The bladder is an organ that stores urine. In the case of dogs, it is located within the dog’s abdomen in the area between the rear legs.
When a dog releases himself, the muscles in the bladder wall contract, sneezing the urine out through the urethra (the narrow tube that carries the urine outside the body).
A ring of muscle called a sphincter surrounds the urethra near the bladder, closing off the urine flow until it is time for the dog to release himself.
Bladder infection (cystitis) is a bacterial infection of the lining of the dog’s bladder. Bacteria sometimes travel up the urethra into the dog’s bladder, causing an infection.
In many cases, an urinary tract infection happens before a bladder infection in dogs.
Female dogs are more prone to urinary tract infections and bladder infections. The reason is that their urethra is shorter, making it easier for bacteria to travel upwards.
Bladder stones can occur as a result of bladder infections in dogs. The bacteria in the bladder can form a “nidus” (a central point) around which the stone develops.
Bladder stones therefore can become a “hiding place” for bacteria against antibiotics. This leads to difficult-to-treat chronic bladder infections in dogs.
Also, an untreated canine bladder infection can lead to kidney infection, which is more serious. Be sure to take your dog to the vet if he shows signs and symptoms of a bladder infection.
Causes of Dog Bladder Infection
Various factors and underlying health problems can cause bladder infections in dogs. For example:
- Long-term corticosteroid therapy suppresses a dog’s immune system. This in turn makes the dog more susceptible to infections such as bladder infections.
- Lack of fresh, clean drinking water resulting in insufficient urine output can cause bladder infections. Without enough water to flush out bacteria, it is easy for the bacteria to grow and fester in the bladder.
- Insufficient bathroom time resulting in the dog holding urine may also result in a bladder infection in dogs.
- Stones that formed within the urinary tract may also cause bladder infections.
- Similarly, if there is a foreign body, e.g. grass awns, within the urinary tract, a bladder infection can also occur.
- In male dogs, prostate problems can sometimes cause infections in the bladder.
- In female dogs, problems in the vagina or uterus may cause bladder infections.
- Health problems that make a dog to drink excessive amount of water also tend to cause bladder infections. The reason is, if a dog drinks a lot of water, the urine is more diluted. Diluted urine creates a good environment for bacteria to thrive. Some health issues that cause dogs to drink excessively include diabetes, Cushing’s disease, kidney failure, and liver disease.
Symptoms of Dog Bladder Infection
The classic symptoms of a dog having a bladder infection are frequent urination and painful urination.
A dog with a bladder infection usually strains to urinate frequently, and very often can only pass a small amount of urine.
The urine is cloudy and has an abnormal odor. Because of the frequent urge to urinate, the dog may have “accidents” around the house.
Other canine bladder infection symptoms include:
- Back pain
- Female dogs may lick frequently at the vulva and have a vaginal discharge
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is by a urinalysis to check for bacteria, white blood cells and red blood cells in the urine.
The vet may also take X-rays in order to rule out the possibility of bladder stones.
Conventional treatment of canine bladder infections is the use of oral antibiotics for one to two weeks. After that, the vet will do another urinalysis to ensure that the infection has been eliminated.
For chronic bladder infections, the vet will do some more thorough tests to try to find out what might be the underlying cause of recurring infections.
Supplements to Prevent Bladder Infections
We can give the following supplements to our dogs to prevent canine bladder infections:
Cranberries (also blackberries and raspberries) are effective in preventing cystitis. They help to keep bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder and the urethra. They may also help to lower urine pH.
You can give non-sweetened cranberry juice (about half an ounce for dogs) to your dog. Or, you can use a cranberry powder product such as Solid Gold Berry Balance for Cats and Dogs.
Vitamin C can acidify the urine which in turn helps to control bacterial infections. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore can prevent infections.
Cod-liver oil is rich in vitamin A, which is essential in keeping the lining of the bladder and urinary tract in good condition.
Some vets also suggest that probiotics may help prevent recurring bladder infections in dogs.
You can also prevent canine bladder infections by giving access to your dog fresh, clean water at all times. Also make sure that he has plenty of bathroom time to release himself.
Feed the Dog a Healthy Diet
Feed your dog a high-quality natural diet instead of cheap kibbles which are usually packed with grain-based carbohydrates. These carbs can alter the pH of your dog’s urine, creating an environment that encourages bacteria to thrive.
Keep the Dog Clean
If you have a female dog, use a hypoallergenic grooming wipe to wipe the skin surrounding the vulva several times a day to prevent bacteria from “hanging out” in that area. This in turn lessens the possibility of bacteria migrating up the urethra and into the bladder.