Bladder Infections (Cystitis) Affecting Dogs

Written by Amelie Krause, Vet
Cystitis in Dogs

Bladder infections affecting dogs (cystitis) mostly emerge in connection to the urethra being inflamed, so it should not be treated in isolation. The urethra and bladder are known together as the lower urinary tract.

Causes

Bacteria play the most significant role in infections of the lower urinary tract affecting dogs. These bacteria are found on the skin surrounding the genitals and can ascend above the urethra in the bladder (known as ascending infections). An infection of the lower urinary tract can affect dogs of both sexes and all ages. In principle though, females are most commonly affected since their urethra is relatively short compared to that of males. In addition, neutered females are particularly susceptible to infection due to the weakening of the bladder sphincter. It is easier for bacteria to enter the urethra from this area. The bacteria are mostly intestinal pathogens like E. coli or enterococci, as well as proteus, staphylococci, rare pseudomonas and other pathogens. Mostly just one pathogen is responsible for the infection and two or more can be detected in 25% of cases. Urinary crystals or stones can likewise be the cause of a bladder infection. The crystals or stones irritate the mucous membrane of the bladder and urethra, thereby disturbing its defensive mechanisms. In addition, changes to the anatomic structures like misalignment of the urinary organs can lead to infections. Other diseases such as diabetes mellitus or hyperadrenocorticism likewise disturb the immune system and reduce antibacterial urine properties, giving ascending infections an easy ride.

Symptoms of a bladder infection

The most common symptom of a lower urinary tract infection is an increased need to urinate, though with small amounts or no urine at all. In addition, urination can hurt, as is shown by a bent back or expressions of pain. Sometimes the urine has a different smell and colour if it is cloudy or bloody. There are no changes to the general condition, although fever can emerge in severe cases.

Diagnosis

A veterinary examination and a preliminary report from the dog owner indicate a lower urinary tract infection. The suspected diagnosis can be confirmed by examining the urine, ideally by aseptic extraction known as cystocentesis. The vet removes urine from the bladder using a syringe under ultrasound control. It is better to assess urine in this way than by collecting it, because it has not been contaminated by genital bacteria. The cells, bacteria and crystals of the urine are examined under a microscope with the help of a urine stick. As well, a bacteriological examination of the bladder should be carried out. The urinary bladder should be examined via ultrasound for anomalies like mucous membrane changes in the bladder or signs of urinary crystals or stones. An X-ray examination may also be necessary, since urinary stones are sometimes not visible in ultrasound scans. With complex urinary tract infections, further investigations for additional ailments may be needed.

Treating a bladder infection

A bacteriological examination makes it possible to identify the bacteria causing that infection and inflammation of the lower urinary tract. The bacteria in question should be treated in a targeted manner with antibiotics. In addition, the use of painkillers can be helpful. An operation is required to remove urinary stones. Urinary crystals can be dissolved by changing the diet accordingly. If other ailments that encourage a bladder infection are present, they must also be treated in order for the infection of the lower urinary tract to heal up.

Prevention

If your dog is part of the group that can be regularly affected by urinary tract infections, it's advisable for you to protect it from getting drenched in wet or cold water. It should not be able to lie on cold surfaces. Thorough hygiene around the anal region if diarrhoea is present can likewise prevent a bladder infection. Dogs should also have sufficient water available to them and not have to wait too long until they can empty their bladder. With sensitive dogs in particular, you can try to strengthen the bladder mucosa with food supplements, for instance, cranberries.

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