When your dog goes down one of the things you need be aware of is urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is something that I am always on the look out for with my incontinent dog, but luckily Cali has only had one in the year that she has been paralyzed. If your dog’s bladder function is at all affected, they may not be able to urinate on their own, or they may not be able empty their bladder all the way. When the bladder is not fully emptied it can lead to a UTI. This is a pretty common problem with paralyzed dogs and incontinent dogs in general. However, if you learn what to look out for and the proper preventative care, you can minimize your dogs risk for urinary tract infections.
What does a UTI look like?
Look out for any of the following symptoms. Some symptoms may not be present in a paralyzed dog that is not able to feel their bladder.
- More accidents in the house
- Leaking urine more frequently
- Urinating smaller and more frequent amounts
- Strain or pain when urinating
- More difficulty expressing the bladder
- Strong change in urine odor
- Darker color or blood in the urine
- Drinking more water
- Change in appetite
- Back pain
The earlier you can catch the infection, the better. The longer you wait, the worse your dog will feel, and the harder it will be to treat. UTIs don’t just go away on their own so you will need to make an appointment with your vet at the first sign of an infection. Cali’s UTI was caught very early. The early signs were more frequent leaking in her diaper, instead of only when her bladder was too full. Her urine was darker in color, less was coming out when I expressed her bladder, and it had a very strong ammonia odor. Our vet gave her some antibiotics and a special diet designed to dissolve the crystals in her bladder. Unfortunately her first round of antibiotics didn’t quite to the trick, and she had to take a different, stronger one to completely get rid of the infection.
A better option would be to get a urine culture. This will tell you exactly what bacteria is causing the infection, and which antibiotic will be the most effective. It is actually recommended that you do this every 3 months or so, just to make sure that your dog has good urinary tract health.
How Do You Prevent UTIs?
Here is a list of things you can do to prevent UTIs. If your dog does get a UTI, don’t be hard on yourself! You are doing the best that you can, sometimes these things just happen. Like I said before, it is pretty common in paralyzed/incontinent dogs. If you are having recurrent UTI problems, you may need to change something in your routine. Perhaps you are not expressing the bladder completely, or perhaps you need to give more frequent baths. Just keep trying different things until you figure out what works, but you can try these tips and hopefully UTIs won’t be a problem for you.
Tip#1 Learn to Properly Express Your Dogs Bladder
One of the main causes of UTIs is not completely emptying the bladder when they go to the bathroom. If a dog has partial bladder control they might be able to go on their own, but may not be fully emptying their bladder every time. If the dog is incontinent, you will definitely need to learn how to properly express their bladder. This takes practice, so don’t worry if you struggle with it at first. Have your vet show you the right way to do it, and you can watch plenty of videos explaining it online. Just make sure you are doing your best to completely empty that bladder!
Tip#2 Create a Bathroom Schedule
Creating and sticking to a regular bathroom schedule will really help a lot. Expressing your dogs bladder every few hours is the best. We express Cali first thing in the morning, every 3 or 4 hours during the day, and right before bed. This ensures that no urine is able to sit in her bladder for too long, and greatly reduces her risk of getting a UTI.
Tip#3 Keep Your Dog Clean
Paralyzed and incontinent dogs are prone to accidents, they also aren’t likely to clean themselves down there. It is important to make sure to keep them nice and clean and dry. I like to keep wet wipes handy just to wipe her down after she goes to the bathroom. I also give her baths multiple times a week, basically any time a wet wipe won’t do the trick. If your dog wears diapers like mine, make sure to change them frequently.
Tip#4 Give Your Dog Cranberry Supplements
Giving your dog daily cranberry supplements can also really help prevent urinary tract infections. The only time my dog got a UTI was after I had run out of her cranberry supplements! Since she started taking her supplements again, we haven’t had to deal with any more urinary tract problems. You can find different cranberry supplements online that are made just for dogs. We use NaturVet Cranberry Relief supplements with Echinacea. They are chewable, but my dog doesn’t really like the way they taste. I crumble them up into her food and she doesn’t mind it at all.
Tip#5 Don’t Get Down On Yourself!
When your dog gets a UTI it can be hard not to feel like you let them down. Please don’t be hard on yourself! Just know that you are doing the best that you can, and not all UTIs are preventable. As long as you know what to look out for and the proper care, you will have a happy and healthy dog. Keep practicing and keep up the good work!