Bladder Infection in Dogs: How Cystitis Affects Our Canine Friends

Bladder Infection in Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

The bladder infection in dogs or the canine cystitis is a common disease among quadrupeds that is caused by different types of bacteria. Among the symptoms that may occur in case of this disease, are frequent urination and bleeding during micturition. This happens because the dog’s bladder is inflamed as a result of an infection.

Besides the fact that bacteria may end up into the bladder by going through the urethra, there are other causes of infection, such as kidney stones, tumors, diabetes or Cushing’s disease. The treatment usually consists of antibiotics, but there is an array of natural remedies as well.

Generalities about cystitis in dogs

Cystitis in canines may occur when bacteria enters the bladder through the urethra. This is also called bacterial cystitis since it is cause by bacteria. However, there are other situations that may increase a dog’s risk of developing cystitis. Dogs that have an immune system that is no longer strong may be more predisposed to urinary tract infections.

Also, dogs that take certain medications may be prone to develop cystitis. Dogs that have problems emptying their bladder completely when urinating may also be more likely to develop urinary tract infections, as well as dogs that suffer from diabetes. Overall, it is important for the vet to be aware of all the dog’s problems, symptoms and prescriptions.

Canine cystitis is a urinary tract infection and is one of the most common causes of frequent urination in dogs, especially in female dogs. The dog’s bladder becomes inflamed due to infection, which causes it to urinate frequently. The infection usually affects and damages the lower wall of the bladder and stimulates the nerve endings from the bladder or urethra, causing abnormal impulses or painful urinations.

Basically, the bladder of a female dog is shorter and wider than a male’s, fact which makes it more predisposed to bacterial infections that can reach its bladder more easily.

Canine urinary

While no dogs are immune to bladder infections, the most prone to infection are those over 8 years of age and female dogs. At some point due to the natural aging process, together with a combination of diseases, inadequate diet, stress, dehydration or possibly a sudden multiplication of bacteria, dogs’ immune system doesn’t function properly anymore. Thus favoring bacteria to enter inside the bladder through the urethra and produce inflammation that disrupts the normal function of the urinary tract.

Causes of cystitis in dogs

  1. Infections with bacteria. As a result of testing urine, the vet identifies the type of bacteria that has multiplied too much and that is causing cystitis. This is the most common cause of canine cystitis.
  2. Excessive water consumption. Consuming too much water especially during the summer or after exercising makes it normal for the dog to urinate a lot more. Therefore, increased thirst, also known as polydipsia and increased urination, also known as polyuria are 2 indicatives of some type of fundamental health condition.
  3. Hormonal imbalance. The hormonal imbalance is quite common in older dogs or spayed female dogs. Hormonal imbalances or low estrogen levels affect the dog’s renal function and make it unable to concentrate in order to urinate properly. If not treated early, it can cause serious health complications.
  4. Canine bladder stones. The canine bladder stones are another leading cause of frequent urination in dogs. These stones are formed by crystallizations in the urine due to low pH levels or poor eating habits. These stones may cause cystitis.
  5. Canine diabetes. Some dogs may suffer from canine diabetes. To remove excess levels of blood sugar, dogs drink more water and therefore they have to urinate more often.
  6. Cushing’s disease. Canine Cushing’s disease that manifests by an excessive production of the adrenal hormone, particularly corticosteroids, is more common in older dogs. Frequent urination due to excessive intake of water and others are common symptoms of this disorder.

Symptoms of canine cystitis

The symptoms of cystitis in dogs should be evaluated by a veterinarian in order to establish a correct diagnosis. Possible symptoms of cystitis in dogs include frequent urination in inappropriate places, even though the dog has been properly trained not to pee inside the house.

Dog peeing constantly

Also, urinating provokes pain and the urine may contain traces of blood. However, there are also dogs that suffer from cystitis although they don’t show any obvious signs of infection. Dogs that were on steroid medication for an extended period of time are known to develop urinary infections without experiencing any of the common symptoms.

  • Pain. There is less than 5% chance for these types of infections to be free of pain. When pain is present, the dog may appear visibly tense or uncomfortable during bathroom breaks. Many dog owners report their dogs howling or crying because of the pain.
  • Frequency of urination. Because pain is a constant adversary, some dogs don’t empty their bladder when they pee. This means that there are a lot of bacteria inside its bladder that doesn’t come out and which may cause toxicity problems at some point.
  • Pungent urine smell. A dog suffering from cystitis will eliminate urine that smells like ammonia or it has a fetid or sour odor. Regardless of what it really smells like, if it is different than the usual, then it is probably because of an infection.
  • Lick or chew. This instinctive action is useless for relieving pain and discomfort, but dogs still do it because they are experiencing stress. While occasional licking and chewing are not a problem, they become a problem if done excessively.
  • Fatigue and low-grade fever. These 2 symptoms are not unique or specific to cystitis, but they are present. Recognizing them and rushing to the vet would be a plus.

Diagnosis of cystitis in dogs

In order to establish a diagnosis, there are certain tests that can identify bacteria and exclude other diseases. First, the vet will do a physical examination by palpating the dog’s abdomen and checking the dog’s bladder.

The dog’s owner must give some information about the overall condition of the animal, about whether or not is has lost its appetite or it is currently on some kind of treatment that may be causing its symptoms.

Diagnosing cystitis in dogs

Next, the vet may ask for a microscopic urinalysis in order to detect bacteria and determine the pH. In most cases, bacterial culture is also necessary. The collection can be done with a needle inserted through the dog’s abdominal wall into its bladder, or by using a catheter inserted through the urethra into the bladder. This procedure is not at all pleasant, but it needs to be done.

Treatment for canine cystitis

The treatment for canine cystitis is based on the administration of antibiotics to combat the causative bacteria. It is important to mention that once the treatment started, it should be followed until it’s over even if the dog presents rapid improvements. In many cases, if the treatment is stopped too early, the infection can return and the bacteria could become resistant to drugs, fact which would complicate the disease.

Laser terapy

On the other hand, if the dog shows side effects from the antibiotic, the vet should recommend other medication. Each time the dog becomes ill, it is advisable to repeat the tests even after the completion of the treatment with antibiotics in order to determine whether or not bacteria has been removed from the dog’s bladder to prevent a relapse.

Natural remedies for cystitis in dogs

Homemade or natural remedies are not an alternative to the treatment with antibiotics, but they can definitely alleviate cystitis. However, it is known that antibiotic kills both good and bad bacteria, so it would be best for your dog not to suffer from a severe form of cystitis in order to be treated with natural remedies only. Even if antibiotics may remove bacteria from a dog’s body, they weaken its body and make it more vulnerable to other diseases. As it follows, there is a wide variety of natural remedies for dogs with urinary tract problems.

  • Yogurt and vinegar. This is a natural antibacterial combination. However, it may also determine dogs to vomit or have diarrhea. The vinegar’s antibacterial properties are ideal for eliminating bacteria from a dog’s body, but it may also become irritating. Even if this is an all-natural recipe, it doesn’t lack side effects.
  • Cranberry juice. Cranberry juice is not only tasty, but it has this amazing quality. It is able to lower the pH from the dog’s urine, fact which is very helpful because if the urine is acidic, then it favors the elimination of a greater quantity of bacteria. This is not a treatment for severe infections, but it should be effective for mild ones.
  • Water. The pain and the inflammation from the bladder is caused by the infection. So, if the dog eliminates bacteria by urinating, then it will have less left inside its body and the inflammation and pain will diminish. However, the dog should drink water and pee right after multiple times, which is not quite easy to achieve with an animal that only drinks something when it is thirsty.
  • Echinacea. There are several types of Echinacea, but only 3 types have the same properties and can be used to block the action of viruses, parasites and bacteria.
  • Propolis or bee glue. Propolis is a resinous substance that provides several benefits by fighting bacteria, fungi, yeasts and others. Therefore, it is a great ally against urinary tract infections, otitis media, pharyngitis and so on.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine. The traditional Chinese Medicine resorts to acupuncture and herbal medicine when it comes to curing certain diseases, such as canine cystitis. This condition is related to the water element, so this treatment seeks to restore balance with the other elements. Rheum palmatum, also known as the Chinese rhubarb is a plant which is known for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-infective properties.

Prevention of canine cystitis

One should ensure that his or her dog has plenty of fresh water at its disposal and that it can pee whenever it feels like it or at least ask to go out. Every dog should be taken out for bathroom breaks several times per day. No dog should stay more than a few hours without emptying its bladder.

Dogs drinking water

The bacteria have time to gather inside the dog’s bladder, thus acting negatively. In addition, its diet can be supplemented with some garlic, thyme and rosemary. Citrus fruits are also rich vitamin C, which help improve every dog’s immune system. Bacteria have no chance against a healthy organism.


Although cystitis in dogs doesn’t seem like a severe or life threatening affection, you should know that is very painful for your dog. Cystitis is a disease that manifests just the same in humans as well. So, if you ever had cystitis, then you know how painful it is to urinate, especially when you feel the need to urinate all the time.

A dog is unable to tell what’s wrong with it, so as soon as you notice and identify the symptoms, you should take it to the vet. Not the next day or later, in the moment you notice. This is, of course, if you want to shorten the period of time when your dog feels intense pain whether or not it urinates.

Bladder Infection in Dogs

Even if antibiotics are not too healthy, at least they immediately act on bacteria and eliminate them. The vet will need to see some test results first, but there is usually a wide-spectrum antibiotic that can be administered immediately along with anti-inflammatory medication and possibly some analgesics, depending on how bad your dog’s condition is.

In any case, you can rely in the vet’s judgment and follow the treatment he or she recommended without skipping any step. It is especially important to administer the treatment accordingly and for as long as it is necessary. Your dog will definitely be thankful to you for easing its pain and taking care of it as soon as it was possible.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.