Just like in humans, bladder infections, or bacterial cystitis, is a common and painful condition in dogs, so prompt treatment is important. Here’s what you need to know.
Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder, with bacterial cystitis being inflammation caused by a bacterial infection
Cystitis is common in dogs, especially in females
Symptoms of cystitis include frequent and painful weeing, strong smelling urine and bloody urine
Contact your vet as soon as possible if your dog is showing any signs of cystitis
Treatment is usually successful and involves a course of antibiotics, which must be completed in full, or the infection will recur and be harder to treat
What causes bacterial cystitis?
Bacterial cystitis happens when bacteria travel into the urinary tract and multiply. This can happen when bacteria travel from outside the body up to the bladder, via the urethra. The urethra is the tube which passes urine from the bladder to the external opening when the dog urinates.
Female dogs are more prone to bacterial cystitis because their urethra is shorter than in males, so the bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. Some underlying health conditions increase the risk of bacterial cystitis too, such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
What are the symptoms of bacterial cystitis?
Bacterial cystitis can be very uncomfortable. We know from people that it causes a nasty burning sensation. In dogs, symptoms include:
Needing to pee more often
Discomfort and straining when weeing
Strong, fishy smelling urine
Blood in the urine
Drinking more than usual
Licking the penis or vulva more than usual
Bacterial cystitis can also make a dog feel pretty rotten, so they may go off their food and become lethargic too.
How do you diagnose bacterial cystitis?
Your vet will perform a physical exam and may be able to feel that the bladder is painful and inflamed. They will run some tests on a urine sample to look for evidence of infection. They may send the urine to a laboratory to identify the specific bacteria so they can choose the correct antibiotic.
If your dog keeps getting bacterial cystitis, your vet will use an x-ray or ultrasound, along with some blood work, to look for an underlying reason.
How do you treat bacterial cystitis?
Thankfully, the treatment is usually straight forward, with good success rate. Treatment consists of a course of antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory pain relief. Complicated cases, such as those caused by bladder stones or an underlying health issue, can be harder to treat. They may need a long course of antibiotics or further investigations.
How can you prevent bacterial cystitis?
In most cases, bacterial cystitis cannot be prevented. Ensuring your dog drinks plenty of water, has plenty of toilet breaks and keeping their back end clean can help. There are also supplements you can give, which may help to maintain a healthy bladder wall.
If you dog has recurring infections, this is a sign that further investigations are needed, to determine and treat the underlying cause. You vet may advise a prescription diet to help prevent recurrence, depending on the cause.