Information on Chesapeake Bay Retriever Genetics, Health, and Pedigrees

Urinary Tract Infection

Causes: Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are caused by microbial invasion of the urinary tract. By far, the majority of UTIs are caused by bacterial infection. Viral and fungal infections can also cause UTIs, but are extremely rare. Fortunately, most UTIs are easy to cure and to prevent, once cured.

UTIs start by microorganisms entering the urinary tract via the vulva in females, and the penis sheath in males. UTIs are more common in bitch puppies because when they urinate, they squat near the ground, so are more likely to be exposed to stray bacteria on vegetation or on the ground. Male puppies also get UTIs, but with less frequency than bitch puppies. UTIs in adult males can be caused by transfer of infection during breeding, being housed in insanitary conditions, or waiting too long between potty breaks. Adult bitches often develop UTIs around their heat cycles as hormones fluctuate and urine pH levels change.

Urinary Tract Infections can also be secondary to other, underlying conditions, thus making the UTI a symptom rather than a disease. Dogs which have recurring UTIs should be examined for underlying causes.

Symptoms & Diagnosis: Common symptoms of UTI are dripping or dribbling urine, frequent licking of vulva or penis sheath, increased water intake, and frequent potty breaks, some of which may not produce urine (dog squats or lifts leg, but produces only a few drops).

Diagnosis of UTI typically requires a “clean” collection from the dog. Your vet will instruct you on how to do this, but a long-handled ladle works well! The specimen should be collected mid-stream (wait until the dog has urinated a little bit, then catch the rest of the urine), and in clean containers. Urine from healthy mammals is sterile, so any presence of bacteria is indicative of UTI. However, using dirty collection equipment can cause a false positive result for bacteria on urinalysis.

The urine will be examined visually for color and clarity, and chemically for presence of protein, blood, pH, and other values which can help your vet come to a diagnosis. A microscope may also be used to check for bacteria or crystals in the urine. For dogs with recurring or intractable (“stubborn”) infections, a urine culture may be necessary to identify the exact organism that is causing the problem.

Treatment & Management: Bacterial UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Fortunately, this treatment is rather inexpensive. Some UTIs can be caused by virus or fungal organisms, or less-common bacteria. These are usually identified with urine culture (see above section). Treatment for rarer forms of UTI may be somewhat to considerably more expensive than for routine UTI.

Preventing UTIs involves management of the dog’s environment. “Holding it” for long periods of time causes the urine to stagnate in the bladder, creating an environment where any bacteria present can multiply rapidly. Dogs should be aired more frequently, and plentiful water offered to get more frequent, normal urination. Raising the acidity of the urine (lowering the pH) discourages bacterial growth, so giving of fruit juices is sometimes recommended as it can increase acidity of the urine. However, sugar content should be reviewed before giving juices, as the sugar can drive the urine to an alkaline state, which is the opposite of the desired result.