Signs & symptoms of a dog bladder infection

Dog on Dog Bed image by Janet Wall from

A bladder infection, also called a urinary tract infection (UTI) or acute cystitis, occurs when bacteria gets into the urinary tract and begins reproducing out of control. Bladder infections are among the most common infectious canine health conditions.

The prognosis for dog bladder infections is good with proper antibiotic treatment. Bladder infections in dogs have similar symptoms to those shown by humans.

Common Symptoms

Dogs suffering from UTIs don't always show symptoms in the early days of the bladder infection. Some dogs never exhibit any symptoms. One of the early signs of a bladder infection is a housebroken dog suddenly urinating in the house or another inappropriate area. Other common symptoms include the dog straining to urinate, dribbling urine and urinating more frequently or in smaller amounts than usual. Often the dog's urine will be bloody, foul-smelling or cloudy. Many dogs will have an unexplained increase in thirst.

Other Symptoms

Although not common, some dogs with bladder infections exhibit a distinct loss of appetite and a lack of energy. Other uncommon signs of a dog bladder infection include vomiting, fever and constantly licking the genital area. In some cases, an infected dog reacts when the owner pets his belly because the lower stomach area is tender and sore. Although most dog bladder infections are not medical emergencies, the owner should schedule an appointment with a vet as soon as possible. Early treatment can help relieve some of the dog's pain and discomfort.


Diagnosing a dog bladder infection is a fairly simple process for a veterinarian. The vet checks the dog's bladder for any abnormal tenderness or unusual firmness. Vets also collect a urine sample to test for bacteria, blood, pH levels, white blood cells and other abnormalities. If a dog has suffered with numerous bladder infections, the vet might request an ultrasound or X-rays to check for bladder stones or other medical conditions that encourage the growth of bacteria.


First-time, uncomplicated dog bladder infections are typically treated with a course of antibiotics. Most antibiotic treatments last from 10 to 14 days, although more severe cases might require low doses of medication for about six months. Antibiotics should be given to the dog at bedtime so the medication stays in the body longer and has more time to fight the infection. The infected dog should also be given access to plenty of fresh, clean water to help flush the bacteria out of the bladder.

Possible Complications

The long-range consequences of an untreated dog bladder infection might include kidney failure or septicaemia, which occurs when the bacteria gets into the bloodstream and infects other organs. Septicaemia that infect the intervertebral disk can cause discospondylitis, while bacterial endocarditis is caused by septicaemia which infect the lining of the heart and the heart valves. Male dogs commonly suffer from bladder infections that spread to their prostate glands where it can cause abscesses to form.


Female dogs typically accumulate bacteria in their vaginal area, while males commonly have bacterial growth in their prostate. The bacteria then moves into the urethra and is transferred into the dog's urinary tract. Bladder infections are more often seen in female dogs than males because they have a shorter urethra that allows the bacteria to accumulate and spread more quickly. Dog owners can help to prevent canine bladder infections by giving dogs plenty of clean water, allowing them to urinate regularly and bathing them on a regular basis.