Your puppy's urinary tract consists of his bladder, kidneys, ureters and urethra, which expels the urine from his body. Ideally, the organs and channels that make up the urinary tract are relatively sterile environments, but occasionally, bacteria from your puppy's genital area makes its way into the urethra or bladder, causing a bacterial urinary tract infection.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection in a Puppy
If you've noticed your puppy straining or yelping when she urinates, or if her urine appears unusually dark, rust-colored or bloody, she may be suffering from a urinary tract infection. Puppies are especially susceptible to urinary tract infections because their immune system is still undeveloped, and bacteria from their feces may enter their urethra when they groom themselves. Other symptoms of a UTI include excessive thirst, frequent urination, a fever, weight loss or a foul odor emanating from her urine. If your puppy exhibits any of these symptoms, take her to the vet right away. Without prompt treatment, a UTI can travel into the bladder or kidneys and become life-threatening.
Testing for a UTI
Your vet most likely will ask you for a verbal history of symptoms as she performs a physical examination on your puppy. If she suspects a possible UTI, she'll order a urinalysis to measure the levels of white blood cells, chemicals and proteins in your puppy's urine and to check his pH balance and screen for a possible infection. If the test results indicate a possible infection, she may perform a urine culture and sensitivity test to check for bacterial growth in the separated sediment of your puppy's urine. If bacteria is found, another urine test will estimate the concentration of bacterium and identify the specific type so your vet can prescribe the correct antibiotic for your pet's infection.
You may be asked to collect a urine sample from your puppy prior to the veterinarian visit. Ideally, you will do this by catching the puppy's urine in a sterile cup, midstream. It is possible to collect a urine sample after your puppy has deposited it on a surface, but it may contain bacteria other than those causing the UTI, which can complicate diagnosis and the treatment plan. Your vet can get a cleaner urine sample by using a catheter to withdraw urine from your puppy, but there is still a slight chance of transferring the bacteria from the urethra to the bladder via the catheter. The preferred method of urine collection is a cystocentesis, in which the vet uses a needle to draw urine directly from your puppy's bladder. This method ensures a clean sample and eliminates the possibility of bacteria contamination.
Treating a UTI
Before treating your puppy's UTI, your vet will first have to determine the type, location and extent of his infection. An infection that has traveled to the kidneys can be life-threatening and may require between four to six weeks of antibiotic medication. If his infection has caused your puppy to develop painful bladder or kidney stones, he may need to have them surgically removed to prevent a blockage of his urine flow. Infections caused by blockages or tumors of the bladder or kidneys may require surgery, antibiotics and possible chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
A male puppy who has not been neutered may develop prostatits, an infection of the prostate gland. He will need to be neutered and treated with antibiotics to clear the infection. Female puppies can develop vaginal strictures, or narrowing in the vagina, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Your vet may enlarge the opening manually while your puppy is sedated.