems generally unwell always get her (or him) thoroughly examined by your vet as soon as possible.

Dog Bladder Infection Treatment

It's important to be sure that your dog does have a bladder infection before treatment begins, so your vet will run some tests to be sure.

Correct Diagnosis Comes First

A urinalysis is usually the first step  in diagnosing a canine urinary tract infection - this is when your vet tests a sample of Fifi's urine for bacteria and other elements.

Bulldog with veterinarian

This test allows your veterinarian to learn what type of bacteria is causing the infection, and also detects pus, protein, blood and anything else which may show up in her urine.

Sometimes blood tests will also be run. These can check for kidney problems as well as other infections.

An X-ray or ultrasound may be done to rule out (or identify) bladder stones or crystals, or something other than a simple infection.

Treating A Canine Bladder Infection

For a dog bladder infection which is caused by bacteria, a round of the correct antibiotics usually fixes things up quickly and effectively.

This is great news for a condition which is as uncomfortable and quick to flare up as a UTI!

Dog medication bottle

Your vet will use the results of the urinalysis to decide which medication is the best choice to eradicate the particular strain of bacteria in Fifi's urine.

It's very important to make sure that your dog takes ALL the prescribed medication, at the right times, so that the bacteria is completely eliminated.

If you don't see an improvement within 48 hours, or Fifi seems to be feeling worse, let your vet know asap.

Sometimes the medication needs to be changed or dosage 'tweaked'. Don't make any changes yourself.. always call your vet for advice.

Your dog's urine will most likely be tested again after the full course of medications have been taken, to make sure all bacteria is gone.

Sometimes an anti-inflammatory will be prescribed as well, or medicine to help with the pain.

Making sure she drinks plenty of water is also recommended at all times (in fact drinking lots of water can play a role in preventing bladder infection and stone/crystal formation in dogs).

If test results and examination show other problems such as bladder stones (there are two main types of these Struvite and Calcium Oxalate) then they will also need to be treated.

  • Bladder stones can sometimes be dissolved with a dietary change (specific, vet prescribed dog food)

  • They may be broken down and flushed out by means of a veterinary procedure called urohydropropulsion.

  • A vet can surgically remove the bladder stones while Fifi is under general anesthetic.

  • Some stones can be broken up using high-frequency ultrasound. The tiny particles are then flushed out of the bladder. * This option is not commonly used for pets yet (although it's used in the treatment of stones in humans) but is available at certain clinics.

Your vet will decide which option is the right one for Fifi or Fido depending on the type of bladder stones he/she has, how many there are and how big they are.

Common Types of Dog Bladder Stones:

Struvite stones removed from a dog's bladder. Author Joel Mills. Shared under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikipedia.Struvite Bladder Stones Source: Joel Mills via Wikipedia
Calcium Oxalate stones removed from dog's bladder. Author: Joel Mills. Shared under GNU Free Documentation License, via Wikipedia.Calcium Oxalate Stones Source: Joel Mills via Wikipedia
Urate stones removed from dog's bladderUrate Stones Source: Joel Mills via Wikipedia

Bladder stones in male dogs are more likely to block the urethra, so removing them quickly and completely is especially important - particularly if there are a lot of stones.

Any other underlying health condition will also need to be treated.

This includes conditions such as diabetes or adrenal disease, as well as a physical abnormality or injury.

Treating a bladder infection and/or bladder stones sometimes requires your vet to use a combination of the above options.

There are also natural products which can help a dog bladder infection, but I wouldn't personally recommend these as the only treatment.

If there is a true infection, antibiotics are needed. Bladder stones need professional evaluation too and the right treatment.

Natural remedies can often be used in conjunction with veterinary treatment and in this situation can be very beneficial.

There are also many natural products which are effective at maintaining good bladder health and preventing UTI's and other bladder problems.

Once infection has set in your dog needs veterinary care.

Preventing A Dog Bladder Infection

There is no sure-fire, 100% guaranteed way to prevent your dog from developing a bladder infection - but there are things you can do to lessen the risk.

These include:

Water Consumption

Make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water... and that she drinks it!

Dog drinking water

Drinking enough keeps urine from becoming concentrated and also encourages your dog to pee regularly.

Both of these can help prevent the conditions in which bacteria thrive and/or stones form.

Regular Potty Breaks

If urine sits in the bladder too long it can become an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

So, making sure Fifi empties her bladder regularly, and fully, is important.

Some dogs (and especially puppies) need to pee several times during one potty break.

Just because she squats once don't assume she's empty!

Dietary Changes

Certain ingredients in some commercial pet foods are thought to be trigger factors for both common types of bladder stones in dogs (Struvite and Calcium Oxalate).

Dog food for canine bladder infection and bladder stones

This is due to the the effect they have on the acid levels of your dog's urine. 

Certain dog foods have been designed with this in mind.

These foods are formulated to maintain the correct balance of minerals and a healthy urine pH, both of which your dog needs to keep bladder infections and bladder stones at bay.

Studies have shown that the right diet can prevent dog bladder stones from reforming, so it's a simple but very effective way to keep Fifi safe.

For a dog who has had even one incidence of bladder stones, a prescription diet specifically designed for them is recommended... for the rest of their lives.

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

As early symptoms of a dog bladder infection or bladder stones can be vague at first, it's important to have your vet test Fifi's urine and do a physical exam regularly.

Catching a problem early means that it's easier, faster (and usually much less expensive) to treat.


Giving your dog probiotics regularly may help.

Studies show that these can prevent bacteria build-up and also support a healthy immune system which fights off infection much more effectively.

At Home Testing

If your dog has had a bladder infection or bladder stones it's important to be vigilant about preventing recurrence... and watching for symptoms of potential trouble.

Testing Fifi's urine at home periodically (or if you  think there might be a problem) can give you a head start on getting treatment started

Healthy pH levels in dog urine usually fall somewhere between 6.5 and 7.0

One slightly higher, or lower, reading isn't cause for panic.

Simply test again later the same day and you may find the reading is back in the normal range.

But if the pH balance is still off get Fifi to the vet for a professional evaluation.

You can use a complete at-home kit like this one -  Urinary Tract Infection Test Kit which gives accurate results in just two minutes.

This kit can detect blood, white blood cells, and nitrite in the urine. Kit contains two tests so you can test again later if needed.

For quick and easy collection of Fifi or Fido's urine, use the P-scoop Dog Urine Collector.

The PawCheck Test Kit can detect a dog bladder infection as well as indicators of diabetes and kidney failure.

Again, test results are available in two minutes and two test kits are provided.

Or you can buy urine testing strips which change color depending on the acid/alkali balance of the urine you collect, such as Solid Gold Urine pH testing strips for Dogs & Cats

Our Olde English Bulldogge, Winnie, had her first experience of bladder stones last year, at age five.

Olde English BulldoggeOur Winnie xo

We only discovered the stones after she was treated for recurring bladder infections and had X-rays to see what was going on in her bladder.

After treatment of the resulting infection, she had the stones removed and has been on a special, veterinary recommended diet, ever since - and will be for as long as she lives.

Given the dangers, not to mention discomfort, of repeated infections and surgery to remove stones, this seems like a small price to pay for her good health.

So far I'm happy to say that she is 100% healthy, and back to being a happy active dog :)

Shortly afterwards one of our cats, Patrick, had a life-threatening experience with bladder stones which had completely blocked his urethra.

Symptoms were vague and if it hadn't been for a gut feeling that something was wrong, that I couldn't see, we would have lost him.

It was touch-and-go but he survived and is healthy again and is also on a life-long prescription diet.

Bladder infections and bladder stones are potentially very serious - being aware of the symptoms and seeking treatment early is the best way to protect your pet!

Keeping Your Dog's Bladder Healthy

Here are a few products which given regularly can help keep Fifi and Fido's bladders healthy, hopefully preventing bladder infections and/or bladder stones from developing.

Natural Products - Dog Bladder Health

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