If you live with a paraplegic pet, you know all too well how hard it is to prevent urinary tract infection in dogs with incontinence. Recurring UTIs are common in paralyzed dogs. And as the pet mom or dad you feel helpless watching your fur kid struggle to “go” due to a UTI. It’s a miserable situation.
But the paralysis that causes your pup to be unable to walk also affects how well their bladder works. Most paralyzed pets have no control. And many others have bladders that leak and dribble.
This lack of control creates the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow in the urinary tract. When a UTI develops, it’s painful and can make your dog seriously ill. It can also lead to complications like bladder crystals and stones if it isn’t treated. This post will help you identify the signs of UTI and the tips to prevent them.
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How your dog’s bladder works
Whether you have a male or female dog the key to good bladder health is maintaining the proper pH level. It’s what keeps bacteria from growing and turning into an infection. A dog’s pee should be at a neutral pH level of 7.
Healthy, able-bodied dogs usually have no problem maintaining this level. But it’s a different story for incontinent dogs:
- Urine stays in their bladder for a long period of time because they can’t eliminate on their own.
- Small amounts of urine remain because they don’t have the ability to fully empty their bladder.
- They dribble urine a little at a time.
Signs your dog has a urinary tract infection
Pets with UTI show signs of:
- Drinking excessive amounts of water
- Urinating only small amounts at a time
- Urinating frequently and in multiple spots
- Intense licking in the area
- Have blood in their urine
- Some pets do not show any symptoms until an infection gets bad or pet parents report an ammonia odor coming from their dog or cat.
What to expect from your dog’s veterinarian
The diagnosis of urinary tract infections typically starts with a physical exam and a urinalysis which tests for bacteria and other abnormal factors. The sample is collected during your veterinary visit. Bloodwork might also be included in the work up.
If your dog has recurring UTIs, you might be able to bring a urine sample from home. Your vet will be able to explain the best way to collect the sample.
Many pet owners whose dogs have recurring UTI also use urinalysis strips that can be bought at your local pharmacy. The strips allow you to test your dog’s pH level as often as you like. It’s a good way to monitor if a new UTI is brewing.
There’s also a complete at-home UTI test kit for dogs from Petnostics. The kit is inexpensive and works with your smart phone to diagnose a UTI. I personally used it for one of my dogs and found it to be accurate and easy to use, even if you aren’t tech savvy.
My paraplegic dog Sophie didn’t have many urinary tract infections, but the two she did have were awful for both of us. I missed all of the warning signs and she ended up with a severe infection. Sophie had to go on some pretty potent antibiotics which were hard on her body.
If your dog is diagnosed with UTI, your vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic to kill off the infection. It’s important to complete the treatment so the infection doesn’t travel into the kidneys or heart.
Infections typically clear up completely for most dogs, but if your pup is prone to recurring UTIs – it’s not always the case. In this situation enlist the help of your vet to determine how your dog’s incontinence is contributing to the problem.
For instance, if it’s a problem of urine being retained in the bladder, ask your veterinarian to teach you how to manually express your dog’s bladder so it’s fully emptied. And if you’re using diapers you might need to change them more often.
You should also discuss with your vet about how to put your dog on a bathroom schedule. Expressing your dog at regular intervals during the day can greatly improve their bladder health.
And if your dog’s UTIs are due to a leaky bladder, talk with your vet about a prescription medication like Proin. It’s an oral medicine that tightens the urethral sphincter to control leakage.
Medical tips to prevent urinary tract infection in dogs
The best way to take care of UTIs is by learning how to prevent them. Here are recommendations from veterinarians.
- Keep your dog on a strict bathroom schedule. My schedule was to take Sophie out four times a day: before breakfast, midday, after dinner and before bed.
- Learn how to manually express your dog’s bladder. (Ask your vet for a hands-on lesson.)
- Make sure your dog’s bladder is completely EMPTY when you express.
- If your dog wears a diaper, change it often so bacteria can’t grow. Clean the area with baby wipes.
- Watch for a change in the smell of the urine. A strong ammonia smell could mean an infection is brewing.
- Watch the color of the urine. A bright yellow color could mean your dog is dehydrated and dark urine could point to an infection or blood in the urine.
- Keep your dog well hydrated. Make sure your dog is drinking enough water and that a water bowl is within reach.
- Be on the lookout for any discomfort your dog shows while being expressed. Sophie didn’t have any sensation of pain, but her body sensed an infection and protected itself by resisting when I pressed on her belly.
- If you suspect your dog is getting a UTI, ask your vet to culture the urine. Not all infections are equal or equally treated. The bacteria can be easy to cure or resistant. Some dogs develop severe infections like MRSA, which can be passed along to humans.
- If your dog has a resistant UTI or recurring problems talk with your vet about getting a second opinion from a Veterinary Internist. They can help with ongoing treatment like flushing the bladder, dietary modifications and supplements. An Internist might also suggest medications that are normally prescribed for humans. Baclofen is a medication used to improve the bladder health of human paraplegics, but can be prescribed for dogs.
Natural methods to prevent UTI in dogs with incontinence
Here are holistic and natural ways to stop UTIs from recurring. Many of these suggestions come from readers of Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog. Please check with your veterinarian before implementing them.
D-mannose – A supplement extracted from cranberry. It’s expelled from the urine quickly to promote a clean healthy bladder.
Vitamin C – Canine Journal recommends 500mg crushed and sprinkled over your dog’s food once a day for 7 days to stop a brewing UTI.
OxyE and Cranberry Extract – Protects the bladder wall. Cranberry extract is thought to prevent leakage due to UTI.
Dr. Mercola’s Bladder Support Powder – A proprietary blend of 7 herbs and nutrients that promotes good bladder health.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is used to neutralize pH levels.
Oregano Capsules – Oregano is an antimicrobial that fights E. coli.
Raw Diet – Dr. Karen Becker recommends a healthy raw diet recipe for bladder health.
Does your incontinent dog struggle with recurring UTI? If so, I’d love to learn what you use to prevent the problem. Just leave your comment below.