Kidney Infection In Dogs: Causes, Signs & Treatment

Kidney Infection In Dogs: Causes, Signs & Treatment

Author Sara Ochoa


Was your dog recently diagnosed with a kidney infection? This can be very painful and potentially life-threatening. You can do many things to quickly get your dog back to their healthy and happy life and there are many ways to prevent them from developing a kidney infection.

What Is a kidney infection?

The medical term for a kidney infection is pyelonephritis.  This is not as common as a bladder infection but can occur in dogs with untreated bladder infections. 

What Causes Kidney Infections

A kidney infection is caused by a bacterial infection that moves from your dog's bladder up the ureters, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The most common bacteria that are seen in kidney infections are E. coli and Staphylococcus. Other bacteria such as Proteus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and pseudomonas can also cause bladder infection and can be seen in dogs with kidney infections. 

dog laying in chair

Other Medical conditions that Cause Kidney Infections

While your dog can get a kidney infection from an infection ascending from the bladder to the kidney, other medical issues can cause your dog to develop a kidney infection. These are:

  • Ectopic ureters: This is when the tubes that run from the kidneys to the bladder do not properly attach to the bladder. 
  • Vesicoureteral reflux: this is when urine flows backward from the bladder to the ureters.
  • Renal Dysplasia: This occurs at birth.  This is where the kidneys do not properly form or develop.  These kidneys are usually very small. 

Another disease that your dog could have that could cause your dog to be more suspectable of developing a urinary tract infection.  These are:

  • Diabetes
  • Taking any steroids
  • Kidney failure
  • Cushing's disease
  • Having a urinary Catheter
  • Having to hold their urine for a long time
  • Bladder or kidney stones
  • Perineal urethrostomy surgery

What are the signs of a kidney infection?

The signs that you would see with a dog with kidney infection are:

  • Drinking more water
  • Urinating more
  • Painful when urinating
  • Frequently urinating small amounts
  • Urinating in the house or other inappropriate locations
  • Fever
  • Painful when touching the abdomen near kidneys

If you notice any of these signs, it would be best for your vet to see your dog see what is causing these issues.

worried french bulldog

How is a kidney infection diagnosed?

If your vet thinks that your dog has a kidney infection, they may want to run bloodwork. This will show if your dog's kidneys are function properly and if they have a high white blood cell (WBC) count. A high white blood cell count would indicate that your dog has an infection.

They may also want to check a urine sample. This will tell them if your dog also has a bladder infection or other abnormalities in their urine. They will also send this urine for a culture to see what type of bacteria is growing in your dog's urine and what antibiotics will treat this infection.

How do you treat a kidney infection?

If your dog does have a kidney infection, your vet will most likely recommend that your dog stays a day in the hospital on IV fluids and IV antibiotics. This would help them successfully recover from this infection. After a few days, or in very mild infections, you may be able to treat your dog at home. 

Your dog will need to take antibiotics for 4 to 6 weeks with many different urine tests to ensure that the infection is clearing up. Your dog would need to make sure that your dog is eating and drinking water every day to recover. 

If your dog also has kidney disease along with their kidney infection, they may need to eat a kidney-focused diet. Hills, Purina, and Royal Canin make prescription diets for your dog to take.

How do you prevent a kidney infection?

If your dog has a condition that would have them more likely to develop a kidney infection, as soon as any symptoms are noticed, take them to your vet right away.  Most dogs with kidney infections, if caught early and treated properly, can quickly and fully recover.  If you do not treat a kidney infection right away, this can develop kidney failure.

Final Thoughts

Kidney infections can be very serious and life-threatening if not treated.  As soon as you notice any urinary issues in your dog, they should be seen by your vet.  They can help diagnoses and treat your dog's infection so that they can return to their normal happy, and healthy life.

Author: Sara Beth Redding Ochoa

Sara Beth Redding Ochoa, DVM, was born in Calhoun, LA. Ever since she was little, she knew she wanted to become a veterinarian. Dr. Ochoa attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school and then St. George University to finish her veterinary education.

After that, she moved to Texas, where she works as a veterinarian. She has Ruby the Schnoodle, a tortoise called Monkey, and Oliver the cat.

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