Lower Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs - What You Should Know

PetMD Editorial
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PetMD Editorial
Published: June 13, 2014
Lower Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs - What You Should Know

Many people have heard about the dangers of urinary tract disease in cats, but did you know it can be just as life threatening for dogs?

What is Urinary Tract Disease?

Urinary tract disease is actually just a general term used to describe several afflictions that can affect the urinary tract, the body's drainage system for removing wastes and extra water. The urinary tract includes two kidneys, two ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder), a bladder and a urethra. Here are just a few urinary tract conditions that can affect your dog:

Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs

This occurs when bacteria invades and colonizes in the urinary bladder, urethra, and sometimes even the kidneys. Dogs of all ages can be affected by urinary tract infections, but vulnerability generally increases with advancing age. Additionally, female dogs are more susceptible to bacterial infections of the lower urinary tract than males. Urinary tract infections can lead to bladder stones called struvites.

Read more about Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs here.

Bladder Stones in Dogs

This occurs when a solid mass made up of mineral and acid salts form in the bladder, often because your dog's urine contains too much of certain substances that form the crystals. While bladder stones can affect any dog, some dog breeds are more susceptible to certain types of bladder stones than others. For example, bladder stones containing calcium and oxalic acid (known as calcium oxalate uroliths) are more likely to be found in Schnauzers, Bichons, Lhasa Apsos, and Miniature Poodles. Bladder stones containing uric acid (known as urate uroliths), on the other hand, typically affect Dalmatians, Yorkshire Terriers, and English Bulldogs.

Meanwhile, struvite bladder stones form when the urine has too much magnesium, ammonium and phosphorus. Most struvite bladder stones in dogs are caused by a urinary tract infection, so correcting the bladder infection is important. The good news is there are therapeutic foods that are low in magnesium phosphorus and pH that can dissolve the bladder stones. Your veterinarian can treat the infection and recommend a proper treatment course for dissolving or removing the bladder stones.

What are the Common Signs of Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs?

Signs associated with urinary tract disease will vary depending on the condition afflicting your dog. Here are some common signs of urinary tract disease in dogs:

Frequent Attempts to Urinate

Is your dog peeing for the umpteenth time today? Dogs with urinary tract disease often urinate an abnormal amount of times each day because little to no urine is being expelled each time. This is obviously very frustrating and also dangerous because when a dog is blocked they are unable to rid themselves of bodily toxic waste products through their urine. Take your dog immediately to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is blocked, as this can be a life threatening condition.

Painful Urination

The pain associated with urinary tract disease may be so severe that some dogs will lick their penile or vaginal area (or at times the abdominal area) as a way to try and self-soothe. Dogs with urinary tract disease may also be more irritable than usual.

Blood in the Urine

Dogs with urinary tract disease will often have urine which is blood-tinged or discolored. Females are often at greater risk for urinary tract infections that lead to blood in the urine than are males.

Urinating Indoors

Urinating indoors is not always a medical issue, but you should be concerned of it, especially when combined with any of the other aforementioned symptoms.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary tract disease can be remedied with treatment so bring your dog to a veterinarian for examination if you suspect anything is amiss. Your dog will need to be examined and have laboratory work, including a urine test and possibly a blood test, X-ray or ultrasound, to diagnose your dog’s condition. In addition to various prescription drugs and techniques he or she can recommend for your dog, there are nutritional changes to consider. Consult with your veterinarian if your dog's food is best for his or her urinary health. Foods high in magnesium, phosphorus, protein and calcium have been linked to stone formation in some studies. This is why your veterinarian may recommend a dog food that restricts amounts of those minerals, especially if your dog is suffering from bladder stones.

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