The 9 Most Common Urinary and Bladder Problems In Dogs

The 9 Most Common Urinary and Bladder Problems In Dogs

Author WDF Staff


It can be challenging to tell when your dog isn't feeling well, but urinary problems tend to get the attention they deserve. When dogs have blood in their urine, strain to urinate, produce abnormally small or large amounts of urine, or begin having accidents in the house, something is clearly wrong. Let's look at the 9 most common urinary and bladder problems in dogs and what we can do about them.

1. Bladder Stones

Stones (uroliths) can form anywhere in the urinary tract, but they are most commonly found in the bladder. Large stones are usually visible on x-rays, but smaller stones may require an abdominal ultrasound to be found.

Bladder stones can be made up of various minerals, including struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate, and treatment options will differ depending on the type of stone found. For example, struvite stones can usually be dissolved by feeding dogs specific foods or giving them urinary acidifiers. Still, other types of stones require surgery to be removed.

old staffie outside

A stone can become lodged in the urethra and completely prevent a dog from urinating. That condition is considered a veterinary emergency! If you suspect your dog has a urethral blockage, take them to the vet right away.

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2. Urinary Tract Infections

Bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs) are most common in female dogs, but they can affect any sex. Bladder infections are relatively common in dogs, but the situation becomes more serious if the infection spreads to the dog's kidneys.

A veterinarian may be able to diagnose a UTI based on your dog's symptoms and routine urinalysis. Still, more complex cases may necessitate blood work, a urine culture, or other diagnostic tests. Bladder infections usually respond favorably to antibiotic treatment. Infections of the kidneys frequently necessitate hospitalization for intravenous fluid therapy and antibiotics.

If urinary tract infections become a recurring issue, your veterinarian will need to investigate the root cause.

3. Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is most common in spayed female dogs, but it can occur in any individual. It is typically caused by hormonal deficiencies, which result in a loss of control of the urethral sphincter (the muscle that prevents urine from leaking out of the bladder), but structural or neurological issues can also play a role.

sad cane corso

Incontinent dogs leak urine but otherwise appear to be normal. Individuals who are only mildly affected may occasionally leak small amounts of urine (particularly when sleeping). In severe cases, affected dogs urinate almost constantly. Dogs with incontinence are more likely to develop skin problems around their hind end due to urine scald, and they are more likely to develop urinary tract infections.

The most commonly used medication to treat incontinence in dogs is phenylpropanolamine (PPA). Hormone replacement therapy is another option, but it has a higher risk of side effects. If medications do not control a dog's incontinence, several surgical procedures are available. Which treatment is best for a dog is determined by their specific circumstances.

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4. Kidney Failure

Acute kidney failure occurs when an infection, toxins (such as antifreeze), or other problems cause the kidneys to lose their ability to function in a short period of time. Chronic kidney failure develops gradually and frequently has no identifiable cause.

Kidney failure causes dogs to drink and urinate more than usual, become lethargic, stop eating, vomit, and lose weight. Later in the disease's progression, they may produce only small amounts of urine or stop urinating entirely. Blood work and urinalysis results can determine if a dog's kidneys are working correctly. Still, additional tests may be required to identify the underlying cause.

sad-looking dog

Treatment for kidney failure varies depending on the specific condition of the dog, but it usually consists of a combination of fluid therapy, special diets, and medications to treat the underlying cause or manage symptoms. Chronic kidney failure worsens over time, but the rate at which this happens varies greatly.

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5. Bladder Cancer

Different types of cancer can affect all parts of a dog's urinary tract, but the most common is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder. This is a dangerous, malignant cancer. Urinalysis, urine sediment cytology, bladder tumor antigen testing, x-rays, ultrasound, and tissue biopsy are commonly used to diagnose it.

TCC treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or palliative care. The drug piroxicam is given to most TCC dogs because it relieves pain and appears to slow the progression of the disease. Even the most aggressive forms of treatment will not cure TCC, but they can improve a dog's quality of life and extend survival.

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6. Prostatic Disease – Prostate Gland Disease

Prostate disease is a relatively common cause of urinary symptoms in male dogs. Neutered dogs are more likely to develop prostatic cancer, whereas intact dogs are more likely to develop prostate gland infections or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Dogs with a prostatic disease may strain to urinate or defecate, and their urine may contain blood.

dog in black and white

A digital rectal exam can usually tell a veterinarian whether a dog's prostate gland is normal or enlarged. Still, other tests may be required to identify the specific disease involved and plan appropriate treatment. When an intact male dog is diagnosed with BPH, neutering is almost always curative. Prostatic infections may respond to long-term antibiotic treatment, but surgery is sometimes required to drain abscesses. Prostatic cancer treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or palliative care, but the prognosis is generally poor.

7. Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is caused by either improper insulin production by the pancreas (type one diabetes) or the cell’s inability to respond to normal insulin concentrations (type two diabetes). It results either in excessively high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood or very low levels of glucose within the dog’s body cells.

Diabetes symptoms include increased urination and thirst, weakness, weight loss despite a good or ravenous appetite, recurrent infections, and cataract development. Severe, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and, if still untreated, death. Diabetes is typically diagnosed by a veterinarian based on clinical signs, elevated blood glucose levels, and the presence of glucose in the urine.

Diabetic dogs are typically treated with insulin injections, dietary changes, and, in some cases, oral medications.

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8. Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) occurs when a dog's body is exposed to abnormally high cortisol hormone levels. This can happen due to corticosteroid medication, a pituitary gland tumor, or various adrenal tumors. Cushing's disease causes dogs to urinate and drink more than usual. They will also have excessive appetites, poor-quality coat and skin abnormalities, and a pot-bellied appearance.

sad black lab

Cushing's disease is not always easy to diagnose and may necessitate several various laboratory tests. Treatment will be determined by the exact underlying cause. Corticosteroids must be gradually weaned from dogs receiving them since abrupt discontinuation can have harmful consequences. Adrenal tumors are surgically excised. Trilostane or mitotane are commonly used to suppress cortisol production in dogs with pituitary disease.

RELATED: Home Remedies for UTI in Dogs

9. Pyometra

Intact female dogs are predisposed to a uterine infection known as pyometra. Pyometra most commonly appears in older females one to two months after their heat cycle. A dog suffering from pyometra will frequently urinate and drink more than usual. One of the tell-tale signs of pyometra is blood-tinged pus draining from the vulva. Lethargy, depression, and vomiting are also commonly seen in this condition. Blood work, x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, and microscopic examination of a sample of cells swabbed from a dog's vulva will tell the vet enough information to confirm the diagnosis and decide on the best treatment.

Pyometra is best treated with an emergency spay. Individuals in poor health may require fluid therapy, antibiotics, and other types of supportive care prior to surgery. Pyometra can be a scary and fatal disease if not treated quickly.

World Dog Finder team

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